150 Years of History!
It’s incredible to believe the number of uses this Venue has had since it’s construction around 1867. You can see some of these secrets revealed on a dedicated web page in Location including its use as a Fringe venue under the name of St Mary’s Hall … before the Fringe Society actually existed!
The show, Act of Madness, features here on a programme from 1956, produced by a local printer and one of the earliest printed listing of Fringe events. Described as “Additional Entertainments” in those days, these shows date back to 1947. At that time, eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the newly formed Edinburgh International Festival, an initiative created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life in the wake of the Second World War.
Not being included in the official programme of the International Festival didn’t stop these performers; they just went ahead and staged their shows on the fringe of the Festival anyway, coining the name – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Since the beginning of this infamous artistic movement, millions have attended the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to produce, and to enjoy art of every form.
If you look carefully at the map, you can see that St Mary’s Hall was the final venue listed at number 17, an immense difference to this year’s Festival, for which 515 venues are participating! This 1956 programme is actually available to see in a cabinet in The Festival Fringe shop too, as it’s an item in the city wide exhibition, Edinburgh’s 101 Objects.
You can also see this even older programme from 1953 below the map. According to Fringe archivist Fiona Payne, this is the oldest printed programme still in existence as far as we know. Once again you can see St Mary’s Hall listed as a venue for A Match for the Devil and it was a bargain at just 2/6 for the cheapest tickets!