World's Largest Arts Festival Comes To An End
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012 has finished, bringing to a close the largest ever arts festival in the world, with this year’s 42,096 performances of 2,695 shows setting a new record. It is estimated that 22,457 performers took part in this year’s Fringe, more than 1,000 more than last year.
Numbers from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society show that by Monday afternoon, with hundreds of performances still to take place, 1,857,202 tickets had been issued for shows, events and exhibitions in 279 venues across the city. This impressive number doesn’t include the thousands attending the 814 free, non-ticketed events of the Fringe.
Speaking of this year’s Fringe performers, who came from an estimated 47 different countries, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Kath M Mainland said: “I would like to thank them on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who visited the Fringe this year for showing us their incredible talent and courage by bringing so many extraordinary shows and events to our capital city in this amazing year.”
These performers fell into more categories than ever before as well, with Spoken Word making its Fringe Programme debut. There were 41 shows, including Scottish makar (national poet) Liz Lochhead, performance poet Luke Wright returning for his sixth Fringe, and internet sensation Mark Grist. The Cabaret section was into its second year and going strong, with a new award introduced to celebrate the best cabaret of the festival won by New York chanteuse Lady Rizo. Physical and silent comedy were the real surprise stand-outs of this year’s Fringe, though, as the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award was won by silent clown Doctor Brown and the Panel Prize by mime act The Boy With Tape on His Face.
The Fringe audience’s love of diversity was also evident in the popularity of the programmed international seasons. These were showcases of performances from South Africa, Poland, Italy, France, Brazil and Russia, highlighting the international nature of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Home-grown talent was also celebrated, with the Made in Scotland showcase once again hugely successful. This year 12 companies received financial support from the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund to bring their work to the Fringe.
New venues were ready for exploration. The revamped Assembly Rooms was back on the programme, this time bringing with it The Famous Spielgeltent in an urban garden in the middle of George Street. The Northern Stage ran their own venue for the first time, creating Northern Stage @ St Stephens to stage their 16 shows. SpaceUK found new performance spaces at the Symposium Hall on Hill Square, and C Venues opened a brand new complex in the India Buildings on Victoria Street, called C NOVA. Assembly Theatre ran Assembly Roxy, and the Old College Squad was on the Fringe with a series of impressive large-scale outdoor productions from Poland co-produced by Universal Arts.
The end of the Fringe has also brought the news that the new Chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society will be Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, the Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh. Sir Timothy will be taking over the role from Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill, who stood down after seventeen years in the role. Kath M Mainland said: “Sir Timothy has been a long-standing supporter of the Fringe and I am sure that he will be a brilliant leader of the Society and our Board in years to come.”
Speaking of his election, Sir Timothy said: "The University of Edinburgh has enjoyed a long, proud and happy association with the Festival Fringe and I am delighted to be more involved as the Fringe builds on its huge success and popularity."
In a year that brought unique challenges, the Fringe has outdone itself and put on a record number of performances. Its diversity, vibrancy and sheer scale are a testimony to the strength of the love for the arts that sustains the festival and has taken its spirit around the world. Kath M Mainland’s description of the Fringe as “in fantastic health” is quite the modest understatement.