The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Annual Review 2018

The Fringe Society, the charity established by artists to act as the custodian of the Fringe, published their 2018 Annual Review this week. The review reflects on the successes of the 2018 Fringe as well as highlighting the achievements, innovations and ambitions of the Fringe Society over the course of the year.

Launching the Annual Review at a reception in Edinburgh on 26 February, Chief Executive Shona McCarthy said:

"There was so much that was successful about the 2018 Fringe. We can talk about selling 2.8 million tickets or we can talk about what that actually means, that more people than ever were engaging with and experiencing performances, on their own terms.

"Whether we look back to 2018 or forward to 2019, we are proud that the founding idea at the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe remains constant: anyone with a desire to perform and a venue willing to host them is welcome.

"Our ambition is to ensure that this commitment to freedom of expression, giving voice to all, is a reality. Physical, socioeconomic, geographic or financial factors should not prevent people being part of it. And whilst Edinburgh Fringe is undoubtedly the biggest performing arts festival in the world, that scale will be meaningless unless we can also say with confidence that it is the best at which to work, perform, create, run a venue, see a show.’

Fringe Society Chief Executive, Shona McCarthy, speaking at the 2018 Annual Review Reception.

Fringe Society Chief Executive, Shona McCarthy, speaking at the 2018 Annual Review Reception

The Annual Review details the Society’s work towards ensuring the Fringe is as accessible as possible for everyone who wishes to attend and participate, supporting the artists, producers and venues that make the Fringe happen each year, and promoting the Fringe, and what it stands for, all over the world.

Achievements in 2018 include the delivery of the Fringe Days Out scheme for the second year, providing 31 charities and community groups with £50,000 of Fringe ticket vouchers and free bus day tickets to allow their service users to experience the magic of the Fringe, free of charge.

Accessibility for both artists and audiences was at the core of the Society’s agenda with developments including sensory backpacks for autistic adults and children, BSL-interpreted performances on the High Street, and the provision of a fully accessible Changing Place facility in the heart of the Old Town for the second year.

In partnership with Virgin Money, the street events on the Royal Mile were transformed to better reflect the creative and diverse artists that come from all over the world to perform there. The redevelopment included fully accessible stages and viewing areas, cashless payments for street performers, and green initiatives which turned litter into renewable energy.

The Fringe Society continued to make fair employment and best volunteering practice core priorities, and conducted the biggest ever independent survey of workers on the Fringe. Working in partnership with cultural sector trade unions, Volunteer Edinburgh, Fringe venues, employers and workers, the Society have created codes of conduct and continue to develop measures to promote the best possible experience for those who come to work or volunteer on the Fringe.

2018 was a year of global connectivity. Visitors from over 150 countries came to Edinburgh to perform, view, select, tour and review work, including over 1,400 international programmers and 1,000 members of the world’s media. The Fringe Society hosted the biennial Fringe World Congress and welcomed 35 fellow fringe festivals to Edinburgh in August to exchange ideas and create collaborations, strengthening the Fringe community across the world.

It was also a year of great ambition. At the Annual Review launch reception, Shona McCarthy said:

"We talk about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as the world’s greatest platform for freedom of expression, a festival for everyone. These may sound like lofty ideals, but it is what we are committed to and we know that a 70-year-old festival also has challenges and imperfections.

"Which is why a new, ambitious business plan was drafted and approved in 2018, and sets out the vision of the Fringe Society over the next five years. Aligned with this, the Fringe Society has developed a manifesto of public pledges of action on or before the Fringe’s 75th anniversary in 2022. The Fringe Blueprint highlights specific deliverables drawn from this plan, and seeks to provide a short, easy to understand document that outlines the vision of the Fringe Society.

"We continue to seek the help of our friends in the city, in business, in government, in education and communities, to make the Edinburgh Festival Fringe the best festival in the world."