As the world's biggest arts festival kicks off in the Scottish capital, Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday – who spent his student days in Edinburgh and has made the occasional festival appearance himself – takes a superlative look at this world beating event

The Edinburgh Festival is the world's largest performing arts event. It's not just one festival, though. Technically it's an amalgamation of numerous different festivals, the largest being the Edinburgh International Festival and its more, erm, off-the-wall big brother, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (itself the largest single fest on the planet).

Last year at the Fringe, 1,857,202 tickets were issued for a record 2,695 shows in 279 venues across the city. It was also a record year for the artists, with an incredible 22,457 individuals from 2,304 companies participating in 42,096 performances.

August is a wonderful time to be in Edinburgh, and being in a beautiful city crammed with the most creative, inspiring people in the world is a real joy. As a Scot, I'm proud to see such a vibrant showcase of talent supported by Scotland. I've also had my time on stage – as a student, I did a series of orchestral performances at the International Festival. I also appeared in Dr Bunhead's Pyromania Show as part of the Science Festival in 2011, and last year I returned for the Edinburgh International Children's Book Festival to give a talk on the history of Guinness World Records.

It was at the Book Festival, that Harry Feachen (UK) set the record for the longest diabolo grind, keeping his diabolo spinning on its stick for 1 min 35.6 sec. But Harry's not the only record holder to emerge from the Festival:

• The record for the most performances by a single artist at the Festival is held by Earl Okin (UK), who gave his 500th one-man performance at the event in 2000.

• Another one-man act, American Hal Holbrook (USA), appeared in Edinburgh as part of his record for the most consecutive years performing a one-man show. He has performed "Mark Twain Tonight!" a record 2,237 times since 1954!

• In terms of visitors, the record for the most visits in a season is 169 by Nigel Tantrum of East Kilbride, Scotland, who did his best to see as much as possible at the 1994 Fringe. Can you beat this? Let us know!


• Dr Bunhead (aka Tom Pringle, UK) built the longest glow-in-the-dark necklace at his Pyromania Show in 2011 – it stretched 326.44 m (1,071 ft) and was strung around the necks of 100 children from the audience.

• It was in front of a live audience at the Fringe on 21 August 2007 that Thomas Blackthorne (UK), Space Cowboy (aka Chayne Hultgren, Australia), Captain Frodo (Norway) and "The Great" Gordo Gamsby (Australia) swallowed the four steel legs of the same bar stool, establishing the record for the most sword swallowers to swallow the same object simultaneously! You can find out more about Space Cowboy in the video above.

• Michael McIntyre, who in 2012 achieved the highest gross for a stand-up comedy tour – he took an estimated £20.96 million ($33.9 million)! – was voted the Perrier Best Newcomer at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

• Since first opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 18 August 1979, NewsRevue has continued its run in London at the Kings Head Theatre (1979), Gate Theatre (1980–85) and the Canal Café Theatre (1985 to present) – making it the longest theatrical run for a comedy. They'll be performing this year at the Canal Café Theatre – don't miss them!


• Tim Vine, (above), who won the Best Joke award at the Fringe in 2010 with "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again!", previous set the record for the most jokes told in one hour (499) in London in 2004. (Tim went on to lose the record in 2005, when Anthony Lehmann (Australia) told 549 jokes in one hour at the Rhino Room club in Adelaide, Australia, but we still think he's funny!)

• A regular at the Fringe is Elaine Davidson, the world's most pierced woman – she's been pierced at least 4,225 times since 1997! You can see more of Elaine in the clip below.

• Look out this year for Miss Behave, aka Amy Sanders (UK), co-holder of the record for the most swallowed sword – the same sword, "The Sword of Swords", has been swallowed now by 40 people. She's also the former holder of the record for most swords swallowed by a female (7, set in 2004). She'll be hosting Miss Behave's Game Show at Bob's Bookshop throughout August.

So if you can make it up to Edinburgh, you might just help this year's event break its own record. Perhaps last year's festival was boosted by visitors to the UK for the Olympics, but record-breaking or not, it's still a fantastic experience and one you won't forget.

Find the Fringe programme here: