Fringe organisers ask the people of Edinburgh to help decide its future

Edinburgh Festival Fringe entertainers perform on the Royal Mile in 2019.Edinburgh Festival Fringe entertainers perform on the Royal Mile in 2019.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe entertainers perform on the Royal Mile in 2019.
The people of Edinburgh are being urged to help decide the future of the Fringe – as organisers said that the event “won’t be the same” when it returns.

The Fringe Society, which has overseen the growth of the event’s audience to more than three million, will be calling on citizens, local communities and artists to influence what it looks like over the next few years.

Chief executive Shona McCarthy pledged that its post-pandemic future would be underpinned by “equity, diversity, inclusion and sustainability.”

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Concerns over the impact of the Fringe on the environment and on the quality of life in the city centre have been growing in recent years. Critics have called for action to ease crowd congestion and measures to curb its carbon footprint.

In December, it emerged that the Fringe Society had signed a new Edinburgh pledge aimed at sparking city-wide action to tackle the climate crisis.

The pledges to consult widely have been made by the Fringe Society in its in the same week as a public poll was launched on the future of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations.

Ms McCarthy said the society had faced a fight for survival after the cancellation of the 2020 event.

But she said the hiatus had provided “much-needed room to breathe and plan for a more resilient future.”

Writing on the Edinburgh Climate Commission website, she insisted that action on climate change will be at the “very core” of everything the society does as it looks to “build a Fringe for the future.”

Ms McCarthy said: “We are committing to direct, urgent, positive action on carbon reduction and sustainable practice, and this will be a guiding principle over the next 10 years.”

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The Fringe’s annual review states: “Looking ahead to 2021, the only thing anyone can say for sure is that the Fringe won’t be the same as we’ve known it.

"And while it’s natural to feel some trepidation about the uncertainties that lie ahead, we also feel inspired and invigorated to meet them head on, motivated by the same spark of defiance that ignited the Fringe spirit more than seven decades ago.

"This festival has never existed as a stagnant entity, rather it has evolved in line with the needs of all those who embrace it.“Over the coming weeks and months, we will be asking people – citizens, artists, communities – to help shape what the future of the Fringe looks like.

"Whether you have been part of it every year or you're considering your first visit, we’d love to hear what the Fringe means to you and what you would like it to be.

"We need your help to ensure that the Fringe remains a platform for the arts to develop and thrive.”

Ms McCarthy said: “It is going to take time for live performance to be possible again and it’s going to take time for the Society and the Fringe to recover.

"But we will be ready and the future of the Fringe and the Society will be underpinned by our core values of equity, diversity, inclusion and sustainability.

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"The role of the Fringe and Fringe artists in our collective recovery is going to be more important than ever in the year (and years) ahead.

"At the moment we’re all sharing in the unpredictability, fear and seeming relentlessness of the pandemic.

"But one day soon, live performance will be possible again and we’ll be able to meet and reconnect and feel joy together.

"We’ll continue to prepare for that, by talking to artists, venues and anyone with ideas to help us find our way through this.”

A spokeswoman for the Fringe Society said: “We are always interested in talking to participants, residents, stakeholders and more about the future of the Fringe.

"We’re always here to listen to feedback, ideas and suggestions and anyone with a view to share on the festival going forward is welcome to get in touch.”

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