Working in the industry for around 10 years, it is a wonder I have only just made the essential pilgrimage for every Performing Arts professional.
This is not for want of not wanting to. Time, money… all those factors. And each year I have major FOMO through all the pictures and social media, friends and colleagues attending; my insides screaming WHY AM I NOT THERE!
So this year, I planned in January. And trust me, when I say, this is the best time to plan.
But when researching, I firstly reached out to seasoned friends and colleagues on their tips and tricks of the Fringe and Edinburgh itself (as, a double whammy, I had never been to Scotland either!). I have immense gratitude to these beautiful people, and it was a lovely euphoric moment of realising the collection of talented beings I know and love in one City, from someone who has made these connections all across the country. To have all these people in one place was surreal but also completely beautiful.
However, there was nothing more I could find from others with perhaps a list of things to consider when making this trip, and while I certainly do not know it all, I thought I would write a little something of the things I learnt at my first Fringe.
What to Bring
Scotland is Scotland after all. It can be cold. It (weirdly) can be pretty hot too. It buckets down. It shines. But it is still the UK. So here are a few things I found out you NEED to have with you:
- Coat – bring a light one. You can bulk with warm stuff underneath. But when it rains, it bloody rains.
- Wellies/Walking boots – I only brought trainers and flip flops (oh the hopeful part of me) but when it pours, parts of streets get quite flooded and soak through your socks. While I was suffering from quite a lot of chronic pain at the time which affected my decision also, bring hiking/walking boots with you if you plan on Arthur’s Seat. The day I wanted to do this, it rained and trainers would just not have done the job. Sadly I did not walk it this time due to all these contributing factors, but from what I know, you can walk it any time, so be prepared!
- Socks – man oh man bring enough socks. While I came away with lovely highland cow socks, they cost me £4 and I probably should have just been prepared. (There are shops like Primark and H&M is the newer part, but if you’re busy you may not have the time).
- Water – Yes you will drink a lot of booze. But get a reusable (all about the eco) bottle – pubs, venues e.t.c. will fill these up for you. And trust me, you will need a lot to drink with walking the city.
- Pre-pack some food – Do not feel like you always need to eat out. It can get a bit pricey and if you are with limited time between shows, a protein bar or some fruit in your bag will save your life. It was delicious, but a £7 mini pizza was not healthy, rinsed my wallet and I rushed it, feeling pretty unwell after.
- The City is BEAUTIFUL. Take some time to explore, be a tourist, enjoy!
- Stay in Old Town / Near the Royal Mile – easily the best part of the city, so beautiful but also a stone’s throw from most of the Fringe activity. Some happens in the newer part, and the half price tent is over there too but you will find most venues are in Old Town.
- We’re still in the UK – Tescos, Lidl, corner shops are still around to grab anything you need. It can be stressful when you go on holiday and do not know the language or the area, but Edinburgh is littered with places to grab any essentials.
- Walking is good – I loved walking the City. It’s pretty easy to do and the majority of things are pretty close together. But beware, it is all hills! (I found this out the hard way). However, if you’re struggling for time or feeling a bit lazy, public transport is amazing, and there is Uber!
- Google Maps – Add at least another 10 mins to what google maps tells you. It is so busy and you will need to fight crowds at times. If you do not know the City, it’s easy to read a road not a bridge on the maps and end up going the long way. If you use public transport, there’s a lot of traffic so add time. And ensure you can grab a drink before your show!
- Get. Some. Sleep. – Part of this is planning where you want to stay. I chose a hostel but the experience made me realise I was A. Too Old for hostels now and B. It is NOT the place if you want to grab sleep, naps, relax e.t.c. So really think where you want to stay. This leads me onto…
- Plan ahead – Get planning asap. Places sell out fast. Prices go sky high. The sooner you can book your travel tickets (train, plane, bus if you’re adventurous) and where to stay, the more you will save, the more selection and therefore can grab that private hotel room if you want/can afford and won’t end up sharing with a man who watches you leave/enter rooms and get ready for bed.. (yes this really happened).
- Eat Healthy – I am still fighting the worse acne I have EVER had, and recuperating from lack of energy even a week and half after I finished Fringe. It’s so easy to eat bad food and let your health go down. Get some veggies. Drink some water. Practice serious self-care.
- Have a freakin’ day off and organise your time– I packed around 50 shows in 9 days. I sadly cancelled a whole day because I got so unwell. 11am-11pm non-stop is insane, and why I thought I could do that for 9 days straight is beyond me. And organise your time – try not to do a million shows a day. Spread them out; schedule time to have a drink with the acts after; see some friends for lunch or coffee in between; go for a walk or take a nap between shows. Because you cannot truly enjoy a show if you’re at the back sweaty, exhausted and feeling like you may puke.
- Plan your shows by distance – My second day I walked back and forth from the centre of Old Town down to Summerhall (a 20 min walk each way) at least 3 times. And I was a mess. If you’re seeing a lot at Bistro Square/St George’s Square or all on the Royal Mile, you can take a seat between, grab some food, chill in the park or a coffee shop and you’re not panic walking half way across the city.
- Flyers/Be adventurous – Artists put a lot of
money and time into flyers and flyer-ers. I spent my first few days politely
saying no thank you until I met up with a producer friend who put it in
perspective. Take the flyer, have a look, take a chance if you have the time.
And if you can’t go and see it, you’ve at least made that persons day a little
brighter by taking their flyer and considering it.
Equally, take a punt! I was lucky to be going for reviews and ended up seeing some of the most incredible, the weirdest, the wonderful-est shows ever. And I may not have chosen these on my own. Even if it looks crazy or odd, have a go – you may be pleasantly surprised.
- I also missed a lot of great work because I did not look into them enough before. If you are reviewing, balance it! Do some review work, see some shows just for yourself. I only did this once and it was a lovely relief not to be writing about it and to just enjoy it alone; a little break in between.
- Be polite and chat with people – we’re theatrical people. The locals are lovely. Make conversation, it will brighten not only their day, but yours too. Everyone is really friendly.
- Try not to hog pavements, doorways e.t.c It can be so dangerous with the busy roads. Be mindful and helpful, and it will make the Fringe so much better.
It may seem like a lot, but I learnt a lot from my first experience. I believe you need to experience it yourself and find your own ways to enjoy the Fringe but this is just a little to get you started.
Ultimately – ENJOY IT. It is probably one of the best things I have done with my life.
And maybe see you there next year – message me at any of the below and we can grab a drink!
If you have any other tips and tricks:
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