Phoebe Waller-Bridge hails ‘new dawn’ for Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival

The actor, who is president of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, also said the event would be ‘more outrageously spectacular than ever before’.

08 June 2022

The world’s largest arts festival is marking its 75th anniversary with a new set of commitments, which actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge said would be a “new dawn” for the “iconic cultural event”.

The Fleabag star – who is also president of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society – said the changes would make the annual event more accessible, but also “more outrageously spectacular than ever before”.

She spoke as the Edinburgh Fringe outlined its new vision with six development goals which aim to make the massive arts extravaganza more inclusive, fair and sustainable – including a pledge to be a carbon zero event by 2030

The Fringe wants to be the “best place in the world for emerging artists to perform” as well as pledging to eradicate unfair or exploitative working conditions.

Speaking about the targets, actor and writer Waller-Bridge said: “So much has changed in our culture and this new vision of the festival reflects that with heart and sincerity, while fiercely maintaining the wild spontaneity and creative freedom it has provided artists and audiences with for the past 75 years.

“This is a new dawn for an iconic cultural event that’s going to be more inclusive, more accessible and more outrageously spectacular than ever before.”

The Fringe, which will put on its first full programme since 2019 in the Scottish capital this summer, wants to “give anyone a stage and everyone a seat”.

But it also wants to ensure it is a “force for good” within the city of Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringes brings performers from all over the globe to the Scottish capital (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Changes this year will see the festival switch to exclusive use of e-tickets, while there will be a free, annual family event for Edinburgh residents.

Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “We want the Fringe to remain the world’s premier performing arts festival and we can only do that if it keeps pace with change in the city, in the country and in the sector.

“Anyone with a story to tell should be able to find a stage and an audience at the Fringe, but there are some real barriers to being as accessible as we truly want to be.

“Participating in the festival can be straining, physically, financially and mentally. It’s important that we work to tackle these issues head-on and continue to ensure that artists see the Fringe as a positive experience.”

She stressed volunteers and workers at the Fringe should be treated fairly, saying: “We are committed to scrutinising any suggestion of exploitation, unfair or unsafe working practices and we will withdraw our services from any repeat offenders.”

Ms McCarthy spoke about efforts to open the festival up to those with disabilities, saying: “Everyone should be able to experience the magic of live performance at the Fringe.

“We aim to improve access to the festival at every level. We know that Edinburgh’s historic infrastructure can create barriers for disabled artists and audiences. We also want to increase provision for captioning and BSL interpretation, as well as audio description. 

“While we’ve made some positive steps in all these areas, there’s still so much more we can do.”

And on climate change, she said that while the festival had already taken steps to reduce carbon emissions, more needed to be done.

She added: “We are making commitments now to tackle the big issues together and will be helping the entire Fringe community to play its part, and we want to get to net zero by 2030.”

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