The Bunbury Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe

Hello to you all,
Editor Christopher here. Currently I am sat on the train with editors Keri and Malika, about to hit the Edinburgh Fringe for the fifth year. In that time, we have reviewed and interviewed upwards on 5 shows and their peformers. Impressive, no?
We have had the privilege of speaking to dozens upon dozens upon dozens of performers from all walks of life in the five years we have been travelling to the Fringe. Talking to as many people as we do every year takes preparation. As this is Mailka’s first time coming up with us, we thought we would put together a little suvival guide for getting through the Fringe. Maybe, it will come in handy for other Fringe virgins too, whether you’re a performer, reviewer or audience member.
1. Don’t forget your toothbrush

…and other non-cliche items. If you are planning on hitting the Fringe hard, and seeing as many shows as possible, the creature comforts will really get you through. A power-bank, because the new Walking Dead game really drains the battery. A bottle of water – those rooms in the venues get mightily hot, especially if the show is lucky enough to be at capacity. And other stuff like pants and your face will come in handy too.

2. Be prepared for insane weather

Last year, when Keri and I landed in Edinburgh, it was torrential. It was the precipitatory equivalent of the sunny weather we’ve been having for the last two months. My suitcase was one of the cheap fabric affairs so by the time we got to our accommodation, my week’s worth of clothes were wet! Impressed I was not. So unimpressed was I, I apparently turned into Yoda (if Yoda spent most of the films called everyone and everything a cunt). When packing for the trip, put everything in carrier bags in your suitcase, have an umbrella but also shorts and t-shirts a-plenty because two hours later, the sun will be trying to fry your face off.

3. Planning, planning, planning

There’s plenty going on at the Fringe, to say the very least. With thousands of comedians, magicians, poets, theatre companies and more besides, you won’t be stuck for something to do. Last year, in five days, Christopher saw 55 shows. If you want to cram in as many shows as possible, it takes planning, because trying to decide what venue and show you want, then deciding you want to go somwhere else and keep moving on kills valuable time. Download the Fringe app – it has a built in planner to help you keep track of what you have planned to see next.

4. …or just go with the flow

You will not be able to walk more than about seven steps in Edinburgh without being handed a flyer for a show. Some of these will catch your eye, and seeing an impulse show can often lead to experiencing some genuinely exciting art. The best show I have ever seen at the Fringe was one which I was flyered for five minutes before kick off when I should have been on my way somewhere else. 

As a side note, try and be polite to the flyerers, especially if the performer is flyering for their own show. It’s really hard work advertising your own show, building an audience and then performing it – as well as appearances elsewhere – for the entire month. It can be demoralising to see a wave of apathetic faces breeze past. Give them a smile and a hello. It may be the boost they need.

5. Do not listen to Andrew W.K.

…and this will be the only time in my life I will ever say those words. When we interviewed Phil Jupitus a few years ago, he gave us the very sage advice to not treat Edinburgh like a party. If you go up with the sole purpose of getting drunk every day and night, it will ruin you – physically, spiritually, financially. Plus, comedians have hollow legs and are jaded to the prospect of dehydration so trying to keep up with them will be as futile as using a conker shell to hold back the tide.

6. Eat well

If you are planning on hitting as many shows as possible, you need plenty of fuel to burn – sounds daft, I know, but sitting through show after show can be exhausting (in the best possible way). It is possible to eat really well, for cheap. There are plenty of Subways around for a healthy(ish) option, but our big recommendation would be the Mosque Kitchen on West Nicholson Street. Beautiful food, reasonably priced and right by one of the best venues on the Fringe – The Counting House.

7. Take a chance

This kind of ties in to advice number 4. A lot of people will go up to Edinburgh to see the established TV comedians. While it is good to see those people, the true heroes of the Fringe are all those that perform for the free fringe, in all its different models. They put themselves on the line in every way possible to make the Fringe as spectacular as it is. You never know if you’re going to walk into a free show and see the next big thing. You could day you were there! And it’s free too!

8. We say free…

…it’s free to get in to those shows, but not to get out. Donate as generously as you can to the performers on the free fringe. If they have some merch, grab something. And make sure you have change too! It’s considered bad form to put a tenner into a bucket and take a fiver back.

9. Book early

We booked our 2018 accommodation in November 2017, and we still struggled to find something really. As I said before, prepare, prepare, prepare. The prices can be eye-watering, and may run the risk of shutting the entire thing down, but there’s no way around it, because the daily commute from Tunbridge Wells would be a bitch.

10. Make friends

Remember when I said before to smile at the performers if they are looking blue while flyering? The Fringe is a big family (you should see the commotion over Christmas dinner.) and everyone is really supportive. Get involved. Having someone to share the highs and lows with you up there will increase your enjoyment exponentially.

That’s about it I reckon. There’s probably loads of stuff I’ve missed off here but we’re just past Lancaster and I’m beginning to feel travel-sick. Time to try and squeeze in a couple of hour’s sleep before the madness begins.

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