An insider’s guide to the Edinburgh Fringe


It is a truth universally acknowledged that, during the Edinburgh Fringe, student performers and reviewers exist in a permanent state of general squalor. Four to a room and twenty to a flat is not an unusual state of affairs.

Neither is finding a shoal of Mermaids in the tub and a litter of (Alley)cats doing vocal warm-ups in the kitchen, precariously balanced on a pile of unwashed crockery and Dominos boxes. And then a furry rat family comes to join the party.

Picture the Camden hovel in Withnail and I, and the plethora of new and interesting life forms cultivating in the sink. Now add a confetti of ticket stubs, overladen lanyards, a healthy dose of student smugness and the strong likelihood of returning to find someone unfamiliar (euphemistically) sleeping in your bed.

So what am I trying to get at? That students are disgusting? No shit Sherlock. Even so, Fringe junkies return year after year to drink overpriced ‘cocktails’, watch some inevitable, questionable Shakespeare adaptations (Titus Andronicus, the Musical), and live in flats that are both grimy and structurally unsound. This is no exaggeration: during a house party, my friend put his elbow through a wall during a particularly exuberant fist pump.

Yet despite the bathroom queues, petty milk theft and total lack of privacy, my summer is incomplete without the beery embrace of the Edinburgh Fringe. Where else in the world can you: be chatted up by Simon Amstell (this wasn’t me, though I wish it was); sell Steven Spielberg a burger (likewise); dance the Dashing White Sergeant; climb Arthur’s Seat; drunkenly admire the sun rising; slide down and, contentedly covered in grass stains grab a greasy fry up of implausibly shaped sausages?

The city breathes with infectious warmth, a sense of camaraderie between performers, venue drones and even the detested reviewers. Year on year you see the same faces, after a week it becomes impossible to walk down the Royal Mile without bumping into someone you know. For a month a year Edinburgh echoes the best aspects of student life in St Andrews, a multicultural vibrancy combined with an endearing familiarity.

Regardless of how little you know those who you eat with, live with, work with and drink with at the beginning of August, by the end you have cemented friendships that endure as persistently as red wine stains on a cream carpet. The result of such close proximity can also result in blind hatred and subsequent passive-aggressive petty milk theft, but the odds of meeting your new best friend or love of your life are pretty strong. I’ve already started counting down the days until next year. (It’s 322 days).


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