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For Festival Newbies ...

This website hopefully contains useful information on Edinburgh and its August festivals for all fellow punters, both established and new. It should be particularly helpful to those who are trying the festival for the first time. However, beware all you newbies - you may get hooked!

The sections below provide some introductory information, including links to articles on other websites.

This sitemap will provide you with full details of what you can find on this particular website. In summary, far and away the most popular page here is A History of the Edinburgh Festivals. This is followed in the run up to the festivals by the pre-festival stuff page which includes links to articles on previews and recommendations across the media which will hopefully help you to make your choice of shows.

Flavour of the festival

To get a flavour of the effect that Edinburgh can have on punters and artists alike, read ...
... or take a look at our light-hearted experiences over the years or browse the info on some of our favourite shows.

Thinking of treading the boards?

Arguably, the most comprehensive guidance for would-be participants is Mark Fisher's excellent book, The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide, which was published in early 2012. It covers all aspects of putting a show on from the interesting artistic aspects to the boring bureaucratic but essential elements. He followed this up by running a successful show at the 2012 Fringe which featured guests from all areas of the Fringe who were each able to relate their experiences. Audio recordings of these shows are available on Mark's website.

The Fringe Society provides a number of guides which can be downloaded ... The Fringe Guide to Doing a Show, The Fringe Guide to Selling a Show, Choosing a Venue and Registering a Show.

The Fringe Society also runs a number of roadshows around January and February each year. They are part guidance and part PR and marketing.

Visiting the festival

To help punters and performers with their visit ... for starters there are over 2,000 shows for punters to choose from - and that is just on the Fringe ... there are a range of short and sharp guides on various websites, including:

If you are looking for something meatier then you can try my stuff on Choosing Shows or Food, Drink and Getting Around.

if you are interested in the beautiful city itself here is a potted history of "Auld Reekie" as Edinburgh is affectionately known.

Choosing shows

With the exception of the Edinburgh Fringe your choice of shows / events should be fairly straightforward, typically being driven by your personal tastes, possibly along with some recommendations from the critics.

However, the Fringe is a totally different ballgame. In 2012 there were some 2,695 shows to choose from, and the terse, sometimes misleading, descriptions in the Fringe programme brochure (which are limited to 400 characters) are not much help.

If you are the sort that prefers to make off-the-cuff decisions then you will probably wait until you get to Edinburgh and rely on "the word on the street" and reviews.

If you are a bit of a planner by nature you may prefer to make a start in June or July, possibly wishing to book some shows at that time if you suspect that some may sell out before the festival starts or, if you are not a local, you do not want to spend time queueing for tickets as soon as you arrive in Edinburgh.

It varies from year to year but some recommendations from the critics usually start to appear in June with the pace increasing rapidly as the end of July nears.

There are many media outlets that cover the festival - see my links page for a list. If you want some recommendations try The Guardian, The Scotsman, The Herald, The List and WhatsonStage.com for their thoughts on the likely top shows. I try to provide links to articles that contain recommendations on the pre-festival stuff page.

When the Fringe gets going reviews will appear thick and fast, only slowing down in the middle of the final week. The quality of reviews varies widely and indeed it has been the subject of some fierce debate. I leave it to you to decide on which reviewers you have sufficient faith in.

Arguably the best source of information, particularly if you are undecided on a specific show, is the ubiquitous "word on the street", i.e. the views of fellow punters in the place where you are staying, in the queue for a show, in the seat next to you, in the bar ... et cetera.

If you are cramming shows in (4, 5 or more per day) then make sure that you can get to the next venue in time for the performance. Try to allow some contingency. Sods Law says that it will be the occasion where you have no contingency that the previous show will overrun.

If you want to browse the full nerd's guide to choosing shows then here it is.

Finally, if you are only coming to the festival for a day or two and do not have the time or inclination to produce your own itinerary, and you are prepared to go with somebody else's choices, then you can pay for somebody to produce one for you. Culturepie is one provider of such a service.