I first started writing these Christmas messages in 2020 – which, you probably don’t need reminding, was the first year in the Fringe’s seven-decade history that the festival couldn’t go ahead as planned. I’d written it primarily as a way to check in and let people know that, in the face of massive uncertainty, we were doing everything in our power to make sure the Fringe could return in 2021.

Return it did – albeit in a much-reduced form – so my next end-of-year message focused on taking that flickering flame of joy and protecting it and stoking it into an even stronger comeback in 2022. And wouldn’t you know it: Fringe 2022 was a blazing return, a roaring triumph of a festival, though not without some dark clouds on the horizon threatening rain.

So now, at the tail-end of 2023, where do things stand? I don’t think I’m alone in regarding this year’s festival as one of the best editions ever – we have thousands of amazing artists to thank for that, for persevering and creating work that inspired and delighted and enriched us beyond measure. Thanks also to the wide and vibrant Fringe ecosystem – the venues, workers, producers, programmers, partners, supporters and media who make this festival such an unmissable proposition for artists and audiences alike. Those audiences deserve a shout-out too, as one of the most adventurous, arts-loving crowds in existence – your willingness to take a chance on something new is the rocket fuel for this festival’s endless reinvigoration.

I’d love it if we could wrap this up there and call it a day, but it’s not all good news and thank-yous. The availability and affordability of accommodation in Edinburgh is at the forefront of many Fringe participants’ minds – we're working on various fronts to address that issue and plan to share an update soon. Public arts funding is in a precarious state – we’re continuing to fight on that front too, ceaselessly campaigning to remind those in power what everyone already knows: that the arts are precious, and vital, and fully deserving of public support. There was a year or two there when we caught a glimpse of what life looks like bereft of live performance – and a bleak outlook it was. We must continue to keep that fire alive.

That’s the note I want to end on today – a call for resistance and passion to protect our means of expression, and to celebrate it. We’re getting the ball rolling on that early next year, inviting artists to register your shows from 08 January for Fringe 2024. After that… it’ll be August before we know it. And I for one cannot wait.

Here’s wishing you all the best and a happy new year!