Stage set for Edinburgh Fringe success
The Edinburgh Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, has begun its three-week run in Scotland's capital.
More than 21,000 performers will take part in 2,453 shows at about 250 venues across the city and beyond.
Organisers are hoping to build on the "staycation" success of last year's box office record 1.8 million tickets sold.
It is the 64th time the city has hosted what Fringe chief executive Kath Mainland calls the "greatest show on earth".
Unlike the International Festival, which begins next Friday (13 August), the Fringe is entirely open access.
This leads to established stars such as comedians Jimmy Carr and Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, sharing Fringe programme space with new acts and amateur groups.
The Fringe embraces comedy, dance, music, theatre and children's shows.
About 550 of the shows in this year's programme are free and many others offer pay-what-you-can or discount deals.
At the other end of the scale, comedian John Bishop returns to Edinburgh after a incredibly successful year to play Underbelly's McEwan Hall, the largest venue on the Fringe with more than 1,000 seats.
Britain's Got Talent dance act Flawless will play the Underbelly venue, as will a major production of the musical Five Guys Named Moe, starring Clark Peters from hit US tv series The Wire.
Rising star Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges will play the Assembly Rooms on George Street.
Other acts at that venue include Abi Titmuss in the play Up 'n' Under and a celebration of the female body called Busting Out.
The Assembly, which is celebrating its 30th year on the Fringe, was one of the venues which during the 1980s sparked a massive growth in the festival.
It is celebrating its anniversary with a new venue in Princes Street Gardens.
The Edge festival brings music to the Fringe, with top stars such as Dizee Rascal, Plan B and Jason Derulo set to perform.
Fringe chief executive Kath Mainland said ticket sales were strong and she was looking forward to a "successful" festival.
She said: "We live in uncertain times. I think the thing about the Fringe is that it is an entirely open access arts festival.
"We don't decide who should take part in it. We don't decide how big it should be. We don't decide what the make-up should be.
"It will be interesting to see how it responds to the economic times we are living in but signs are good for a very successful festival this year."