A fresh, brave and energising Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 comes to a close, with creativity and care at its core

Courtesy of Peter Dibdin.

The 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe draws to a close today, Monday 28 August 2023, having brought together artists, arts industry, media and audiences from nearly 170 countries, with 2,445,609 tickets issued across the festival.

288 venues hosted a diverse selection of work from Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world, with 67 countries represented, and performance showcases from 17 countries. They were joined by nearly 500 of the world’s finest street performers, buskers and street artists, who brought vibrancy and joy to the Mound and Royal Mile as part of the Fringe street events.
As the largest performing arts festival and expo market for professional development in the world, this year’s Fringe also attracted nearly 1,400 accredited producers, programmers, bookers, talent agencies, festivals and others from 49 countries, who come to Edinburgh looking to find talent and shows, providing touring and onward opportunities for artists well beyond August. In addition, 840 of the world’s media accredited for this year’s festival through the Fringe Society, with the number of reviewers up 10% on last year, and who in total generated 25% more reviews for artists at the Fringe than in 2022.

The themes and issues tackled by artists in the 2023 programme included mental health and wellbeing, disability, queer lives, working-class representation and the climate crisis; with emerging talent showcased alongside big names and ground-breaking international work.

To help audiences discover work among the 3,553* shows featured in this year’s programme, the Fringe Society launched a new Fringe app for 2023. Using the app, audiences could ‘shake to search’, generating a random show suggestion simply by shaking their phone, while the ‘nearby now’ function let app users find shows starting soon in close proximity. Since its launch in July, the app has been downloaded nearly 80,000 times, with over 400,000 tickets issued through it.

Ensuring artists remain at the core of what the Fringe Society does, the Fringe Central: Artist Hub welcomed more than 1,500 artists and hosted a programme of over 40 events, working with 30 external partners including Health in Mind, Nouveau Riche, Birds of Paradise and World Fringe.

The Fringe Society has made a long-term commitment to community engagement and access. Key initiatives this year included loaning out 320 sensory resources for autistic children and adults, BSL interpretation of the street events in partnership with Deaf Action on three dates during August, and a dedicated Changing Places toilet located near George Square. This year the number of access bookings increased by around 35% compared to 2022.

35 local schools, charities and community groups took part in the Fringe Days Out scheme, which offers free Fringe vouchers and Lothian bus tickets to people who wouldn’t normally get to experience the Fringe. In addition, over 800 schoolchildren and teachers came to the festival as part of the Fringe Society’s schools outreach work.

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “This year’s Fringe has been one that’s felt fresh, brave and energetic, and has sparked joy, discussion and provocation in equal measure, tackling the prevalent issues of our times and looking at them afresh through the creative lens and ingenuity of the performing artists. 

“People come from all over the world to perform here, to see shows and to commission work. This festival remains a beacon for people to share and discuss ideas – I want to express my heartfelt thanks and admiration to everyone who makes it happen. Congratulations to the whole Fringe community of Fringe 2023; we will be relentless in our ongoing work to ensure that the Edinburgh Fringe lives up to its mantra – to give anyone a stage and everyone a seat.” 

Benny Higgins, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Chair, added: “The discussions and debates held at this year’s festival have made it one of the most vital and memorable – and one of the loudest conversations was the one around affordability. Certainly artists are facing some of the most severe challenges ever, and while the Fringe Society will continue to do everything in its collective power to support artists, this will become harder and harder without finding support commensurate with its contribution to the economy. We will continue to make the case for funding, to protect what the Fringe represents – an unrivalled outpouring of creative expression.” 

By Monday afternoon, with hundreds of performances still to take place, the Fringe Society can confirm that just under a quarter of a million people attended Fringe shows this year. 33% of attendees came from Edinburgh, 15% from the rest of Scotland and 10% from overseas, highlighting the continued appeal of the Fringe for locals and visitors alike.  Over 800,000 tickets were issued to ticket-buyers with EH postcodes, and 611 shows came from Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Next year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe will run from 02 – 26 August 2024

Written by Theatrefullstop