First experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe

This is what happened to us the first time we did the Edinburgh Fringe! Look away now if you lack a strong stomach!!

Our introduction to Edinburgh (otherwise known as ‘Auld Reekie’ because it used to be a bit smoky on account of the steam trains) came in 1997. The Festival Fringe had been running for years but we had chosen the event’s fiftieth birthday for our ‘baptism of fire’. Thrown in at the deep end, with little clue of how things worked, we muddled through to the best of our abilities. If you are a first timer to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, these words go out particularly to you.

Edinburgh is a magical city to us, in more ways than one. For several years now, we (me and my multi-tasking husband, workmate and chief bottle-washer) have found ourselves joining the festival revellers up high on the magnificent Royal Mile.

It was during our very first visit to the excellent Edinburgh Fringe that we enjoyed an hour at the mercy of the scarey but brilliant close-up magician, Jerry Sadowitz. My Edinburgh companion being a magician has never been capable of resisting a show by his ‘Close-Up’ hero. Ever since, we have managed to coincide our trip with Jerry’s often all too limited performance run.

Almost the minute you land in the city centre, you find yourself instantly trancelike clapping in unison with a lovely cheery ‘crowd circle’. Throughout a magnificent display involving chainsaws and unicycles, the star artiste in the centre generally barracks his audience into a deafening clap-crescendo (leaving us wondering who is behaving the most like a performing seal) when we are rewarded with a fantastic finale.

Armed only with wide eyed enthusiasm, we had very little knowledge of what to expect when we got to Edinburgh. For added drama, we searched for accommodation days rather than months away from landing.

Don’t be put off attending the Edinburgh Festival at the last minute for it can be enjoyed on the spur of the moment. Your options, however, are somewhat limited.

For a kick off, accommodation hunting, the nearer to the festival you leave it is more down to luck than charm. On our first visit to Edinburgh, we stayed with the daughter of charming guesthouse keepers in her private home in nearby beachy Musselburgh.

Additionally, on this occasion, our flights were a king’s ransom (about four times the cost we would later pay in the future with advanced planning). Bad news for us for this left us with a much smaller budget for shows and refreshments.