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World Fringe Day! 18 at 70: Underbelly celebrates 70 years of the Fringe

3rd Jul 2017

UNDERBELLY will join Fringe Festivals across the globe on Tuesday 11 July to celebrate the inaugural World Fringe Day

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe began in 1947 when eight groups arrived in Edinburgh hoping to perform at the newly formed Edinburgh International Festival but were refused entry to the programme. Rather than being discouraged from performing, they went ahead and performed on the fringe of the Festival anyway. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an open access festival where, in the spirit of the original eight, no one is denied entry, making it the largest platform on earth for creative freedom. In 2016, 3,269 shows took place in 294 venues across Edinburgh.

It is in this spirit of community that we continue to thrive, providing a platform for incredible artists to come together and present their diverse, inspiring, exciting showcases. As the Edinburgh Festival Fringe turns 70 years old, Underbelly has its birthday too, becoming a lively (and perhaps a little wild) 18 year old! To celebrate #Fringe70 and #worldfringeday, we have taken a walk down memory lane, perusing the pages of Underbelly's own history...

Underbelly: Ages 1 - 4

Underbelly was born in the year 2000, when Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood started bringing shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The company grew quickly and made friends easily, and by the time 2004 rolled around we were playing host to the likes of Mark Owen (Take That), Reginald D Hunter, and Stewart Lee.

Underbelly: Ages 5 - 7

2005 was an excellent year: the first year we had proper toilets installed in the Cowgate.

2006 was the first year we had our big purple cow-tent: the Udderbelly. This giant and beautiful beast was accompanied in its debut by another new friend: our purple-cow mascot, Violet. 

Spank, our late-night line-up party/variety-show also had its very first outing  in 2006. This would be the beginning of a lot of laughs and a great deal of public nudity.

Underbelly: Ages 8 - 12

Joan Rivers came to the Fringe with us in 2008, and this year marked the opening of our underground venue: The Baby Belly.

In 2009 we launched the Hullaballoo in the George Square Gardens.

In 2010 we presented shows in McEwan Hall for the first time, and brought our production of Five Guys Named Moe to this incredible building. McEwan Hall has also staged many more of Underbelly's shows, including 'What Does The Title Matter Anyway', Hot Dub Time Machine, and John Bishop.

Underbelly: Ages 13 - 16

Over the years, Underbelly has been fortunate enough to present many of the Fringe's best comedians. We have had through our humble cow-doors some of the cream of Edinburgh Comedy Award winners, including Jackson's Way, Doctor Brown and Sam Simmons. 

Created in 2015, Underbelly's Circus Hub was the first ever major venue dedicated to circus at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

For 2016, Circus Hub returned with an even bigger programme. UK circus led the way in an international circus programme, featuring Jacksons Lane and Silver Lining, Joli Vyann, Company Here and Now, Briefs Factory, Circa and many more. We were also delighted to announce the return of Camille O'Sullivan, in her first Fringe show since 2012 in our Lafayette big top tent. She's back for 2017! In 2016 we were glad to see the return of Frisky and Mannish, who joined us for the first time back in 2009 in the Belly Dancer.

In 2016 we sold 240,000 tickets to our shows. Our portfolio now includes several venues across the city: Udderbelly’s pasture at George Square, our beloved Circus Hub on The Meadows, Underbelly Med Quad and our original Cowgate site with several venues and three buzzing licenced bars. We love Edinburgh – there’s simply no better place to be in August!

For more information on World Fringe Day or the Edinburgh Festival Fringe please contact the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. Email: Telephone: +44 (0) 131 240 1919.

Follow World Fringe Day online at

Posted by Nicki