More than 3,000 shows are being staged during this summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe – down slightly on last year which marks a levelling-out of its rapid growth spurt over the last decade.
Organisers said the world-famous arts festival will this year see 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues across the Scottish capital.
This represents a 1.3% decrease in the number of shows on offer compared to the 3,314 in 2015 – the first year in its history the number of performances surpassed the 50,000 mark.
This year’s event will still be substantially bigger than in recent years. Ten years ago, in 2006, the Fringe featured 28,014 performances of 1,867 shows.
Shona McCarthy, new chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said it was an honour to launch the programme.
She said: “The breadth and diversity of talent that comes to the Fringe is unparalleled and this year is no exception.
“At its core, the Fringe is an open access festival, which welcomes anyone with a story to tell, and for that reason amateur and professional artists from around the world continue year after year to come here to share their stories, hone their skills, create new opportunities for themselves and their work, and celebrate the joy of live performance.
“The diversity of the Fringe’s participants is echoed in its audiences and there really is something for everyone at the Fringe.”
This year’s programme covers theatre, dance, circus, comedy, all kinds of music, cabaret, children’s shows, exhibitions and spoken-word events.
Some of the famous names in the comedy line-up include Rory Bremner, Omid Djalili, David O’Doherty and Shappi Khorsandi.
Actor Richard Wilson will revive one of the UK’s best-loved TV characters, One Foot in the Grave’s cantankerous protagonist Victor Meldrew, for a one-man show.
In the music category, Colin Hay, former lead singer of Men at Work, will bring a group of international musicians together for his show while Fringe favourite Camille O’Sullivan will debut a new show featuring the music of Radiohead, Nick Cave and David Bowie.
The Queen’s Hall will host concerts from big names in folk and traditional music including Capercaillie, The Peatbog Faeries and King Creosote.
Various theatrical performances will celebrate William Shakespeare’s legacy as they mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
Both the UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Scotland’s former makar (national poet) Liz Lochhead are bringing separate shows to the Fringe in the spoken-word section.
There will also be 643 free events on offer across the programme.
The Scottish Government is supporting a “Made in Scotland” showcase, providing a platform for 18 of the country’s best performers and companies.
Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe offers another exciting, wonderfully-varied programme for 2016.
“Remaining the largest Fringe festival in the world, it attracts thousands of visitors from home and abroad every year, and is a fantastic opportunity to show what Scotland has to offer to the rest of the world.”
Richard Lewis, City of Edinburgh Council’s festivals spokesman, said: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe continues to go from strength to strength and the 2016 programme is a testament to the continued popularity of the festival as a place that performers from all over the world flock to showcase new work and meet new audiences.”