An Update from the Fringe Society on our new home

Since the announcement of the investment of up to £7Mn from UK Government for the Fringe Society’s new home, we have been busy working to ensure the proposed programme offers the maximum benefits to the Fringe, to Edinburgh, and to the work of the Fringe Society. We’d like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the benefits and planned features of our new home on Infirmary St – introducing Fringe Central.

It felt appropriate to name the new home Fringe Central as it reflects our ambitions to provide year- round, the services we offer in August- a meeting point for artists, media and participants, local and visiting. This ties in with the open-access nature of this building – a place for those involved with the festival to use throughout the year. We are restoring this wonderful heritage building in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, and the heart of the Fringe, returning it to full use for the next 99 years.

Accessibility and Sustainability

Design and planning work has focused on the two key objectives of the project – to improve the accessibility and sustainability of the building for the long term. We are upgrading accessibility throughout, installing a new passenger lift, a new Changing Place Toilet, and improving level access indoors and out. We’re also radically transforming the carbon footprint of the building, with the removal of fossil fuel dependency completely, and a complete upgrade of windows, insulation and ventilation to give the building a new sustainable life for the long term.

Space for artists

In Spring 2024 we commissioned EPAD to undertake research on our behalf to inform the gaps in the current need and infrastructure for the performing arts community of Edinburgh – thank you to all who took part in those focus groups and surveys, they have informed our thinking throughout the design. We are working with EPAD to host an information session about the building during this year’s Fringe to ensure our community of artists and venues are fully briefed on our plans and ambitions.

Fringe Central will focus on offering accessible and affordable space for our own services year-round, as well as affordable rehearsal and workshop rooms, co-working and desk space for Edinburgh’s performing arts community, and opportunities for collaboration and peer to peer showcasing. We will welcome artists and industry from all over the world to build professional network for Fringe artists globally.

Space for communities

Alongside our own delivery, Fringe Central will also host Canongate Youth, a long running youth centre who offer services and activities for young people in the local area; they’ll be resident tenants in Fringe Central and continue to work with Totally Sound and Reel Youth Media to deliver weekend activities for young people from across the city. We’re working with Canongate Youth to develop activities and projects that allow their young people to be part of the renovation process, learn new skills and inform the design and use of the building from the beginning. The building will be open to all, with public toilets, gallery space (telling the story of the Fringe) and publicly accessible outdoor space.

Benefits

•    A new Changing Places toilet, passenger lift and upgrades to ramps to ensure the building is fully accessible;
•    A reduction of over 80% of the current carbon footprint of the building and the removal of fossil fuel in the building for good;
•    Event and rehearsal spaces for Edinburgh’s performing arts community, including co-working space and access to Fringe Society services;
•    Green space, accessible to the public, in the heart of the city;
•    An open foyer, including the space to tell the story of the Fringe, places to sit, and publicly accessible toilets.

Support for Artists

In our 2022 Development Goals the Fringe Society made a number of commitments for the strategic long-term benefit of the Fringe; these have informed our approach to Fringe Central, and the best use of the investment from UK Government. We know well the challenges artists face in bringing work to the Fringe as well as the power of the Fringe to boost the careers of artists at all stages of their working lives. This is why we worked with UK Government to convert £1Mn of the capital investment to revenue to enable us to deliver the Keep it Fringe Fund in 2024 and 2025 and why we are including our digital and data infrastructure ambitions into the plans. This means our budget for the project has grown as we leverage this investment from UK Government for the maximum benefit to the Fringe; we’ll be updating later in the summer about our fundraising plans and successes, including ways you can get involved.

The Design Team

None of this work would be possible without the help of our excellent Scottish project management and design team; Thomas and Adamson, LBA Architects, Wallace Whittle and Will Rudd Davidson – who have worked to ensure the proposed renovation is accessible, sustainable and serves the communities of the Fringe and the City long-term. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment and passion for the project, and look forward to delivering this project alongside them. We’d also like to thank our colleagues at DCMS and the City of Edinburgh Council for their continued support as the programme progresses.

You can read more on the history of the project, as well as see more detail on the proposed benefits and deliverables of Fringe Central here, and drop us a line at [email protected] if you’d like more information or to offer your help!