17 things I learned at my first Edinburgh Fringe (with my mother in tow)

Claire Webb and her mum have wanted to go to the world’s biggest performing arts festival for years – and it didn’t disappoint

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1. If you take one flyer, you’ll end up with approximately 3704. 

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2. The Fringe isn’t just comedy. This year it was 34% comedy, 27% theatre, 15% music, 4% musicals and opera, 5% children’s shows, 3% dance, circus and physical theatre, 4% events, 4% cabaret and variety, 3% spoken word and 1% exhibitions.

3. It turns out I like cabaret, but I wasn’t sure what Mum would make of the brilliant Aussie Marie Antoinette’s penchant for stripping off. I needn’t have worried; Mum loved it. She even bought the CD. Now I worry she’s planning to re-enact it…

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Street performers on the Royal Mile

4. Stornoway black pudding looks like regurgitated ordinary black pudding but tastes amazing. I temporarily forgot I’m supposed to be a veggie.

5. Stand-ups swear a lot. Mum commented on it three times. I hadn’t even noticed.

6. Haggis is eaten for breakfast. Luckily I’m a veggie so I had toast instead.

7. Mum’s sense of direction is even worse than mine. I spent quite a lot of time wishing I was on the street that connects with my street on the map, but is really 15 metres below.

8. There are actually five festivals in August: the Edinburgh International Festival, which was first held in 1947; the Edinburgh Fringe, which also started in 1947 by some performers who weren’t allowed to perform at the official festival; the Edinburgh International Book Festival; the Edinburgh Art Festival; and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

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A military band performs the annual military tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

9. I’m capable of shedding a tear over the demise of a badly drawn cartoon robot with a Middlesborough accent – one of the characters in Scott Turnbull’s surreal, hilarious Where Do All the Dead Pigeons Go?

10. Edinburgh is built on seven hills. You’re always going up them.

11. I want to be a playwright and a bagpipe player and an acrobat and a Scottish poet who says “dour” in that lovely way. I want to move to Edinburgh. I don’t want to be a standup.

12. The book festival is an oasis of calm.

13. The weather in Edinburgh bears no resemblance to the forecast (but Mum still checked it at least five times a day). When it rains, it really rains. When the sun comes out, you forget to care that your feet are wet.

14. A pint in the morning is acceptable. After two days, it’s a necessity.

15. Don’t feel compelled to run around like a scalded cat. (Sorry Mum.)

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16. Some of the best moments are free: two buskers playing Hungarian gypsy tunes on the Royal Mile on a gloriously sunny morning or squeezing into a packed basement to be shouted at by rising star Ahir Shah. There are 643 free shows and 164 pay what you want shows.

17. Mum and I will definitely be back next year… possibly not together.

For more about Edinburgh’s festivals, go to: edinburghfestivalcity


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