How I Would Save The Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Joe Goldblatt


This distinction is important because although there are now over 60 other festivals around the world with the Fringe name included with their place name such as the Adelaide Fringe, the DC Fringe and more, there are and there are no There will never be more than one maternal focus for this global cultural phenomenon.

However, we must act now and with confidence to ensure that we continue to secure and cultivate its rich contributions to our nation and to the entire world.

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The Golden Ball has been a pillar of the Fringe since 1986

In 1947, when two Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution, Sir Rudolf Bing and Maestro Bruno Walter with others, launched the Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama, almost simultaneously eight other theater companies from Scotland and England who did not ‘were not invited to perform at this festival. , organized their own venues and the curtain rose on a new kaleidoscope of music, drama, comedy, dance, circus arts and much more known as the Fringe.

By the way, Edinburgh is not only the motherland of the Fringe, it is also the city that gave birth, through Professor David Brewster, to the Kaleidoscope.

Brewster chose this word for his new invention because of the Greek origin of the words kalos for beauty, eidos for form and scopos for observer.

The kaleidoscopic experience of culture in Edinburgh is now being watched around the world to see if we can work together to maintain and enhance its beauty in a new and better form.

Over the next seventy years, the Fringe, to quote William Shakespeare, “suffered the slings and arrows of scandalous fortune” as its success drew criticism from within and without. .

Internal criticism was often the result of individual artists competing for parity and fairness among major producers whose investments in marketing and logistics often overshadow small productions. Exogenous forces include concerns about tourism and its impacts on the quality of life of local residents.

It appears that the global pandemic has brought many of these age-old problems to a feverish boil and there is now a great risk for the Scottish capital and other cities around the world that host Fringe festivals that these competing forces could lead to future returns. decreasing for what was the largest art festival in the world.

I am deeply concerned with this prognosis and therefore wish to come up with the following treatment plan to hopefully begin to heal wounds that seek to kill something very special for all of us.

First, I think our politicians have been negligent in failing to speak even louder publicly, amid the noise of local bands, to defend the important social, financial and other impacts of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Edinburgh City Council has appointed two councilors (Labor and SNP) as ‘festival champions’ and I think now is the time to raise their profile to demonstrate the importance of this role.

Maybe instead of champions we now need Festival Tsars to demonstrate the greater importance of these roles and our festivals now and in the future.

A czar in government is often granted broad powers to advance public policy. However, I further believe that defending the Edinburgh Fringe should also be the role of all councilors and citizens, as was the case in 1947, to recognize that supporting the arts is our civic duty.

Second, the Fringe itself must seek opportunities to forge even stronger and more effective links with civic organizations in order to promote better understanding, respect and support for their important contributions to our city, our country and even the whole world through the thousands of artists who visit Edinburgh. each summer.

The CEO of Fringe has done an exemplary job serving as an effective spokesperson for her organization.

However, now is the time to greatly amplify its voice with messages of support from organizations that provide social, health, education, recreation, environmental safety and security services for our city, proclaiming by their endorsement that this program is indeed a civic asset that must be included in the future life of our city.

Third and finally, now is the time to initiate a multi-year strategic planning process for the Fringe to identify measurable goals, objectives and targets that will be welcomed by local residents, artists and members of the public over the course of the years. next five to ten years. .

This process should be transparent and include a representative sample of the community, including those who have been critical in the past.

I believe the outcome of this process will translate into a roadmap to future cultural sustainability and excellence, something that has not been seen in our city since the reactionary creation of The Fringe in 1947.

The mother of all Fringes in Edinburgh must now receive our well-deserved respect and commitment to provide compassion, empathy and support to ensure that her future years are celebrated and enjoyed with dignity and good health.

One of the overarching questions lingering about the future of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is “How much is too much?” “

If we simply reject this opportunity because of our fears of returning to a time when we didn’t ask how much is too much, we will dishonor the values ​​and aspirations of those civic leaders and artists who gave birth to the original festival and have established Edinburgh as the maternal home of festival excellence.

– Professor Joe Goldblatt is Professor Emeritus of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. He has studied and written on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for almost 50 years. For more information on his opinions on Edinburgh festivals and other topics, visit

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