I’ve just handed out my first flyer. The receiver, a smart woman with a full handbag, shoots me a look as she takes it, as if to say “Oh no, it’s started.” I’m standing in St Andrew Square Garden, surrounded by the bustle and the buzz of the pre-Fringe Festival. Under the three stretched awnings, people sit and soak in the atmosphere – a taste of the coming month, in a more compact and less frenetic form.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival should need no introduction. It’s easy to see why the month-long festival of comedy, theatre, performance and music is now world-famous. A full half of the people I speak to while I wander around handing out flyers are from Europe, or America or even further afield. Within the first day I’m hearing excited stories of people backpacking from Munich simply to spend August in this hotbed of culture. I’ve lived in this city before, I’ve ‘done’ the Fringe before, and each time I get the same buzz of excitement.
The pre-Fringe festival, however, is a slightly newer experience than the Fringe itself. A festival before a festival, a time to hype up the main event, the supporting act for August. My past week has been packed with music and dance shows, while around Edinburgh stalls are erected, sheds put up, and venues prepared for the Fringe. My job in all this chaos has been to direct eager tourists and show-goers to their destination, and get them excited for the events they haven’t even thought of seeing.
Throughout St Andrew Square - where I’m working - and indeed throughout the whole of Edinburgh, the undercurrent of busyness flows. This is the time to make your stalls stand out – I’ve seen two cheerful workmen surface charring the entire outside of a shed they just built, and a Crème Brulee stall which is just an old Vauxhall minivan – the air of performance inundates even the sellers and vendors.
I’ve chatted to the woman in the minivan, the chaps behind the bar, the vendors in the shed selling pizza – everyone is excited and ready for the oncoming storm. And it’s not just here in the Square. The Royal Mile grows steadily busier with punters doing their pre-Fringe research and performers getting in those last few hours of advertising before they don the costumes and makeup and go do things on stage. The comedians stand in front of their mirrors and rehearse their jokes again, the musicians tune their instruments and test their microphones, and the Fringe is set to go.
I can’t wait.
The Edinburgh Fringe starts today and runs til 29th August