Residents of Edinburgh know that the heavy rain this week can only mean one thing- the Festival must have arrived! For those who come to visit the city only during this time it must seem that Edinburgh is always under a cloud. For three weeks the city will be inundated with Festival goers and full of street performers and events.
The scale of the Fringe and its apparent commercialism raise issues each year about its accessibility for many people in Edinburgh. This debate has been ongoing in Wester Hailes over the years as the Fringe seems to bypass all but the city centre and was reflected in the recent blog article Creativity On The Fringe. However, this has not stopped efforts from within Wester Hailes to develop greater links with what’s going on in the Fringe programme and to use the Festival period to showcase local talent.
In August 1981, the Sentinel reported on productions by the Bits and Pieces Theatre Group who were premiering two plays, one at the WHEC and one at the Greyfriars Kirkhouse Theatre. You can read both reviews by clicking here on Sentinel September 1981.
The Sentinel tried to give coverage to local performers who were sometimes overlooked by the city and national media. In 1988, a feature covered the Writer’s Co-op, Moving Parts, Hailes United and Magic Bob who were all taking part in Festival performances and events. You can read the reports by clicking here on Sentinel September 1988.
In 1995, WHALE put on a production where some of the cast had not been involved in being part of a play before. The play ran for two weeks at Walpole Hall. You can read more about it by clicking here on Sentinel September 1995.
WHALE were keen to encourage local residents to take an active role in putting together productions and in performing at the Fringe as well as attending what was on offer. Jim Tough, the then co-ordinator of WHALE gave the Sentinel an interesting interview about why he thought participation in the Fringe and other arts experiences was so important for individuals but also for Wester Hailes as a whole. You can read this interview by clicking here on Sentinel August 1997.
WHALE has continued to push for a more inclusive Fringe experience, encouraging people to travel to the city centre to see what’s on offer but also through bringing some Fringe elements out to Wester Hailes. This year their Big West Fest programme showcases Fringe talent including David Ferrard, Cammy Sinclair and The Grumpy Magicians. You can find the full programme here at Big West Fest 2011.
Another interesting development over the last few years has been the growth of the Free Fringe. This month 607 out of 2,542 shows are free of charge which is the highest proportion in the festival’s history. It was set up in 1996 as a reaction to the high hire costs charged by some city centre venues and a concern that has long been expressed in places like Wester Hailes that the Fringe had moved away from its original ethos of affordability. The Free Fringe includes comedy, theatre, music and exhibitions. You can find out more about what’s on here at The Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011. The more the Free Fringe is supported, the more likely it is to continue growing so grab your umbrella and get in to the city centre to see some great performances!