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Spotlight: the Edinburgh Fringe

Matt Roberts reflects on that most British of cultural institutions— the Edinburgh Fringe

The first thing that strikes you when you get off the train is Edinburgh as a city; this bizarrely layered and ancient city of granite, where roads and walkways are inexplicably stacked over one another, and imposingly craggy vistas poke out from behind the ornate architectural remembrances of the Scottish Enlightenment. Waverley station, stands in a topographical depression between the towering Georgian façades which line the Royal mile to the South, and the monumental edifices of Cabot Hill to the North—notably an abandoned reconstruction of the Parthenon designed to honour Scotland’s war dead.

Coming from several hours in the sterile, harshly lit, privatised blandness of a Virgin train into a city that feels like its been carved out of a mountain would be a shock to the senses at the best of times—during Fringe, when the city heaves with undulating waves of sleep deprived punters and leaflet-ers, it verges on sensory overload. That favourite factoid of the Fringe, that it doubles the population of Edinburgh during August, seems broadly to be untrue, however you can see and feel how people came to believe such an idea, as every pavement, bar and fl at-share floor is packed to the gunnels with humanity. I had a slightly less pleasant shock to the senses when I found myself sleeping on the floor of the Bristol improv troupe’s flat, precariously close to a puddle of a childhood friend’s sick. The Fringe is worth over a quarter of a billion pounds to the Scottish economy, when hundreds of thousands of southerners—from bona fide stars, to university students having their first taste of commercial success, flock to the millennium old city with the promise of a Republic of Cultural Heaven to be built through August. I think I’ve caught the Fringe bug, and whilst August seems a long way away, maybe you will too.

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