News: Edinburgh Fringe – North v South

The Stand

St Andrew Square is set to be the new outdoor hub of the Edinburgh festivals this year as local promoters Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions and The Famous Spiegeltent team up with Essential Edinburgh to create a major new fringe event in north Edinburgh which will challenge Bristo Square and George Square in the south to be the centre of Fringe activity.

Plans announced today will see the area transformed into a vibrant alfresco space with three performance areas.  The Square will become the new home for The Famous Spiegeltent, a longstanding festival icon, which takes centre stage in this wonderful urban garden.  A new venue The Stand in the Square will be built around a 150 seat yurt and will be run as part of the Stand Comedy Club programme.  A world music stage around the central monument will feature free acoustic music performances from across the festival. Bars, dining areas and a range of other features will complete the scene. Spiegelmaestro David Bates says: "We are thrilled to be part of this new initiative. It is our 5th festival site since 1996 and will become, without doubt, the sparkling jewel amongst the many temporary festival sites that mushroom around the city every August. The much loved Famous Spiegeltent is the original fringe trail blazer and we are delighted to be part of the development of another magical garden destination."

The plans will require final approval from the licensing authorities but have received the backing of council leaders. Operating every day of the festival, the Garden will offer an eclectic mix of cabaret, comedy, music and theatre – with entertainment for all ages from morning 'till late at night. The full line-up will be published at the end of March.

The plans are the fulfilment of a long-standing aspiration by Tommy Sheppard, director of the Assembly Rooms Fringe and the Stand: “We first thought about putting festival events in the square ten years ago, but it was our experience of running a major outdoor event in George Street over the last couple of years which proved to ourselves and others that we know how to do it well. This is a wonderful public space and we will make use of the natural amenity and beauty of the area to create a superb new event space for residents and visitors alike.”

Organisers have pledged to work with local businesses to further increase the economic benefits of the world’s largest arts festival for the local economy.

Essential Edinburgh CEO Andy Neal says “ We are delighted that we have been able to reach this agreement. It marks the next stage in our ambition to ensure a great festival experience in the city centre, and will provide a balancing hub to the book festival in Charlotte Square, connected by the pedestrian friendly, café society of George St. The additional footfall this package will generate should benefit all the local businesses and  Salt’n’Sauce and ourselves will be working closely with them to make sure that this potential is realised”

The plans highlight the rivalry between Tommy Sheppard's Stand organisation and the "big four" – Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly. Since William Burdett-Coutts' Assembly operation relocated to the south of the city the main focus for comedy fans has been beween Bristo Square and George Square. Sheppard now runs venues inside the old Assembly Rooms and has already established a popular pedestrianised area on George Street.

The addition of St Andrew Square will create a more substantial festival area on the north side of the city and may well help to boost attendances at Sheppard's nearby Stand clubs, which in the past have felt a little 'marooned'. The new square already has one advantage over its rivals. It will be the only venue on the fringe to have its very own tram stop.

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