‘A giant cultural sprinkler’: Edinburgh Fringe returns after last year’s pandemic cancellation

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of the hit TV show Fleabag, has described this weekend's return of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a "giant cultural sprinkler".

The actor and writer, who is currently filming the fifth Indiana Jones instalment opposite Harrison Ford, praised the "artistic heroism" of those behind the return of the Fringe to Edinburgh, following its cancellation due to COVID-19 in 2020.

Everyone is excited the festival is back for 2021

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Everyone is excited the festival is back for 2021

Fleabag was first performed on the Edinburgh Fringe stage and Waller-Bridge was recently appointed president of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

Speaking ahead of its 2021 launch this weekend, she said: "In an act of pure heroism, the Fringe Society and thousands of artists, writers, dancers, actors, designers, comedians, musicians and creatives have fought to bring this festival back to the streets of glorious, glittering Edinburgh.

"We have a lot of time to make up for and this festival is more than ready for you."

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"We're being offered a giant cultural sprinkler after a year of drought and I can't wait to jump through it, shrieking, with you all."

The Fringe is the world's largest arts festival and a key component in the unique cultural offering of Edinburgh in August. It runs alongside the International, Film, Art and Book Festivals.

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This year's Fringe has been reduced in size and will feature 700 shows, a third of which will be online.

A general view of the Festival crowds down Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

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Normally thousands descend on Edinburgh for the festival

COVID-19 precautions at live events include reduced capacity at venues as well as sanitisation and increased ventilation.

Performers are being advised not to distribute flyers – leaflets advertising shows – to avoid possible transfer of coronavirus.

'It's good to be back'

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'It's good to be back'

New outdoor venues have been created for live acts, including a converted NCP car park beneath Edinburgh Castle.

Comedian Fred MacAulay, who is appearing on the "Multi Storey" stage, welcomed the return of live entertainment:

"It is very different. It's reduced, it's a kind of mini-Fringe but if you ask anyone who is performing, it's great to be back, having missed 2020 altogether. It's been a long 18 months," he said.

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Karen Koren, the founder of the Gilded Balloon venue, told Sky News: "It's amazing to be back. I'm slightly nervous to be doing this again because (the last Fringe) was in 2019 and everything's changed.

"I'm pleased they're saying that social distancing is coming down etc, but there is nervousness out there."

"I am just so delighted to be putting on live entertainment again."

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