The Edinburgh International Festival just announced its programming for this year’s festival. In the excitement, it feels as if this peaceful city spent the whole year prepping up for those crazy three weeks in August: The Edinburgh Festival. The largest theatre festival in the world, featuring companies and artists from all over the world.

Only that it is not just one festival: it is several festivals (the International Theatre festival and the Fringe at the center of everything) happening simultaneously, surrounded by an entourage of street events and the best buskers in the world. Theatre lovers, tourists and people just looking for fun peregrinate to witness the phenomenon. August takes over and transforms the quiet Scottish capital.

If you are a performer, comedian, musician, or artist of any kind, presenting your work at the festival can be quite an enterprise that might only pay off in terms of experience and, if lucky, reputation. But maybe you are just an admirer who wants to witness the festival, and who has noticed the prices of accommodation and food reaching prohibitive levels. Or maybe you seek to become more involved with the experience than a tourist. If that is the case, there are many ways to go to “the festival,” and to live it in a different, intense way.

Image Credit: John Mcsporran

If you have accommodation…

One of the first things you want to secure when going to the festival is a place to stay, as hotels and hostels can get very expensive or just sold out. However, if you are lucky to find affordable housing or you happen to have a friend who lives in town, finding a way to get involved with the festival is easier.

  • Ushering for The International Festival (or working in any of the Festival institutions) offers adequate wages and the opportunity to watch shows. Similarly, the Fringe Festival sometimes offers jobs during the festival. It is also worth checking Edinburgh Festival Jobs to see what other paid opportunities are there.
  • If you like writing or would like to become a journalist eventually, doing reviews for shows is a possibility even if you do not work for a newspaper, but have some experience in performance and are interested in critical writing. Publications like ThreeWeeksEdFringe Review or BroadwayBaby are quite popular reads during the festival and will hire seasonal reviewers for the festival who have some experience. As a job, it is quite demanding. You will have to cover a minimum set of shows and adhere to the publication’s standards (for instance, Three Weeks only does short paragraph reviews). But it does offer a great opportunity to watch a wide array of shows (for free), a small stipend, and the opportunity to train as a writer for the arts and get published.
  • Because the city gets flooded with people during the festival, many local businesses will be hiring seasonal workers so if you are not adamant about getting a job theater-related, it is a possibility worth exploring (and Gumtree always a resource).

If you would like to do any of these options but do not have housing, here is a list of room resources. Or you can always combine your job with a volunteer opportunity that offers accommodation (but be prepared to work very hard).

High Street, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2010. Festival Fringe Society

Volunteering with accommodation

Many people go to the festival as volunteers for venues. Although they are unpaid, volunteers receive some perks, like a small stipend, the opportunity to see shows for free in your venue, and sometimes accommodation. Volunteering is a great opportunity to get professional experience (that looks great on your CV) and also live the festival in a very intimate, intense way.

The largest, more prestigious venues are Assembly, Pleasance, Underbelly and Gilded Balloon. Positions with them are more competitive but better paid, and their shows are at the forefront of the Fringe. Sometimes they will require some previous experience (even some previous festival experience) but it’s always worth a shot. Make sure you apply for a venue whose programming you are interested in (for instance, Gilded Balloon does mostly comedy). If you do not see anything posted on their website, do not be afraid of emailing them to inquire about volunteering.

There are many venues in the Fringe that fall outside “the big ones” but still have amazing programming and great volunteering opportunities. C Venues is one of the largest and does offer accommodation, a great friendly team, and a small stipend (although you will be very overworked and some of the working conditions are not great). However, they do offer a lot of flexibility and the opportunity to get experience in a new area (such as technical theatre). Other venues like TheSpace, ZooVenues (similar in conditions to C Venues but smaller in size) and Paradise Green (which is quite small and only offer two-week appointments) have similar opportunities.

There are many different volunteer opportunities available, depending on the venue. Most venues offer Box Office and Front Of House positions. But there are also possibilities to work in Press, Customer Relations (with theatre companies), Marketing, Technical Theatre, and Flyering/Distribution.

Edinburgh Hogmanay. Photo: Lloyd Smith

There are also many other ways to get involved with the Edinburgh festival, and your creativity is the limit. From flyering for artists to busking or to selling things on the street, your creativity is the limit to how to be a part of this crazy month. Every hour there are innumerable shows to watch (the EdFringe webpage will become your best friend), and even if you decide to just go for a walk, you will find performances popping out in every corner, every bar, every hairdresser. And with good theatre comes good company, good parties and good times.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.