Veteran Fringe comic Arthur Smith to stage daily walkabout shows

One of the best-known comics at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has unveiled plans to revive his long-running walking tours next month - in one of the few live shows announced since the event was called off in April.

Arthur Smith is one of the most familiar figures who performs at the Fringe each year. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Arthur Smith, a regular at the Fringe since 1977, plans to take groups of festival fans, on a “socially-distanced” tour from the Pleasance Courtyard into Holyrood park twice a day during the second week in August.

The new walkabout show is inspired by his infamous late-night tours of the Royal Mile, when he would lead up to 200 revellers around the High Street and occasionally fall foul of the law.

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However the London comic, whose previous tours would famously feature made-up facts about the Royal Mile and the Fringe, insisted that his new hour-long show would be staged within all the latest guidelines in Scotland.

Family-friendly tours will be run at 2pm and 6pm between 9 and 15 August, while an adults-only tour will be staged on the final night.

Smith is hoping to persuade special guests to appear in the new show, to emulate his previous tours, which included appearances from Steve Coogan, Paul Merton, Lucy Porter and Jonathan Ross.

However only around 25 tickets are expected to be available for each performance of his new show, which Smith is billing as “radical, site–specific, outdoor promenade performance art.”

Smith has unveiled plans for the show after talks involving the Pleasance, one of the biggest promoters at the festival, and the Fringe Society, which officially rebooted the festival last week when it unveiled a programme of virtual events and entertainment.

Just one other Fringe promoter, Gilded Balloon, has announced plans for a live event, a treasure hunt-style game which will be played across the city centre.

Smith, a previous winner of the coveted Spirit of the Fringe Award, said: “I first came to the Fringe in 1977 and I’ve been up in Edinburgh every year bar two since then.

“The idea of not seeing Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh was breaking my heart, which is why I’m doing this.

“I was frankly depressed when the Fringe was cancelled, although I kind of knew it probably would be. I was meant to be doing two shows this year. After a couple of weeks I thought: ‘Hang on, I could maybe do an outdoor show.’

“I’ve not really written the show yet. I’ve got lots of ideas. It’s slightly old-school, when I used to write the show on the way up on the train, or hitch-hiking, as I used to do.

“I quite like the idea that the Fringe is normally the world’s biggest arts festival but it could be just me this year.

"I’ll be talking about Edinburgh itself, the history of the Fringe and reminiscing about shows that I’ve done and seen.

"I always tell people that Arthur’s Seat is named after me and is made up of the solidified remains of billions of old Fringe flyers.”

Anthony Alderson, artistic director of the Pleasance, said: “Arthur has been a legend in Edinburgh for so long now. When I told him he was probably going to be in the only shows on the Fringe he thought it was perfect.

“If we only do this one show it would mean we’ve never missed a Fringe.”


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