The world-renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe gets underway with a dynamic programme of over 700 in-person and online shows

Performance set to return to city’s historic streets, as community engagement work continues alongside programme of artist development.

Today, the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe officially comes to life with an exciting hybrid programme of over 700 in-person and online shows.

From 06 – 30 August, Edinburgh will once again be host to a diverse and exciting selection of work from the worlds of theatre, dance, circus, comedy, music, musicals and opera, cabaret and variety, children’s shows, spoken word, exhibitions, events and more.

This year’s Fringe also features a scaled-back programme of street events in managed locations; a range of community engagement work, including the return of Fringe Days Out; and a programme of activity for artists and arts industry professionals via Fringe Connect and Fringe Marketplace.

All work is being delivered in strict accordance with Scottish Government covid-19 guidance, to ensure a safe, secure and enjoyable festival for artists, audiences and residents. More information can be found below.

Commenting on the launch of the festival, our Chief Executive,Shona McCarthy, said: “The Fringe is always a remarkable feat, but this year, it’s nothing short of extraordinary. In the face of complex restrictions and enormous challenges, the Fringe community has created a diverse and engaging programme of over 700 shows to entertain us, bring us joy, and ultimately, do what culture does best: tell stories that help us understand where we are, what we’ve been through, and where we need to go.

“I’m enormously proud of the artists, venues, creatives and workers that have made this festival not only possible, but safe, engaging and entertaining. It’s so good to be celebrating the Fringe again this August, and I’d like to thank every artist, producer, worker, audience member, funder, sponsor and supporter that has got us here today.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, President, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “The Edinburgh Fringe is BACK! In an act of pure artistic heroism, the Fringe Society and thousands of artists, writers, dancers, actors, designers, comedians, musicians and creatives have fought to bring this festival back to the streets of glorious, glittering Edinburgh. We have a lot of time to make up for and this festival is more than ready for you. 

“With hundreds of live and online events you can see as many shows in a week than you would have in the whole of last year and we are finally able to reconnect, inspire, surprise and entertain each other like we used to. I have never wanted to have a leaflet thrusted at me more. We’re being offered a giant cultural sprinkler after a year of drought and I can’t wait to jump through it, shrieking, with you all.”

Benny Higgins, Chair, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “The Edinburgh Fringe is a remarkable arts festival that has created an unparalleled legacy for the city and the country, and it will have an important part to play in how we move forward after such a difficult period.

“The cultural value that the Fringe holds is enormous, and its launch today is the first step on a long road to recovery – for the festival and for Scotland. We must all play our part in ensuring an inclusive, diverse and accessible festival for the future, with wellbeing at its heart.”

Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Scottish Government, said: “A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to support the return of these globally significant cultural events and the benefits they bring to Scotland in terms of tourism, trade and our place on the world stage.

“Edinburgh’s festivals were sorely missed last summer and their return is another step in the right direction and testament to the determination of festival organisers, along with the artists, venues and businesses involved. I’m delighted that the Fringe will be able to welcome back audiences and give festival goers something to cheer this year.”

Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan, the City of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Communities Vice Convener, said: “The return of live August festivals events and performances truly reflects our city’s on-going recovery and, of course, our cultural DNA, and we’re delighted to see an exciting Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. 

"There's no doubt it was greatly missed last year and it’s so lovely for our city to be welcoming audiences again to the festivals this August. To everyone taking part, we ask you to continue to follow the safety guidance and to enjoy this year’s fantastic festival experiences safely.”

Barbara Smith, Managing Director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, said: “As Johnnie Walker moves closer to opening the doors to our new venue on Princes Street, it’s fantastic to see Edinburgh continue to open up for cultural events, and for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the best that the city has to offer.  

“The Fringe will always be an important part of the city’s cultural calendar and the team at Johnnie Walker are delighted to once again support the Fringe Society in bringing the festival to life through our Fringe Club whisky bar on the Mound. We can’t wait to welcome visitors from home and away as they enjoy the best of what this world famous festival has to offer.”

In-person, online and on-demand shows

In 2021, audiences will be able to access a wide range of amazing Fringe shows through socially distanced in-person events, scheduled online performances and on-demand digital shows. Tickets and information for all kinds of registered Fringe shows – live, online, paid and free – can be found at

Around 440 shows are taking place in person. Many shows are taking place in new, creative outdoor locations across Edinburgh, including a football ground, a car park and a racecourse. 

Familiar Fringe operators such as Acoustic Music Centre, Assembly, Dance Base, French Institute, Gilded Balloon, Laughing Horse Free Festival, Monkey Barrel, PBH’s Free Fringe, Pleasance, Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Stand, theSpaceUK, Summerhall and Zoo are all taking part in this year’s festival with physical spaces in the city.

All in-person performances will be fully Covid compliant, following the latest guidelines on social distancing, mask wearing, ventilation and hygiene. 

Currently, live events must operate at one-metre distancing. On 09 August, Scotland moves to level zero and restrictions on distancing will be dropped. 

Every Fringe venue operates individually. For up-to-date information on capacity and distancing at individual Fringe shows, please check with the relevant venue.

In an exciting move for the festival, more than 260 shows are taking place online, providing a global platform for artists, while enhancing the Fringe’s commitment to accessibility and sustainability.

There will be two kinds of online events available this year: scheduled and on demand. 

With scheduled shows, audiences can buy tickets as they would to a traditional in-person event. Shows will have a dedicated start and end time and are treated as an ‘appointment to view’ event. For on-demand shows, audiences can buy tickets to watch at their leisure.

Audiences can view Fringe shows on online platforms including the new Fringe Player streamed by Brightcove (NASDAQ: BCOV), the global leader in video for business. Available via, this bespoke digital platform offers an easy-to-use viewing experience for audiences while giving artists a platform to present and showcase their work digitally. The player will be accessible to audiences from 06 August, with auto-subtitling built in. Both on-demand and scheduled online shows are available on this platform.

Where other platforms (such as Zoom, YouTube and Vimeo) are being used to host online work, information on how to access these is clearly provided at the point of purchase.

Street events 

The city’s world-famous street events are returning this year, with a scaled-back programme of live performances.  

A fantastic starting point for any Fringe-goer, events will run daily from 11:30 until 20:30 in the High Street’s designated Fringe safe street performance area, West Parliament Square. 

There will also be a programme of activity on the Mound, as well as additional opportunities for buskers and other street artists well known in the Fringe landscape.  

All performances will be delivered in accordance with current and relevant Covid guidelines. Limits on audience numbers will be introduced in line with social distancing, and event details will be published online to audiences in advance to allow them to plan. 

Strict hygiene measures will also be in place, including masks and sanitisation, to help everyone enjoy the events safely.

Community, access and learning

We are continuing to work alongside communities, venues and artists to ensure the Fringe is as inclusive as possible.

Our Fringe Days Out scheme is a long-term commitment by the Fringe Society to reach out to communities that have not traditionally engaged with the Fringe. Through this programme in 2021, we have delivered Fringe vouchers, Lothian bus tickets and access support through our 30+ community partners, including The Welcoming, The Citadel Youth Centre, Lothian Autistic Society, Vintage Vibes and Capability Scotland. 

In response to some groups being unable to visit the festival in person, or being hesitant about attending, we are also continuing our Fringe in Communities programme, with street performers going out to locations across the city to perform during July and August.

The Fringe’s commitment to improving disabled access remains a priority. Customers with access requirements can use our access tickets service and search specific accessible performances such as relaxed, audio described, captioned and signed performances. Plus, a free personal assistant ticket is available for anyone who needs assistance to attend the Fringe. Customers can also search for shows in performance spaces with wheelchair access.

This year, we are once again providing sensory bags for children and adults on the autism spectrum. Each bag contain a fidget toy, earplugs, water bottle and a stress reliever. These items are designed to help users relax and overcome stressful or intense situations and are distributed to select partners across the city.

Our street events offering will see BSL interpretation on the West Parliament Square Stage on Saturday 21 August, and there will be a wheelchair accessible viewing area on the High Street throughout the festival. 

We are also continuing Teachers’ Theatre Club, our partnership with Imaginate, which brings Edinburgh teachers to the Fringe. Each show seen will be followed by a group discussion with some of the artists and creative teams who made and/or presented the work, covering both the content of the show and how it could enhance and inform teaching practice.

And we’re making sure that Edinburgh’s schoolchildren can also take part in the Fringe fun by working with Gracemount High and selected Edinburgh primary schools to make sure they get to see Fringe shows too.

Support for artists and arts industry

This year, the Fringe Society is hosting two digital platforms for artists and industry professionals: Fringe Connect and Fringe Marketplace.

Launched last month, Fringe Connect is an exciting new year-round platform, designed to bring Fringe artists together with peers and members of the arts community.
Part social network, part events space, Fringe Connect gives users the opportunity to populate their own profile with information about their professional experiences and interests (both Fringe-related and otherwise). 

Registered users will have access to exciting industry news and opportunities, alongside access to year-round digital events aimed at supporting and facilitating professional development. 

Guests and speakers during the Fringe include Lyn Gardner, Andrew Miller, Amy Conachan, Tarek Iskander, Jo Clifford and Richard Jordan, plus many more.

And after a successful pilot year in 2020, Fringe Marketplace has returned for 2021. This dedicated showcase platform aims to connect arts industry delegates all over the world with professional and tour-ready artists.

The work that will appear on the platform has been selected by Fringe venue programmers and assessed by Fringe associates: an independent cross-genre industry experts who have experience and understanding of the Fringe. 

Work with strategic partners

The Fringe Society is delighted to be working with three strategic partners this year: Something to Aim For, Parents and Carers in Performing Arts and Somewhere EDI. All three partnerships help us to better support and engage with significant groups of participants and understand the barriers they might be facing at the Fringe.  

Something to Aim For is the charity devoted to supporting public health and (re)building social fabric through the creative industries.  

Parents and Carers in Performing Arts work to promote best practice employment and support for parents and carers in the performing arts sector. 

Somewhere EDI is a platform for positive LGBTQ+ culture, learning and activism, championing and empowering LGBTQ+ people to be out and visible in business, culture and in wider society.

Johnnie Walker

The Fringe Society is delighted to be working with Johnnie Walker for a third year. 2021 sees the return of the popular Fringe Club, a dedicated bar space for visitors to the festivities for the entire duration of the festival. Located on the Mound, an exciting spot with live street performances, the bar will once again serve a number of delicious highballs, cocktails and drams for guests in the dedicated whisky lounge. 

Festival-goers will also have the chance to win exclusive prizes through the Johnnie Walker Ticket prize giveaway. Prizes include complimentary highballs at the Fringe Club, bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, £20 vouchers for shows at the Fringe and tour tickets to Johnnie Walker Princes Street. With each ticket bought via the Fringe, customers can click on the ticket banner in their booking confirmations to be entered into the prize draw. 

Edinburgh Gin

2021 is the first year of our exciting new partnership with Edinburgh Gin, who are working to support Fringe artists affected by the pandemic.

The team have collaborated with Fringe Society president Phoebe Waller-Bridge to create a special limited-edition bottle, which captures the wonder of Edinburgh through the lens of Fleabag.

Every penny of profit will go towards a new fund, being run in partnership with the Fringe Society, which will support artists to create and bring work to the Fringe. More than £150,000 is hoped to be raised.

Sponsors and supporters

As a charity, the work of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society would not be possible without the valuable support of our partners, sponsors and funders. We are delighted to be working with Johnnie Walker for the third year running as our official whisky partner. 

We are proud to be partnering with the newly opened St James Quarter and are excited to be working with them this year and beyond. 

We are excited to be partnering with Crowdfunder again through our FringeMakers fundraising platform, supporting Fringe artists and venues with vital fundraising efforts.

We have teamed up with Rare Birds Books to a create a limited-edition book bundle with books selected by the women behind three of the Fringe’s most iconic venues: Rowan Campbell, the General Manager of Summerhall; Dani Rae, the General Manager of Assembly; and Katy Koren, who co-runs Gilded Balloon. Proceeds of the sale of this bundle will support go directly to supporting Fringe artists bring work to the Fringe.

We would also like to thank Lothian Buses for their continued support of our Fringe Days Out programme. 

We’re thrilled to welcome Edinburgh Gin on board as official gin of the Fringe and look forward to working with them. 

We are grateful for funding through the PLACE Programme, a partnership between the Scottish Government - through Creative Scotland - the City of Edinburgh Council and Festivals Edinburgh; Scottish Government for Made in Scotland through the Festivals Expo Fund - managed through Creative Scotland - and the continued support of the City of Edinburgh Council. Thanks also to Scottish Government for funds from their Get into Summer campaign.

We are grateful for funding from the Pivotal Event Business Fund, the SCVO Adapt and Thrive programme, the Foyle Foundation and the UK Government to enhance our digital capabilities.

Our thanks also to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Pump House Trust and the Turtleton Charitable Trust.

With thanks to EventScotland and City of Edinburgh Council for supporting Street Events.

Thank you to Brightcove, our streaming partners, for their support in delivering the Fringe Player.

Our thanks also to our Fringe Angels, Patrons, Friends and supporters whose passion and generosity made a real difference this year.