THE Edinburgh Festival Fringe's decision to start a week earlier than the main Festival strikes me as a little bizarre. They say that in the third week "the weather is frequently not as pleasant." That is, not as pleasant as the rain of the first two weeks. Surely you have to be the fringe of something. And audiences like to have the variety of seeing main festival and fringe productions in the same evening.

But all credit to the Fringe office for a publication it issued this week on its 50-year history. Some of the memories contained in it cast an interesting light on figures who achieved fame at the Fringe.

Alistair Moffat, administrator from 1976-81, recalls taking the Cambridge Footlights out for a meal in 1981 and a young Emma Thompson "leaning very earnestly forward to say 'Alistair, I know that we're a group and the Fringe is awfully democratic and all that, but how do I get some personal publicity!' "

The saddest story comes from The Independent's own Miles Kington who in 1963 was in an Oxford Revue show with Terry Jones. They went on to write together for a year until Jones told him: "I'm going to work with a bloke called Michael Palin." Kington laments: "Only a year out of Oxford and my career as a future Python was over already."

What the Fringe really needs to bring back its whiff of controversy is another Edinburgh councillor like John Kidd who in 1968 denounced all actors as "big Jessies" and rose to his feet in every production that offended him and sent for a policeman. They don't come like that any more.

FRANCIS MAUDE'S elevation in the Shadow Cabinet from Culture spokesman to Shadow Chancellor was accompanied by a good deal of praise from commentators, noting that the shrewd and "streetwise" MP would keep Gordon Brown on his toes. I have to say I didn't notice much street wisdom from Mr Maude in his year shadowing Chris Smith. The attacks on Smith and Labour's policies came from sources as disparate as Sir Peter Hall and Jarvis Cocker, but virtually never from Francis Maude. Neither do I recall a single arts initiative from Mr Maude to compensate for his lack of opposition. Does anyone know where the Tories stand on museum admission charges, the Royal Opera House, the cut in Arts Council funding?

EQUITY has been as shaken as the country's pre-pubescents over the departure of Geri Halliwell from the Spice Girls. Now the tribute bands have to decide whether to become a foursome. The Geri lookalikes could face a period 'resting', though they could apply to replace the real thing.