I keep expecting the Edinburgh Fringe bubble to burst — but every year it proves me wrong and gets ever bigger. This year’s programme, which runs to 376 pages plus covers and is the size of a phone directory, features some 2,695 shows.
Of course the numbers will change a bit as some shows drop out and new ones get added, but at the point of publication, comedy remains the most dominant genre, with 36% of the overall shows and some 964 shows. There are also 757 theatre productions, 357 music shows and a new spoken-word section to the programme, with 41 shows.
The number of shows eligible for this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, formerly the Perriers, is a record 530 already; I’m only pleased I’m not one of the judges! Nica Burns, who set up and runs the awards, told The Guardian last week, “Ten years ago we all thought the comedy bubble was going to burst,” she said. “Well it bloody well isn’t. Comedy keeps growing because British audiences want to laugh.”
And, as Jimmy Carr has just proved with the revelations about his tax affairs, it is also Big Business; there’s serious money to be made from it. Edinburgh has routinely proved to be both an infallible shop window and breeding ground for that talent to be discovered — and also for it to capitalise on its success when it returns. Tickets for Jimmy Carr’s 75 minute show at the EICC, for instance, cost £18.50. And now that’s committed to not diverting his earnings into tax-avoidance schemes, the taxman should be happy with his slice, too.
I first started going to Edinburgh as a student, and in those (now far-off) days, I would go for the duration; I ran venues for three years there, so would have to go up early and stay late. In recent years, I’ve taken to going up for more concentrated short bursts of three or four nights at a time; but this year, I’m going to swap the Olympics insanity in London, I hope, for a full week of Edinburgh insanity instead.
I get back from my US honeymoon on Friday August 3, and will head straight up to Edinburgh on the morning of Saturday August 4 for a week to the following Sunday August 12. And even then, I’m not planning on an immediate return to London but am going to fly from Glasgow to Toronto for a week at the Stratford Festival.
I will, naturally, be working during each of those trips. And in Edinburgh, I’ve additionally been conscripted to be part of The Stage Events contributions to the Edinburgh Fringe participants’ programme being organised by the Fringe Society at Fringe Central. On August 6, I’ll be hosting a session on creating and managing a blog, and on August 8, I’ll be hosting another session on careers in arts journalism. I hope to see you there!