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Edinburgh Festival: Attacks by Big Fringe companies on organizers are sad to see – MP Tommy Sheppard

A collaboration with Adelaide saw dozens of Australian circus athletes and dancers perform a stunning physical display: elaborate choreography with breathtaking strength and skill. The bodies climbed on top of each other, sometimes stacked in fours, to make living sculptures, amplified by precision lighting and video projection.

Throughout, the National Youth Choir of Scotland vocalized a dramatic soundscape, sounding sometimes Gaelic, sometimes Arabic, always intensely human.

It was brilliant in concept and execution. But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all was that, despite what must have been a huge budget, it was free.

And thousands of local people went. It’s the kind of thing that only happens when artistic ambition meets public funding. We should be proud that this is happening here.

The international festival delivers the high-profile stuff, but it’s the Fringe that fills the city. Over 3000 shows, tens of thousands of performers and teams, and hundreds of thousands of punters combine to bring Edinburgh to life. The biggest arts festival in the world is back for its 75th edition.

As always, what makes these aren’t the names you’ve heard of, they’re the ones you haven’t. The city is host to a massive cultural experience, a cauldron of creativity.

A lot works, a lot doesn’t. And from failure, artists learn and improve. This is the Fringe opportunity. There’s nowhere else in the world where they can take an idea and present it night after night to different audiences, refining it until it works.

The show that opened the Edinburgh International Festival was one of the best things Tommy Sheppard had ever seen on stage (Picture: Andrew Perry)

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It’s been three years since the city has moved like this. In the darkest days of the pandemic, it seemed like it could never happen again. Artists and venues have been hit hard. Sheer determination brought things back to life.

This month’s festival is not the same as the previous one. 2019 broke all records. Coming back after Covid and in the midst of a cost of living crisis, these new records were still safe. Still, this year’s Fringe size is expected to be more than 80% of the pre-pandemic peak. It’s an incredible comeback.

Unfortunately, in three years, many people who have done shows have left: retiring, changing industries or being exiled by Brexit. It has been a nightmare for many venues to recruit experienced technical and reception staff. The Fringe as an entity has lost much of its collective memory.

So it saddens me when some of the biggest commercial operators attack the organisers, looking for someone to blame for the drop in ticket sales. The rebound will take more than a year and there will be bumps in the road. Success demands that the myriad of venues and artists that make up this incredible festival work together, without cutting each other off.

Above all, we must rebuild again. The economic potential of this great event must be exploited for all the people who live here. The festival needs closer ties with the city and its communities. That’s why the recasting of values ​​that the Fringe Society promotes is so welcome.

Edinburgh is the biggest festival in the world. It could be the most diverse and fair too.

Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East