Lessons We Can Learn From The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

This week the 70th annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe commences, running throughout August in the Scottish capital. More than 50,000 performances of three thousand shows will take place across the month, ranging from theatre, to comedy, dance, circus, music and everything in between. The fringe showcases some of the best, and inevitably some of the worst, emerging talent the world has to offer. One of the largest arts festivals in the world, the fringe is a bastion of creativity, collaboration and experimentation.

So what lessons can we learn about development from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Take Risks

The Edinburgh Fringe has an unparalleled reputation for supporting and nurturing experimental theatre. Of the 3000 shows that make up the festival, many of them will be pushing boundaries – be it a late-night cabaret show hosted by a man dressed as Margaret Thatcher, or a silent comedy in which a man tries to be more funny than his own baby, the Fringe is a hotbed of people trying new things. And often with much success. The Fringe shows that those who push the boundaries, try things differently and put themselves out there are often rewarded.

In order to get ahead, you need to be prepared to take risks. When was the last time you experimented at work? Have you always done things the tried and tested way? Perhaps it’s time to push the boat out. Step outside your comfort zone and see what happens. It might just lead you to the next stage: innovation.


Perhaps as a result of its emphasis on experimentation, the Edinburgh Fringe has become a trailblazer of innovation. Always one step ahead of the mainstream, the best acts that emerge from the Fringe inevitably go on to shape and influence the national comedy/theatre industry.

Most of the acts you see on TV cut their teeth at the Fringe, and the styles and trends you may notice in comedy are the result of innovations that take place each year in Edinburgh.

How can you change your process? How can you improve the way things are done? Everyone knows that innovation, or ‘taking your initiative’, is a trait highly sought after by employers, and yet very few people are innovators. For many of us, it’s easier to stay on the straight and narrow, to demonstrate our efficacy by working hard and achieving results. If you can become an innovator, you will set yourself apart.


Many famous comedians have emerged from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including such household names as Fry and Laurie, Michael McIntyre, Mitchell and Webb, and Lee Evans. You name the comedian; they’ll have started out in the Fringe, performing in the backroom of an Edinburgh pub to eight people (at least a quarter of whom are their parents). They most likely did this year after year, making no money, working hard on their acts, and gradually building up a following. Now look at them.

The Fringe is a testament to the idea that if you’re talented and hard working, you’ll get noticed. But often these traits aren’t enough in and of themselves. You need to work hard, and develop your talents, but also persevere. Put yourself out there and make sure the right people see you flourish.

Persistence is key. Don’t let set backs put you down. Think of the amount of times any successful comedian will have been rejected by an agent, booed by an unforgiving crowd or faltered by self-doubt. If you’re aiming for success, you have to persevere. You will encounter set-backs, you will have moments of lost confidence, sometimes the pace of your progress will slow down to a halt. These are inevitable. Everyone experiences this. Those who are most successful are those who can stick it out the longest, and remain true to their goals.

Be Creative

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a hub of creativity and collaboration. As Britain’s largest Arts festival, it’s hard to think of an environment more teeming with creative output. Of course the Fringe is a place where creativity is more clearly required than in a corporate environment, but you’d be surprised by how much of an asset creativity can be in the workplace.

Make sure you exercise your creative brain. This goes hand in hand with innovation and risk taking. Studies suggest that the more creative you are at work, the greater your fulfillment, and the higher the reward. Creativity is earmarked again and again as a desirable trait and a way to get ahead.

So how can you be more creative? Well, as the Fringe shows, one way to unlock creativity is through collaboration. Thousands of creative individuals come together to form groups, or collectives of acts that form scenes, all of which stand to further unlock their potential.

If you feel you struggle with creativity, a surefire way to change that is through collaboration. Interaction is crucial to opening up your most creative instincts, and the best ideas are often shared. You’d be surprised by how much potential lies in the interstices between relationships. Start by hashing out some ideas with a friend or colleague and see what happens. You might just dream up something brilliant.

If you’re interested in learning more from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I would encourage you to go there and see it for yourself. It’s an atmosphere quite unlike any other, and its spirit is infectious. It’s also a perfect place for a weekend break, and a great way to charge up those creative juices.



Photo courtesy of pixabay
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