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Edinburgh Festival Fringe

While the official Edinburgh International Festival concentrates on what some like to call "the high arts", the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe is more eclectic, developing out of a spontaneous, grass-roots response to the international high-flyers up the road.

As egalitarian as when it started in 1947, anybody who can raise the funds to pay for a venue is welcome to join in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. No wonder it is the largest arts festival in the world, with more than 1.8 million tickets sold in 2009, to over 2000 shows in 265 venues, featuring 18,901 performers! Phew!

Of course, nowadays, it is not only a place for student productions and amateur, gung-ho forays onto the boards. There is a whole range of professional fringe companies - stand up comedians, small-scale productions and West-End-bound big (if small casts) productions - that have muscled in on the general free-for-all.

To find your way round the plethora of productions it's best to check the daily information sheets - shows start over breakfast and finish in the wee-small hours - and check the daily press for sudden hot tickets. The Scotsman, sponsors of the Fringe First award, leads the strong coverage and makes daily recommendations to guide you through the maze. In addition there is the annual frenzy leading up to the Edinburgh Comedy (formerly the Perrier) Awards for best stand up comedy.

Among the highlights there are the misguided, the less good and the sheer pretentious - indeed, part of the fun is sifting through the dross and catching the class acts before anyone else realises they're there! Children are not forgotten, nor those who can't sleep.

The Fringe announces its programme in June, with updates on Fringe website. Don't forget Fringe Sunday, which spills out onto The Meadows with the most colourful displays of street theatre and entertainment around!

Edinburgh street artists perform in Edinburgh on the last weekend of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009. Photo © Callum Bennetts - Maverick Photo Agency, courtesy Edinburgh Fringe

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Information

When: Aug 2013 (annual)

Where: Edinburgh

Cost: Free upwards

Opening Hours: All hours of the day and night

Address: Edinburgh

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