The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (also referred to as The Fringe or Edinburgh Fringe, or Edinburgh Fringe Festival) is the world’s largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the month of August. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has become a world-leading celebration of arts and culture, surpassed only by the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in terms of global ticketed events. As an event it “has done more to place Edinburgh in the forefront of world cities than anything else”.
It is an open access (or “unjuried”) performing arts festival, meaning there is no selection committee, and anyone may participate, with any type of performance. The official Fringe Programme categorises shows into sections for theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events. Comedy is the largest section, making up over one-third of the programme and the one that in modern times has the highest public profile, due in part to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
The Festival is supported by the Festival Fringe Society, which publishes the programme, sells tickets to all events from a central physical box office and website, and offers year-round advice and support to performers. The Society’s permanent location is at the Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile, and in August they also manage Fringe Central, a separate collection of spaces in Appleton Tower and other University of Edinburgh buildings, dedicated to providing support for Fringe participants during their time at the festival.
The Fringe board of directors is drawn from members of the Festival Fringe Society, who are often Fringe participants themselves – performers or administrators. Elections are held once a year, in August, and Board members serve a term of four years. The Board appoints the Fringe Chief Executive (formerly known as the Fringe Administrator or Director), currently Shona McCarthy who assumed the role in March 2016. The Chief Executive operates under the chair, currently Timothy O’Shea.
The 2020 Fringe Festival was cancelled along with all of the city’s other major festivals set to occur that summer. This came as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in the early months of the year, with concerns of spreading the virus any further. However, one live show was performed at the 2020 Festival and this was Nathan Cassidy with his stand-up show ‘Observational’.  The organisers announced that the 2021 festival would next take place during 6–30 August 2021.
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