Saturday, 5 June 2010

Edinburgh Fringe programme nostalgia

The new Edinburgh Fringe programme comes out this week, and that's long been a thrilling moment in our household. In more recent years it's been fun to see where my show's advert appears in the prog, and to see the ads by the other acts. But long before I started taking shows to Edinburgh, I went up as a punter. And for any regular Fringe goers, seeing for the first time the incredible range of entertainment that's going to be taking place in August can only be exciting.

So, if you're familiar with the Fringe and its programme, here's something that will count as either nostalgia or history, depending on your age. The Fringe programme from 1984. (Don't worry, not all of it). Click on any page to see it in full. Enjoy...

74 pages long, compared to 2007's 288 pages, it begins by boasting:
"...last year 425,500 tickets were sold for 6,886 performances. Over 500 different participating groups took part, made up of nearly 5,000 individual performers."

Let's have a look at the shows that were on in 1984. Don't worry, they all fit into just two pages...

Theatre shows take up 2 and a half columns, Comedy takes up just a third of a column - and includes Accidental Death Of An Anarchist and Comedy Of Errors!

But look at those others categories: Revue? Cabaret (including Alexei Sayle)? Mime? Bloody mime? Truly the past was a foreign country, they did things differently then.

Nowadays the display ads by, mostly, comedy shows, are ubiquituous and colourful. In 1984 there was only one display ad booked by a comedy act.

One ad.

It was, naturally, black and white. And this was it:

We went to that gig. Alexei Sayle died on his arse, the show having been papered and being peopled by drunks from the street who didn't get him. And look at those ticket prices. Three whole quid? The cheek.

Here's the rest of what passed for "comedy off the telly". The only other display ad booked by comedy shows in 1984:

St Marys Hall? Where the hell is St Marys Hall? I went and I don't even know where it was. And whatever became of Paul Martin? He seemed quite promising.

And this is what was on at the Pleasance in 1984.

What? Nine shows? No stand up? The Edinburgh Comedy Awards would have difficulty drawing up a shortlist from that lot. They'd have to look at other venues or something. (The Pleasance courtyard was still a car park, and there was an art exhibition taking up an entire floor).

You can order the new programme, and of course see all shows online and book tickets, at

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