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31 mai 2008

Fringe Festival At a Glance: Soul of the party

When Jon Morgan Launches the programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this Thursday, he'll be full of positive PR. The new director will sing the praises of an event that bursts out of every backroom, basement and broom cupboard to generate not only a huge economic boost to the city but a validation of the capital's status as one of the world's artistic hotspots.


Indeed, just look at the fabulous international line-up that's blossoming at St George's West the moment Assembly has relinquished it. Director Toby Gough has filled the void with the World Festival, bringing a round-the-clock programme of Tibetan sacred dance, Brazilian capoeira, Cuban mambo, Tanzanian thumb pianos and, with the support of Peter Gabriel, Cambodian child temple dancers.

"The spirit of the Fringe is taking risks, showcasing new writing, presenting world culture and coming up with ideas that are only valid for the Edinburgh Fringe," says Gough, who is known for his Fringe First-winning shows in the Royal Botanic Garden. "We're flying the flag for original events that are designed for a festival audience. This is not a stepping stone on some other project. These people are coming to the Fringe believing it will change their lives. The festival becomes a lifeline – a real possibility for change."

This is closer to the spirit in which Morgan is approaching the Fringe than the doom and gloom the headlines often suggest. "I am optimistic about the state of affairs," says Morgan, looking forward to next year when Scottish companies on the Fringe could benefit from the government's Expo Fund. "The Fringe is an ecology. One branch dies and another one grows. That's not to say I'm complacent about Aurora Nova going – that's a real shame – but it's what happens on the Fringe. It shifts and changes. It's a hugely successful event and audiences and artists have a fantastic time, but it would be irresponsible of me not to point out the weaknesses in the ecology."

• The 2008 Edinburgh Fringe programme is launched on 5 June.

By MARK FISHER / Scotsman

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