Edinburgh Festival

69 – First Edinburgh Festival

August 22, 1947

IN the wake of the horrors of the Second World War, Austrian-born Jew Rudolf Bing had a desire to bring the peace-loving people of the world together.

After failing to find a suitable venue in England, the opera impresario chose Edinburgh to fulfil his ambition to give “the human spirit somewhere to flower”.

The inaugural Edinburgh Festival took place in the summer, consisting of classical and contemporary theatre, opera, music, dance, visual arts, talks and workshops.

But where Bing’s creation really took hold of the millions of people who have visited
the Festival in the following 68 years was in its addition of a “Fringe” – which wasn’t his idea at all!

Put out by not being invited to the International Festival taking place on their doorstep, eight theatre companies turned up anyway to put on a series of performances in and around Edinburgh (and in the case of one company, in Dunfermline Abbey 20 miles away).

The Fringe got its name the following year when the playwright and journalist Robert Kemp wrote of the second Festival, “Round the fringe of official drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before…I am afraid some of us are not going to be at home during the evenings!”

The private enterprise performances of theatre, comedy, music, dance and children’s shows has continued to grow and the Fringe is now the largest of all the festivals and, indeed, the largest arts festival in the world.