OK, this was the fourth Fringe by the Sea event but this was the first one to face obstacles beyond its control in the shape of some of the worst mid-summer weather in memory. The week prior, the UK Topper Championship had been completed, despite being becalmed in two days of stair-rod rain and the Saturday just prior, North Berwick Highland Games was lucky to get its programme mostly done before the heavens opened.
But the thrawn weather continued into FbtS and a couple of days of biblical rain stotting off the pavements kept some at home and outdoor benches deserted. But the show, as tradition has it, went on. Indeed, starting with Fat Sam’s band and continuing through Eddi Reader, Fish, Capercaille, Ali Bain et al, each event was stowed out and those in the (bigger) Spiegeltent especially exuding a rare buzz from great performances in a cosy howf with room to shoe-horn in 600 dead-keen fans.
If there was an event that failed to pull a crowd—including the outdoor Walk the Toun—then I failed to spot it. And fine days like the Tuesday and the final weekend, the sun brought the crowds were in force. They spilled over into the town and parallel events, like the RNLI raft race around the West Bay.
The sellout performance of Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain was a fitting ending to what had been a vintage event, now grown from 14 to almost seventy events that covered authors, comedy, children, dance, choirs and open mike sessions as well as the main ‘name’ acts. Eric and John—the pair that started all this—looked absolutely shattered by Sunday’s close. But they and their core organising team, plus the army of local ‘crew’ volunteers who manned the events, deserve huge praise for pulling off yet another smash event—this time achieving it under truly testing circumstances.