I was going to bring this up sooner or later, and tonight’s the night. You may be aware that the Fringe started seventy years ago when a few uninvited companies decided to turn up in Edinburgh when the Edinburgh International Festival was on and they put their shows on anywhere they could on the fringe of it, and the rest as they say is history.
Well up until two years ago there was a big fireworks display after both the International and Fringe festivals had finished and most had gone home. It almost felt like a thank you to the good folk of Edinburgh for putting up with the hullabaloo of August. The day had moved a few times over the years but for quite sometime was nicely ensconced on the Sunday after the Fringe finished. Tickets are sold for people to sit in Princes Street Gardens or you can stand in the streets to watch forty five minutes of fireworks to the music of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
For years my Fringe buddy and I had our spot in the Gardens, and many of the folk around us came back to their same spots, we all chatted about how our years had been, had our picnics, then settled back for the fireworks. Champagne corks could be heard going off all over the place, down from us one group always marked where they were with a large red umbrella with white hankies tied to it. Of course, to be sure of our spot at least one of us would queue for around two hours then hurtle along with camping chairs. It was a great tradition and we loved it, a beautiful setting, perfect view, orchestral music and the sheer power of the blasts of the fireworks, magnificent!!
Then they introduced Priority tickets, where they would be allowed in the Gardens half an hour before the other ticket holders. Now when this was brought in, space in the park was already getting squeezed because, well, trees grow and spread, so many parts that had previously been fine were no longer fine, people were having to move when they realised they could no longer look up and see sky. As people competed for smaller areas it meant many felt compelled to pay the extra money. Grrrr!! Boo Virgin bloody Money!
Now at this point I should also point out the August Bank Holiday is not a bank holiday in Scotland, for most it is just another working day, so when, two years ago they announced it was being moved to the Bank Holiday Monday, let me assure you many of the locals were NOT happy! It was no longer a leisurely afterthought when the city was more peaceful again, just another thing to be rushed.
So I was peed off at the changing of the day but, but, AAARRGH it’s the last day of the Fringe!!! I also like to finish the Fringe on a high, as I’m sure all the shows that are still on until the final Monday night would like to as well! Now the poor blighters have to compete with a huge fireworks display. The end of the Fringe fizzles out as it is, some shows finish on the Saturday, some on the Sunday, just the diehards carry on until the very end, valiantly flyering anyone around to see their last show (that is how I met the magnificent Will Seaward four years, but more about him next time).
Two years ago I did go back to the Gardens with a different friend and just sat in a random spot. I took a wander up to where I had previously always sat to find that none of the other regulars were there either, quite sad really. Afterwards we went to see Will at midnight to finish the Fringe properly. Last year I went to shows then just popped on to the top of the Mound to watch the fireworks before heading off to more Fringe bars and William’s spooky storytelling.
It was the end of an era, the end of my love affair with the Fireworks. I will probably always wander along and stand to watch at least some of it, but as with many lovely things a big money-grabbing organisation came along and took away the joy. But I’ll always have the memory of the wine, the strawberries, the music and the big bangs.