The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest performing arts event in the world, one that has launched many a career and provided comedy with some of its most memorable WTF moments. The Guardian’s Brian Logan liked it to the comedy and theatre world’s Oscars. So when it was inevitably announced in April that the festival has been called off this year due to COVID-19, there was a lot of disappointment and hand-wringing. But while the festival itself is off the cards, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has been busy putting together a three-week-long programme of digital Fringe activities that will provide fans a taste of the Fringe experience as well as support the artists and venues that are hard-hit by the ongoing pandemic. Its centrepiece is the FringeMakers campaign, a fundraising initiative that allows artists and venues to raise funds and sell tickets without taking a cut.
The online festivities begin on August 7 with the AJ Bell Fringe On Friday, a 60-minute variety show that will stream every Friday through August, and will showcase acts across a range of genres, including comedy, cabaret, dance and music. Each episode will feature 9 different acts, with the first one being hosted by comedian and actor Suzi Ruffell. Other acts confirmed to be on the show include Nigel Ng, Jayde Adams and Courtney Act (all as hosts), as well as Daniel Sloss, Mafical Bones, Briefs and Sadia Azmat.
The Festival Fringe Society has also tired up with Comedy Central International to put together a series of 10 standup comedy specials with a hand-picked “virtual audience”. Jamali Maddix will host the series, which will consist of seven-minute episodes with performers including Joanne McNally, Thanyia Moore, Leo Reich, Helen Bauer, Travis Jay, Fatiha El-Ghorri, Christopher Bliss, Wayne Mazadza, Jamie D’Souza and Kuan-Wen. You can catch the specials on Comedy Central’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram channels every weeknight starting August 17. There’s also a special highlights episode in the pipeline.
Apart from these two offerings, the plans include The Finge Pick N Mix, a streaming platform where performers can upload short 60 second clips from their living rooms, as well as Edinburgh Unlocked, a “comedy festival in audiobook format” that features performances by Fringe regulars such as Lou Sanders, Ivo Graham and Dane Baptiste. So if you’re a Fringe fan or regular, don’t worry, you can still get your fix of the Fringe this year. And if not, there’s no better time to dig in and find out what the Fringe has to offer. You can find out more about the programme, tickets and fundraising campaigns on the Edinburgh Fringe website here.