The History of St Mark’s as an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Venue

This year we celebrate thirty-five years of St Mark’s as an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Venue. On this page, ROSS, our Front of House Manager traces the history. (Additional material by Rev Andrew Hill, Ann Sinclair and Mike West).

1835 St Mark’s built.

1958 onwards St Mark’s new minister, Rev Bruce Findlow, led special Festival services which included poetry and music and attracted large numbers of visitors. For several years an art exhibition was held in the upper hall and the church was open for a few hours each day.

Circa 1965–1970 First documented evidence of St Mark’s being used as rehearsal space for the Fringe; no evidence of performances. Rehearsals were for Theatre Workshop (Artistic Director Rosalind Clark). Rev Bruce Findlow, highly supportive of St Mark’s being used for rehearsals (source: Waymark, September 2009).

Early-1970s Two-deck pulpit replaced by stage to accommodate grand piano and allow for artistic performances.

1975 & 1976 First documented evidence of St Mark’s being used for performance during the Fringe (source: Waymark, October 2010). No further evidence beyond 1976.

1982 First year of determined effort to make St Mark’s a Fringe venue on an annual basis (sources: Waymark, Oct 2010 & Jane Aaronson, editor: Waymark). Programme of approximately two to three performances per day from both local and national companies compiled by Rev Andrew Hill who continued as programmer until 1983.

Pre-1986 St Mark’s assigned Fringe venue reference Venue 90.

1983-1986 St Mark’s member Mike West assumes programming duties.

1987-1989 St Mark’s member Bryan Wade assumes programming duties.

1990 David Hume, director of Edinburgh-based amateur musicians, Philomusica, takes over programming (source: official Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme).

1994 St Mark’s becomes Venue 125.

1999 Edward Prince becomes programmer, booking shows based on Philomusica’s mailing list. Edward considerably increases the number of shows to between fifteen to twenty and the number of performances to thirty-five to fifty. Noticeable is the St Mark’s’ Fringe programme entry which is recognisably different from previous years.

2006 artSpace@StMarks becomes the venue’s official name for Fringe performances (note: exact spelling of venue name, artSpace@StMarks, not agreed until 2014).

2007 Ross joins as Edward’s assistant.

2011 Performer Richard Michael wins Herald Angel award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

2012 Nutshell Theatre Production Thread, staged in an Assembly venue in the lower hall, wins Fringe First award.

2013 St Mark’s not a venue due to management illness. Michael Mulligan appointed programmer. Ross becomes Front of House Manager.

2015 artSpace@StMarks programme rises from around two to three performances a day to four to five. The figure increases to five to six from 2016. Cathal McConnell wins Herald Angel Lifetime Achievement award.

2016 Theatre production, The View From Castle Rock, sponsored by the Edinburgh Book Festival, sells out its entire run of 150 seats per performance before Fringe has begun.

2017 St Mark’s 35th anniversary as a Fringe venue.

Do you have a special memory of an early Edinburgh Festival Fringe show at St Mark’s that you would like to share with our Waymark readers? Please email the editor by 14 August.