Five years of fantastic Fringe Days Out
17 May 2022
Celebrating half a decade – and nearly 10,000 attendees! – of our flagship community engagement programme.
Today the Fringe Society launches Fringe Days Out, our flagship community engagement programme, for the fifth year.
Generously supported by Baillie Gifford, Fringe Days Out involves partnerships with 33 schools, community groups, charities and organisations around Edinburgh, and provides Fringe vouchers, bus tickets and additional support to help marginalised communities engage with the festival.
Since starting as a pilot programme in 2017, nearly 10,000 people have been given the opportunity to have a Fringe Day Out at one of the world's greatest celebrations of arts and culture – right on their doorstep.
Commenting on the launch, Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Fringe Society, said: "It is so important to us that Fringe Days Out is back for another year. This project started out as a modest thank you to people in Edinburgh for hosting the Fringe. We feel it only makes sense that Fringe Days Out should make the festival available to those who feel on the fringes of the city and the arts, no matter their background or circumstances.
"This project is about breaking through the barriers that stand in the way of people and communities in Edinburgh engaging with the arts. And while there is undoubtedly more work to do in making the Fringe fully inclusive and accessible, I am proud of this step along the way."
Testimonials from some of our partner organisations:
The Broomhouse Hub (Youth and Families): A community hub providing services in Southwest Edinburgh
"We are all delighted that Fringe '22 is taking place and we can't wait to get involved. The young people and families we work with will again soak up what is a great atmosphere.
"We have been involved with Fringe Days Out from the beginning, and we receive great support from the Fringe Society."
Vintage Vibes: An Edinburgh-based charity tackling loneliness and isolation
"Fringe Days Out has allowed the removal of barriers for people to engage with the Fringe. Some of our VIPs [Vintage Vibes' over-60s community members] had lost a bit of confidence to go along or decided it was no longer for them - which certainly isn't the case!
"We had one VIP who attended a show with her volunteer a few years ago; she said afterwards that getting along to a show like that again, such as she had in her youth, had made her feel herself for the first time in years, and brought her back to the 'land of the living'!"
Capability Scotland: Delivering care, support and education for disabled adults and children across Scotland
"It's great having different people of different cultures from all over the world visit and perform."
"What an amazing journey: watching our service users choose what they would like to go and see, trying new things and having an adventure with their friends… enjoying themselves, talking about what they saw at the Fringe and writing about it in their newsletter."
"It's been great seeing the performers, dancers and musicians put smiles on our service users' faces and getting them to interact with each other, all with fun and laughter!"
Fringe Days Out launched in 2017 as part of our Fringe Blueprint, a series of commitments published to mark the festival's 70th anniversary. The Fringe Society wanted to say thank you to the people of Edinburgh for hosting the Fringe, and to ensure that every single resident felt welcome at the festival; as such, we carried out research to discover which communities might have typically felt excluded from the festival.
Working from the results of this research, we made initial contact with 26 community organisations and charities to help us better foster local connections; five years on, the programme has grown to include 30 community groups and three schools.
How does it work?
The Fringe Society provides Fringe Days Out partner organisations with free ticket vouchers for the Fringe and bus passes, so that cost is not a barrier to participation and engagement with the Fringe.
By providing people with Fringe ticket vouchers, we empower them to explore the full Fringe programme, inviting them to see any show at the Fringe.
Some Fringe Days Out participants are often unfamiliar with the city centre; this programme gives them the support and opportunity to travel outside their immediate neighbourhood, developing their confidence and experience of the city, without the potential barrier of paying for transport. For groups that experience challenges around bus and tram access, we also now include some budget for taxis.
The community organisations we work with are long-term partners of the Fringe Society, enabling the groups to take the time they need to build up knowledge, experience and confidence in the festival. Community members may go on an organised group trip one year, feel confident in attending alone the next, and end up organising group trips themselves by the third. The stories we hear and the numbers we saw grow each year between 2017 and 2019 reflect this.
Fringe Days Out 2017 – 2021 (including schools)
*Excluding schools as these couldn't visit the festival in 2021. Instead, we facilitated digital shows in the classroom with our school partners; these numbers are not included.
Purpose of Fringe Days Out
Our aim for this project is simple: to ensure that everyone involved has a good day out at the Fringe. The success of the Fringe relies on Edinburgh and its residents, and we are committed to finding more ways for even more local people to engage with and enjoy the arts.
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to express themselves through creativity and experience the thrill of live performance, and that the Fringe is an incredible opportunity to do this. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone is welcome.
About Fringe Days Out partners
The Fringe Society works with a broad range of individuals and groups including young people, single parents, isolated elderly people, disabled people, ethnic minority communities, refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTQIA+ people and many more.
Examples of some of our partner organisations include Citadel Youth Centre, Vintage Vibes, Multi Cultural Family Base and Dads Rock.
The groups we work with are trusted partners in their communities who have built long-lasting relationships with their members. These relationships are crucial to the success of Fringe Days Out: by having open conversations with people they know and trust, participants can feel encouraged to take more risks in whether they choose to go and what they choose to see.
These conversations also help the Fringe Society better understand what else they can do to open doors and enable communities to celebrate culture and creativity on their own terms.
Thumbail photographer: Lesley Martin