Fringe Festival at 70, Bigger, Better and Defiant

3894492440_9e61f57334_oBut will that change? Filled with politics this year, you bet.  In reading an article this morning on an interview with a founder of the Assembly Rooms Venue the Fringe festival in Edinburgh, there are fears that subsequent years will lose out in the international flare. Brexit fears and restrictions on visas will make the venue less attractive to performers from EU countries. Hard to think that something we all take for granted, such as a festival, could be so impacted by restrictions at borders. It certainly can.

The Fringe programs just got published. Last years fest was a massive beast with listings of nearly all performances. I lugged mine around with me all over Scotland. With the big 70th celebration this year, it promises to be an even bigger extravaganza. However, this can all change in the next 2 years if Brexit continues. Just think, Edinburgh expands it’s population every August to nearly 3 times it’s usual population. This includes people just touring the city and those specifically traveling to Fringe fest. In 2016, over 2 million tickets were sold in the month. So, if I massive influx this is happening, people are booking hotel rooms and spending a great deal on food, the local economy has a month of serious boom. This month is the month you have to book rooms months in advance as I discovered last year. The food offerings are enormous, and a lot of money is being made. What will happen if less acts can come to perform, if the festival loses it’s edge a bit due to restrictions on visas and performers rethinking that it may be easier to attend/perform in a festival in one of the EU countries? Will it mostly be a Scots only venue? Will the culture be less international? These are some of the questions coming up as all festival organizers in the UK brace for change. It’s not just the Fringe, but all festivals in the UK that have international performers may be affected.

The politics of the Fringe make it a great place to show union and solidarity. The festival is taking a without borders stance, celebrating the diversity of it’s performers and attendees. With current events in the world bringing a distasteful isolationism tone that is clearly against what arts festivals portray and celebrate, will the Fringe lose it’s edge? Not if organizers and performers have their say.

Secure armed police are now being seen in many public events all through the UK. There will be protests possibly and artistic political commentary throughout the fest.  This will not deter the performers and promoters. Themes promise to cover our current world state of affairs on refugees and political statements. Artists will express and share their views on the state of world affairs.

I am going with the thought in mind that this Festival is the perfect vehicle to portray all of life. I believe many of us attending will feel that this is the perfect time for this Festival to celebrate it’s 70th year, that it is a perfect symbol of cooperation and arts. You can see a microcosm of the world in a massive snow globe in a stage filled with many stages. I plan to pack in as much as I can in three days, what will you be planning for your days at the Fringe?

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2017/jun/07/edinburgh-festival-2017-what-to-see-and-where-to-go

http://www.beyondthejoke.co.uk/content/3082/news-edinburgh-fringe-2016-sales-figures-released

http://www.scotsman.com/regions/edinburgh-fife-lothians/brexit-fears-for-fringe-ahead-of-70th-anniversary-1-4468002

Accommodations Review Edinburgh Braid Hills Hotel

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Braid Hills is an area in the south of Edinburgh that is typical of a sleepy suburb in Scotland. Rows of grey stone houses and rolling hills with a great little park or two. I stayed 3 days in a hotel in the heart of it. If you like to have a quieter stay in a big city in Scotland, this is the kind of area to stay in. However, you will have to travel a while with public transit if you need to get into town. It depends on the types of views you like and if you just like quiet, not the bustle of city life. The neighborhood is mostly upper middle-class and has fairly safe streets to walk on. The hotel caters to weddings and people staying for the golf course.

Best Western South Braid Hills Hotel $$$$ ♥♥♥
134 Braid Road, Edinburgh, Lothian Scotland
After a long train ride and a cab hop from the station, I came into this well situated hotel at the top of the hill. I had a very small room in the middle of the hotel off the landing. The bed took up most of the space, but the bathroom was really nice and modernized. Have I mentioned that in Scotland the toilets are rather immaculate in most accommodations? I found that most of the places I stayed and public toilets I used were very clean and functioning, putting some American equivalents to shame.

The room had a lot of cupboard storage spaces and deep casement windows that I found I could climb up in and sit with my tea and look at the very green hills. It was also convenient while observing the scottish wedding that took place while I was there. Many larger hotels are packed every weekend with weddings and anniversary occasions in the UK. It makes for a wait time for hotel staff as they are very busy. But you do get a nice view of men in dress kilts, which can make up for it.

Pluses:
Clean rooms, great bath. Great view. Plenty of light. Bed was pretty good. Hot pot and the other tea making utensils were available. Flat screen was in order. Great little park for morning exercise called Braidburn Park. Staff was very attentive even during the extreme wedding hours, and the dining and bar area was fairly good. I ate most of my meals off site. There is an attached restaurant.

Minuses:
Long ways into Edinburgh proper, cab fares can be steep as is the hill. There is a bus stop but it is quite literally a staircase drop that is very narrow off the parking lot and would not work for someone elderly. Depending on room placement, small single rooms tend to be right on main hall and foot traffic can be a bit much. Plop a pillow at the crack.

For my next foray into Edinburgh this August, I will be staying closer in off one of the cresents to experience the Fringe Festival. Stay tuned for more reviews.

Binge on the Fringe: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Survival

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On the last tour in Scotland I couldn’t get anywhere near Fringe Festival, the month long Arts fest that has been going strong for 70 years. All accommodations were booked up that I could afford. My trip to Edinburgh ended up being the week before and after talking to a few residents, realized I would need to book about an year in advance for best lodgings. This is of course if you want to deal with a large European city that has its population swell about three-fold in four weeks. Had to think about that. I lived in San Francisco where this came close to happening every summer. When you live in a large tourist destination, it’s your least favorite time of year. Some stay, some go on their own vacations.

It’s the 70th year, so the festival is gearing up even bigger. This festival is insane. I picked up the program last year and spent an hour or two combing all the acts and theatre performances. It’s packed and overwhelming with something for everyone. I decided I would have to try to make it this year. Now, how do you navigate one of the largest festivals in Europe for your first time and if you only have three days to spare? Research, of course.

Step 1 Book Accommodations Way Ahead
As I said before, last year I just couldn’t get reasonable rooms. Everyone I talked to said book early. Edinburgh is the most expensive of the cities in Scotland I found to spend time in as far as accommodations go. So shopping early is a great choice. You can always adjust later. Other festivals in the UK also require early bookings, and don’t count on camping accommodations as those will have been snagged up, unless you have some traveling companions in the know. You can however book in adjacent towns and ride in on the train, which runs extra trains during August.

Step 2 Enroll on Fringe Website
Most festivals have a website and you should join early. You will get updates to performances as new lineups happen. I am checking in as I heard many popular shows sell out quick. I am not be familiar with many of the performers, but I am only in the city for three days and have to cram. And some US performers do make it to the marathon. I see there is a Fringe society planning group for your visit. Ooo, I have pals.

Looks like I may have to book my train run early ish as well. ScotRail has festival trains for the month, but they may be a bit packed, so better book the to the festival run at least a month out. What a contrast is will be from the tranquility of Skye where I will be coming from.

Did I say marathon? Yes, for the performers and the patrons. Many a US comic has lamented that they survived the Fringe Fest. It’s a month of shows and you may have 2-3 a day to do, and your venues can be spread out. Search for some comedy on Netflicks with Fringe Fest in the title and see what I mean. Get a perspective from a comic, and of course YouTube.

Step 3 Research, Who to See, or How to See Them
Okay, so here is the thing. There are thousands of shows and performers. Many of them trying to make it, new to it, feeling it out. It’s a festival, that means experimentation. You may find some names you are familiar with, but it’s not going to be a headliner affair like you may be used to in your home town. So, how to pick things to go to and not strike out. Go with an open mind. I know I like impromptu theatre. So, I can probably be highly amused regardless. How to do this on a limited budget? Look for free and discount shows. Go during the day. Wait for reviews. Get the App for the Fringe. Sounds like a lot of ways to get overloaded. Most of what I have read has said to wait to find deals when you get there. Keep an eye out for the daily reviews of shows. Talk to a more experienced attendee near you. I plan on interviewing people while there to get their take on the festival.

Step 4 Make Sure Your Accommodation is Really Booked.
Your accommodation should always be booked well ahead in any place you stay, but I have had weird things crop up while traveling overseas and had rooms get overbooked, and computer glitches happen. Confirm you have a booking. If you would like to go but all things are booked up, you can find accommodations in bordering towns and take the train in. Extra transit is provided during this month.

Step 5 Enjoy
With all the craziness of any festival like this, sometimes you need to pull out and decompress. Edinburgh has so many great little spots, courtyards, district areas that you can take a few streets to the left or right and find a smaller space to eat some great Pop-Up restaurant food and just let go for a bit. Making a decision on whether to cram every minute with theatre, dance, music, and all other arts can be and exhausting stimulus. That fear that you may have to choose between 3 things is a bit much for us. Remember, spontaneity can be living in the moment and just breathing.

Prepare for weather. My summer experiences in Edinburgh were that they were very close to San Francisco/Portland weather. Changeable within a day, check your weather app. Bring light rain gear, also suncream and your brelly. Hopefully the performance you are seeing is in shelter.

DOWNLOAD THE APP. As we get closer to August, the festival puts out an App that is very useful for booking and getting up to the minute information. You also have a feature where you can check shows via your location to see what is about to start near your location. You can also purchase tickets via the app. Keep an eye out for this App appearing in July in the Android and Apple Apps stores.

Reading
http://thatbackpacker.com/2016/08/22/a-first-timers-guide-to-the-edinburgh-fringe-festival/
https://www.edfringe.com
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/edinburgh-fringe-2016-10-top-tips-for-survival/

Video
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OgNf8Pt5tOw