Once a year, Edinburgh High Street – part of the Royal Mile – and the Mound become hugely iconic events in their own right. From St Giles’ Cathedral to Hunter Square, the street and the Mound Precinct are bursting with market stalls, street performers, Fringe stages and people advertising Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows. There is music, dance, drama and so much more with acts from all over the world – a completely ticketless but hugely entertaining way to spend time during the Fringe. These performers don’t just turn up and start performing in the street, market stall owners don’t just put their stalls wherever there is space, buskers don’t wander up to the High Street and pull out their guitars – the whole event is meticulously planned down to the minute by Fringe staff. As the Fringe explain:
Our dedicated Virgin Money Street Events team schedule stages and other street performance areas, as well as organising two Arts and Crafts markets. The team provides the infrastructure and necessary permissions for this spectacular event to take place. They ensure the street performance areas are a safe and fun, family environment with equal opportunity for all to participate.
And the man who is in charge of this is Andy Meldrum, the Fringe Street Events Manager. Each year, Andy’s Fringe begins at the beginning of May, getting everything in place ready for the Fringe to kick off at the end of July. He has been managing the iconic Fringe Street Events for more than 6 years and has seen it grow and develop massively during this time.
A standard day for Andy starts at 9am when people arrive and get ready for the Fringe Street Events programme draw at 10am. This takes place every day to decide which Fringe street performers and buskers will get to showcase their talents on the High Street and the Mound that day. There are four stages along the Royal Mile for Fringe Groups who have shows within the Fringe programme and wish to give audiences a taste of their main show, there are four locations for street performers, six locations for music buskers and even five set locations for living statues – everything from fairies to “Edward Cissorhands”.
Once the draw has taken place, Andy and his team then have to draw up the timetable and have this published both online and by each stage, so people know when to pop back to see their favourite acts. Most of the rest of the day is ensuring everything runs smoothly until 6:30pm when stages are pushed back off the road. Shows then continue until 9pm when it’s time to pack up the market stalls and clear everything inside – a long day all in all!
Although he’s been doing the job for over 6 years, occasionally an act still surprises Andy – he told us about an act called ‘Gili 2’ who ends his show by climbing one of the buildings on the High Street and re-enacting a Romeo-and-Juliet-style-window-embrace with someone inside. We finished by asking Andy what the best thing about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is:
The best thing about the Festival is that for a few weeks it seems like Edinburgh is the centre of the world… And within performing arts, it absolutely is. There’s nowhere that comes close to the sheer saturation of artistic endeavours and audiences hungry for a taste. As a resident of Edinburgh it makes me feel incredibly proud of my town.
Virgin Money Fringe on the High Street and Fringe on the Mound end on Monday 31st August.