Fringe spotlight is a series of articles where you can find out more about the people we work with and the charitable activities we support. We'll be publishing more of these over the coming months to give you a deeper insight into our work and theirs.
The Fringe Society is the registered charity that was founded by artists to act as custodian of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In addition to providing services such as the Fringe box office and programme, we work with individuals and organisations in Edinburgh to make the Fringe as welcoming and inclusive as possible.
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Fringe spotlight: Lizzie Ashworth, The Welcoming
My name is Lizzie and I coordinate the Group Befriending activities at The Welcoming, a charity based in Gorgie in Edinburgh that aims to help newcomers settle in the city by offering friendship, community and diverse learning experiences. We work with asylum seekers, refugees and individuals from a diverse range of countries and ethnic backgrounds around the world.
I’ve attended the Fringe for many years with friends and family. I hadn’t come across the Fringe Days Out programme – making the Fringe more accessible to minority ethnic communities and other isolated individuals – until I started working at The Welcoming. I really value and credit the Fringe for bringing arts and creative learning opportunities to all sectors of society, not just those who have previous experience or the money to afford it. Making the Fringe inclusive is absolutely wonderful.
My earliest and one of my favourite memories of the Fringe was attending a show by Nick Cope with my then four-year-old, to listen to great music for children. Nick Cope is so human and down to earth, and his children’s songs are inclusive and often very funny. We listened to them in the car and in bed for years after!
I love how the Fringe offers really diverse and whacky arts experiences. Bringing culturally diverse performances to the Fringe makes it feel both exciting and like there’s a place for all people, from all cultures.
The Fringe Society approached The Welcoming in 2019 to both offer Fringe tickets, but also to ask myself, volunteers and participants to take part in a short film about Fringe Days Out, to share the word about inclusive Fringe performances for communities in Edinburgh. A Syrian participant and her befriender and I took part in the filming. The Society staff and the filming crew were absolutely wonderful. It was relaxed and supportive and most of all fun.
Working with the Fringe Society is a privilege; the staff are friendly and approachable and professional. We recently were offered a terrific online dance and movement class in collaboration with dancer and choreographer Julia James-Griffiths. It was inspiring and thought-provoking. I really value our collaborative work.
The Fringe Society allows participants at The Welcoming to feel like valued and equal members of Edinburgh. The free tickets for Fringe shows allow those who couldn’t ordinarily afford them to see exciting shows. In 2019, attending some Fringe dance and music performances with large groups of female participants was a real buzz. I look forward to that again in the future a great deal.
Fringe spotlight: Dan O’Donnell, Redhall School
My name is Dan O’Donnell and I am a class teacher at Redhall School, teaching Primary 3 – Primary 7 composite classes since the school opened 12 years ago. Redhall is a primary school for children with complex long-term additional support needs primarily associated with learning disabilities. Many of the schools’ pupils have an autistic spectrum condition.
I first came to Edinburgh to visit a friend in August 1994; when I arrived, the Fringe was in full swing and I was instantly taken by how full of life and creativity the city was. I fell in love with Edinburgh and, despite my firm attachment to and affection for my hometown of Manchester, I moved to the city the following autumn. Aside from a five-year stint in the States, I’ve lived in Edinburgh ever since and have looked forward to and enjoyed its festival season transformation every summer.
I recall being amazed by the sheer number and variety of shows it was possible to see any time of day or night and the atmosphere everywhere – in venues, pubs and on the streets – being good-natured and fun. I remember being especially thrilled by the street performers, there were comedians and musicians performing everywhere (it was much smaller and less regulated then). I also remember constantly being happily lost around Edinburgh and getting stuck on George IV Bridge trying to make it to a show in the Cowgate on time.
Once, years ago, I took a class from another special school to see the street performers in the High Street. A very witty singer noticed us and proceeded to teach my pupils the chorus to the Pink Floyd song, The Wall. They all joined in and were very pleased to learn that they didn’t need ANY education!
In 2020 the Fringe Society enabled my class to embark on a much-needed creative adventure during these strange Covid days. A very talented and patient artist held weekly video meetings with my class and, through his own demonstrations, encouraged them to develop their own circus and performance skills, particularly with balloons! It was a real highlight for my class and the pupils would look forward to each session with great anticipation every week.
It has been a pleasure to work with the Fringe Society. From the very beginning of the project, it has been a collaborative experience and I truly feel my suggestions, especially concerning the style of artist that would elicit the maximum amount of participation and engagement, were considered. This cooperative approach resulted in my class having a wonderful experience and was very much appreciated.
This is the second time I have worked with the Fringe Society. Doing so has allowed the young children I teach to access live performance in a safe and fun way and has resulted in all my pupils expressing a desire to visit the Fringe in years to come; this is especially remarkable as many would not have otherwise been able to be a part of it or, in some cases, even be aware of it. As a teacher, collaborating with the Fringe is a highly enjoyable and effective way for me to meet curricula targets while building up my pupils’ creativity, self-expression, self-confidence and resilience.