Edinburgh Fringe Gets Underway

The "largest, oldest and most-renowned" arts festival in the world opens today with its usual variety of comedy, music and theatre.

This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe will see more than 50,000 performances and acts from almost 50 countries taking part.

Now in its 68th year, the festival programme promises audiences comedy, theatre, dance, circus, cabaret, exhibitions, children's shows, musicals, opera and spoken-word events.

Organisers say the festival offers a unique opportunity for artists to display their work with no "vetting or barriers" to acts.

Large arenas, theatres, clubs, pubs and even historic churches will be the backdrop to the variety of performances throughout August.

Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest, oldest, most well-renowned festival in the world.

"Every year we think we know what it's going to deliver, but every year it surprises, delights, amazes and inspires. The Fringe is a festival like no other.

"Completely open access - where artists don't need to wait for an invitation, where anyone with a story to tell is welcome. Where there's no curator, no vetting, no barriers. Just incredible talent from almost 50 countries all over the world.''

Hundreds of awards will be handed out to acts throughout the festival, which has a reputation for giving new comedians and writers their break.

Ms Mainland said: "It's an incredibly important festival for Scotland, the UK and our performing artists. A vital platform to showcase the range and diversity of creative skills on offer.

"`A profoundly international marketplace which can have transformative effects on careers. An explosion of culture which can be life-changing for the audience. And lots and lots of fun.''

With thousands of tourists visiting the Scottish capital during the festival, ticket machines have been installed at Edinburgh Airport to deal with demand.

Scotland's Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: ``This year's programme shows once again why the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the most important events in the international cultural calendar.

``The festival is a premier event bringing thousands of people to Scotland. It demonstrates the scale of Scotland's creativity and ambition, and raises our standing on the world stage.

``As one of the most significant arts marketplaces in the world, with over 1,000 arts professional attendees each year, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe offers unrivalled opportunities for Scottish, UK and international artists.''

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