Reading Fringe Takes a Pause

After breaking records and going global in its last two years, Reading Fringe Festival will be taking a pause in 2021 as it plans for its tenth anniversary and beyond.

Created in 2012 with the first festival taking place the following year, the July festival has quickly established itself as a fixture in both the Reading cultural calendar and the national fringe festival programme. In particular it has grown rapidly in recent years: 2019’s Fringe saw ticket sales surge by 60% year-on-year, with record attendance of over 5,000 visitors across 10 days, while last year saw Reading Fringe Digital reach more than 13,000 households online, across six continents.

This year the Fringe team has decided that rather than run its usual line-up of some 100 events covering cabaret, children’s, comedy, dance, drama, music, spoken word and more, they will instead take time out to plan its future and explore options that will allow the festival to come back better than ever in 2022.

Fringe director Zsuzsi Lindsay explained: “We are so proud of how far we have come in just eight years, particularly the strong connections we have made with venues, audiences and artists alike in that time. We’re a small team, all of whom work on lots of other projects, so while it will be hard having a Fringe-less summer we are excited that taking this pause will allow us vital planning time to ensure a vibrant long-term future for the festival.”

Fringe producer Steph Weller added: “As anyone who knows us will predict, we are not capable of going completely quiet! Our social media has picked up a real following so we will remain active on there, and are also planning some occasional online activities, following the success of Creative Coffees and The Potting Shed last year.”

Most accessible Reading Fringe yet

Reading Fringe 2020 begins this week – and the eighth edition of the festival is not only the first to take place entirely online but is also the most accessible yet.

After the launch event on Friday (17 July) at 7pm featuring comedy songs from Jollyboat Pirates and all-female improv with Hell Yeah!, over 35 prerecorded shows – covering cabaret, children’s entertainment, dance, film, music, theatre and much more – will be available to stream from 8.30pm for the duration of Reading Fringe Digital (17-26 July). Then over the next nine days there will be around 30 live events to watch via the Fringe’s website, from garden gigs to solo stand-up.

Over half of the shows will be either live-captioned or have transcripts provided, as Reading Fringe producer Steph Weller explains: “We strive to make each festival more accessible than the last, in terms of programming, venue locations and adapting to our audience and artists’ needs. This time around the challenges of taking the Fringe digital were offset by the opportunities it gives us to reach a broad audience and to work with our artists for greater access. We’re pleased to confirm that this year 60% of our programme is in an accessible format or has accessible provision.”

To watch Reading Fringe Digital audiences simply register at The vast majority of the line-up is free with the option to donate, alongside a few pay-to-view events – in both cases the money donated or ticket income goes direct to the artists involved. Highlights include a series of theatre pieces filmed in 360 degrees, Mischief & Mystery in Moominland, audio drama Natalie Barney’s Last Salon first seen at The Globe, dance piece We on the themes of disability and identity and a virtual club night with Reading’s own Twin Sun.

The show goes on and on online!

Over 60 events remain available to watch on our website until 31 August. Simply register once to access all free shows (please consider buying the artists a cup of coffee via their show pages), with the option to book for our pay-to-view events.

We were thrilled to once again bring you new, exciting and accessible cultural experiences, this time direct to wherever you are and primarily for free. If you are in a position to do so we would love your financial support at this time and ask that you consider donating to the Reading Fringe

And we would really appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to fill in our Reading Fringe Digital survey!

Shows available to stream include Freud The Musical, The Laurel & Hardy Cabaret, Patricia Gets Ready, as well as music, exhibitions, comedy and panel discussions. As you may have read this week in the Reading Chronicle or Broadway World, the Fringe went global last month, reaching 10,000 households not only around the UK but also in Australia, Asia and across Europe! Notably we had over 400 users in the United States alone.


As we go online as a festival for the first time, Reading Fringe Digital has caught the eye of many media outlets – local, national and international!

In May leading theatre industry magazine The Stage covered our move online thanks to Arts Council England funding, as did Berkshire LiveIndependent Reading and The Henley Standard.

This week saw Reading Fringe Digital picked as an entertainment highlight for MetroBBC South, top comedy website ChortleThey Did I Can Too and even Time Out New York

BBC Berkshire dedicated the 17 July morning show to a Reading Fringe special with several artists featured as guests. Broadway World & the Reading Chronicle reported on our most accessible festival yet, with over half of shows being captioned and the majority available free.