We just got back from a quick trip to the Edinburgh Festival where the disorganised (us lot) roam around rather overwhelmed or give up on the notion of taking in some evening shows and just go to bed. Wrapped up in a sleeping bag by midnight on Sunday I said, “This is what the Edinburgh Festival has done to me”.
Don’t take it out on the festival, Jenny. Just get your shit together. So after about two days of a rubbish attempt at seeing anything, while the boys slept off another very long night at the pub, I finally got down to the box office on the Royal Mile.
How to take control of a shambolic festival trip –
1 – Get your accommodation sorted pronto. Luckily we were invited up by our lovely friend who has a flat near the town centre and we stayed for three nights for free. It appears to be completely acceptable to just descend on your friends if they’re Edinburgh residents so don’t be shy.
2 – Decide what types of shows you want to see before you even leave your own town and trawl through the Fringe website to narrow down your choices. I reckon you’re better off going with what you know and picking acts you’re aware of if you’ve only got a short stay, and don’t fancy spending £12 per ticket trying new things that you have no idea will be any good.
Experimenting is great but I’d save that for the large number of free shows available. We bought tickets at £12 each to a Phil Jupitus show called Making News, and Phil was very good but the rest of it was pretty rubbish. Making News seems to have got some very good reviews but I thought it was a very interesting concept that was badly executed – a weak storyline, and some dodgy and unconvincing acting from most of the cast. So don’t be too taken in by all of the rave reviews on the posters.
But we enjoyed the free comedy we saw in a pub loft and very much liked the free stand-up showcase put on by Cambridge Footlights. And our favourite show by a mile was Mr Winchester: Classic Entertainment, a pastiche of a sleazy and rather racist 1970s-style club entertainer. Dan Skinner is best-known for Angelos Epithemiou on Shooting Stars but I think Eric Winchester is much funnier. His assistant Tommy was brilliant, too.
3 – Buy your tickets for each day before you get to the festival. If you buy your tickets and know exactly what you’re seeing every day then you’re more likely to actually go and take in as much as you would like. After seeing nothing at all on our first full day we decided this would be the best strategy for the rest of our stay. This includes securing tickets to free shows, such as the Footlights showcase, which is on every night and has a pretty big crowd trying to squeeze in a rather small room.
You can collect your tickets from a few places, including the box office at the Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile. I’d get there when it opens at 10am to avoid hanging around for too long.
And they say three to four shows a day is enough. Don’t exhaust yourself.
4 – Venues are spread right across the city so get a map and know exactly where you’re going every day so you don’t miss your start times.
5 – Edinburgh has loads of fantastic and very good value restaurants so I’d avoid buying the more expensive food from the stalls in the garden areas – they’re more like music festival stalls. We had amazing pizzas and Malaysian food from restaurants that were much better value and it’s nice to get away from the main festival areas for a bit of a break.
6 – The Royal Mile is full of street performers and it’s a beautiful place but it’s rammed most of the day and it’s pretty stressful. Have a beer in the courtyard at Pleasance for a nice atmosphere without tiring yourself out too much.
Don’t let Frank and Henry’s faces put you off – Pleasance is lovely, they were just up until six that morning and I dragged them out of bed for a 1pm show.
7 – Layer up. My parents are Scottish and they bang on about how cold it is up there but I was completely surprised by how changeable the weather could be minute to minute. No exaggeration, one minute it’s pretty hot and really sunny and two minutes later it’s freezing and raining. Then back again. I wore an army coat, a big scarf and had to buy a hoodie to go underneath my coat because I got so cold in the evenings. And my new burgundy leather Dr Martens Mary Janes had their first big day out. Wear comfortable and water-proof shoes!
And button your jacket up properly. Don’t look like a drunk idiot.
8 – Take a good camera. The Fringe is pretty, innit? That’s all I have for advice. Bonne chance.