Quick guide: Edinburgh Fringe

It is 63 years since eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to the first Edinburgh International Festival.

Image caption There were more than 2,000 shows at the Fringe last year

They staged their performances at venues away from the big public stages and the Fringe was born.

It acquired its name the following year when Robert Kemp of the Evening News wrote: "Round the fringe of the official Festival drama there seems to be a more private enterprise than before... I'm afraid some of us are not going to be often at home during the evenings."

During the 1950s the Fringe grew and became more organised with the setting up of a central box office and publication of a Fringe brochure.

Despite just 19 groups performing on the Fringe in 1959, many of them university companies, there were concerns that it was becoming too large.

However, the number of productions rose steadily throughout the 1960s and by the end of the decade there were 57 groups taking part.

The early 70s saw the first steps to a more professional Fringe.

Theatre group 7:84 Scotland performed their first Fringe production, Trees in the Wind by John McGrath in 1971.

The Fringe First award was set up in 1972 to attract attention to the dozens of new plays being shown, many of which badly need publicity to boost dwindling audiences.

In 1976, Alistair Moffat took over as administrator.

During his six years at the helm, the Fringe expanded massively to 494 production in 1981.

As the 80s began, new venues of all descriptions popped-up city-wide, among them the Assembly Rooms - which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

By 2001 more than 600 groups from 49 different countries performed 1,462 shows in 175 venues across the city.

In 2003, ticket sales hit the million mark for the first time.

After a small dip in 2008, the Fringe broke its own box office records last year by selling more than 1.8 million tickets.

Fringe 2009 saw at least 18,900 performers take to the stage in 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows originating in 60 countries.

Comedy made up 35% of the programme, followed by theatre with 28% and music at 16%.

Musicals and opera, dance and physical theatre, children's shows and other events and exhibitions made up the rest of the programme.

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