Reginald D Hunter, Lucy Porter and Jason Manford set to appear at largest-ever Edinburgh Fringe Festival


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The Independent Culture

This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe will be bigger than ever before, with a record 2,871 shows.

The number of comedy, theatre, dance and music performances at the world's largest arts festival has increased by 6 per cent on last year, organisers said.

Comedians Russell Kane, Reginald D Hunter, Jason Manford, Ardal O'Hanlon, Al Murray and Lucy Porter are all due to appear.

Dad's Army stalwart Ian Lavender, comedian Omid Djalili and actors Steven Berkoff and Dame Janet Suzman will also tread the boards during the theatre programme.

The cabaret and spoken word categories will return this year, with George Galloway MP and presenter Ben Fogle appearing.

Launching the programme in Edinburgh, Kath Mainland, chief executive of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, urged audiences to "enjoy every second" of the "magnificent" programme.

"The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is not just important for being the largest arts festival in the world, or for being completely open access, although those things are profoundly important, but more important for being the most wonderful event created by the spontaneous freedom of expression of tens of thousands of creative souls from all over the world, from all walks of life, at all stages of their careers and representing all art forms."

Tickets for 1,800 shows are already on sale via the Fringe website.

"But that still leaves over 1,000 being released today, a figure which in itself would be the largest arts festival in the world. So there's still plenty for our audience to discover," she said.

New venues have been added for this year, making a total of 273 across the city.

Shows will return to the city's McEwan Hall, one of the biggest venues, after a two-year hiatus.

A box office will again be at Glasgow's Queen Street Station. Its addition last year saw ticket sales in the area increase 19 per cent.

The Fringe also has a new Facebook ticketing app, alongside the official festival app.

A total of 24,107 artists will perform in Edinburgh between August 2 and 26, with shows from 41 countries.

The Scottish Government has awarded £450,000 to support "home-grown talent" at this year's Fringe under the Made in Scotland programme.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest, most vibrant festival of its kind in the world, bringing visitors from far and wide to Scotland's capital to see the incredibly diverse array of creative activity it has to offer and promoting Scotland's rich culture and distinct heritage on the world stage.

"It makes strong economic sense to ensure Scotland's own exceptionally creative talent is placed at the heart of the Fringe and is able to benefit from the global exposure the festival can bring."