What Even Is a Fringe Festival?

What Even Is a Fringe Festival?

2000 1333 Ventnor Fringe

What’s in a name? We thought it was about time we answered this age old question we hear every year. And no, it isn’t to do with haircuts!

So what exactly is a Fringe Festival? We asked Co-Director Jack Whitewood to explain;

“Fringe festivals around the world are largely inspired by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is the original event with that name. It was coined by a local journalist to describe events taking place ‘on the fringes’ of the city, which had no clear central organiser or curator.

To this day the ethos of the Fringe is that anybody can bring a show to the festival and at Ventnor we’re the same. We have local amateur dramatic companies right up alongside established names you’ll have seen on TV, its a level playing field where anyone can test out new material and this is why fringe festivals are so significant in being a launching pad for new talent.”

The Edinburgh event started back in 1947 and just like Ventnor, the very first box office was run from a student’s bedroom!

It’s where so much of our screen and stage talent have started their careers, including national treasures like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Rowan Atkinson. More recently streaming services like Netflix are filled with comedy specials with stand ups performing their Edinburgh routine, and dramas which started life as plays at the festival like Fleabag and Baby Reindeer are now hit series. Over the years talent which started life at the Fringe has gone on to have a huge influence on our popular culture.

And while some 60,000 or so revelers have just partied at the Isle of Wight Festival, at Edinburgh upwards of 2.5 million tickets are sold each year in an event which lasts for the entire month of August!

These days there are many fringe festivals all around the world; with Adelaide, Edmonton and Brighton being some of the biggest.

Some take place alongside traditional arts festivals with a programme that is booked or curated by an organiser, but others like Ventnor are stand alone events in their own right.

And while there are some differences in how each Fringe operate, the common thread is that there isn’t a single person or committee that decides on who can or should perform, that there is some level of open access. It’s this which gives the unpredictability and eccentricity that fringe festivals are famous for and what leads to such a broad range of different shows. 

At Ventnor income from tickets sold for events is shared between the festival and the artists, meaning whichever shows you choose to go to directly supports those artists.

This year Ventnor Fringe celebrates 15 years since its first event…

…so while it’s still a baby in relation to institutions like Edinburgh, is has over the years seen all sorts of actors, comedians and musicians tread our broads, some of whom have gone on to win MOBO’s, BRIT’s, Writers Guild and Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

And for those who find an event the size of Edinburgh overwhelming, Ventnor offers an intimate alternative, while still hosting nearly 150 different shows, with a unique holiday type experience. 

So now you know, the Fringe is a unique type of festival that appeals to all sorts of people, where you can choose exactly what you want to see and how much you want to spend. Take a look at the programme, explore Ventnor’s windy streets and beautiful parks and enjoy 10 days of the unexpected in a truly unique setting.