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Free shows

Pouring beer into a glass
Most free shows are held in pubs
Defying the claim that you never get something for nothing, a number of pubs and clubs in Edinburgh run completely free shows throughout the Festival period. Of course, the commercial logic behind this is that you'll spend your money at the bar, and most performers also run a voluntary collection at the end - so you're unlikely to escape from a "free" show with your bank balance completely unscathed. All the same, even a generous tip and indulgent approach to the booze will work out a lot cheaper than a trip to a paid-for show.

It feels reasonable to be suspicious of the quality of a free event, but in practice they stack up pretty well. The majority of free shows are traditional stand-up - a hit-and-miss medium at the best of times - and if you do find you've chosen a turkey, at least the disappointment won't be compounded by knowing you're down £15 as well. On the positive side, if you're prepared to take a punt on an unknown newcomer, you've every chance of finding a winner , as a number of positive reviews from respected newspapers confirm.

Finding free shows

Following a much-publicised and hugely acrimonious split in 2006, the majority of free shows are organized into two rival chains, each running around dozen venues. One group, headed up by folk musician and comedian Peter Buckley Hill, operates under the title of "PBH's Free Fringe"; the other goes under the banner of the "Free Festival", and is organized by promoter Laughing Horse. It's hard to say what the schism has meant for the quality of the free offerings, but it's certainly done nothing to slow the growth of the free market - the number of shows has rocketed to hundreds this year.

To find the free shows, good places to start are the Laughing Horse and PBH websites (see "Elsewhere on the web" below), or by looking at their respective entries in the index to the Fringe programme. These aren't the only free shows, but the others aren't quite so easy to find - keep an eye out when browsing the Fringe listings.

 Outside of PBH's Free Fringe and the Free Festival, be warned that "free" doesn't necessarily mean "unticketed". Check the Fringe programme carefully; you may still have to go along to the box office to get a ticket, even if no money changes hands. 

The Fringe on the cheap >>

Edinburgh 2013

Coming to the Fringe this year?  We can help you make the most of your time.  Learn about Edinburgh's summer Festivals and plan your visit around the city's major events. 

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