Fringe festival kicks off in the capital


By Christine Lavelle

THE world’s largest arts festival got underway today, starting a three-week run of music, comedy, dance and theatre in the Capital.

The Edinburgh Fringe will see 2,453 shows played out at 250 venues across the city, building on last year’s 1.8 million tickets sales with an additional 300 shows to take place in 2010.

This will be the 64th time the city has hosted the Fringe, and what seems to set it apart from other festivals is its open access, bringing together big-name acts with relative unknowns.

Established stars like Jimmy Carr and Al Murray will share programme space with new and amateur performers.

Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Fringe, said: “I think the thing about the Fringe is that it is an entirely open access arts festival.

“We don’t decide who should take part in it, we don’t decide how big it should be, and we don’t decide what the make-up should be.”

She added that ticket sales have been going strong, she said: “It will be interesting to see how it responds to the economic times we are living in but signs are good for a very successful festival this year.”

Undoubtedly one of the main events is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which officially kicked off today, but not without a full dress rehearsal last night under the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

1,000 performers showed up in full costume to preview the beginnings of the event, which is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary.

When the Tattoo began in 1950 it had only eight acts on the bill – but – the ever-growing military celebration now represents 46 countries worldwide and screens to a TV audience of over 100 million.

As ever, 2010’s event is based heavily on traditional mass pipers and drummers, with a strong emphasis always on the music.

However, audiences can expect so much more from the line-up: army physical training corps in a gymnastics display, a death-defying stunt by the Imps Motorcycle Display team and the Band Brigade of Gurkhas marching at speeds of up to 140 paces per minute.

‘Bigger and better’

Not only celebrating its Diamond Jubilee, the Tattoo is also enjoying its first year with Royal status.

Major General Euan Loudon, chief executive and producer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, said: “As it is our 60th birthday, the celebrations need to be bigger and better than ever, people should expect a big traditional performance, as well as an emphasis on music from all four corners of the globe.

“I always look forward to the big finale with the lone piper – and what is extra special about this year is that the young man playing the lone bagpipe is the son of the man who did it 60 years ago when the Tattoo was in its first year.

“For someone who has been involved with the Tattoo for 52 years, it still manages to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”

Other highlights of the Fringe festival this year will include: Scottish stage and screen star Alan Cumming, a Hartshorn-Hook production of the Rat Pack live, and a Rock and Roll Circus.

Rising star Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges will play the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

The Assembly, which is celebrating its 30th year on the Fringe, was one of the venues which during the 1980s ignited a major growth in the festival and it is celebrating with a new venue in Princes Street Gardens.