03/06/2014 13:35 BST | Updated 03/08/2014 06:59 BST

The Coming of Age of Brighton Fringe: To Edinburgh and Beyond...


Lost in Transit at the Brighton Spiegeltent. Credit: David Smith

So, after four weeks, 740 events and over 3,500 performances, England's largest arts festival comes to a close for another year. More than ever before, it is showing itself to be a leading platform for the presentation of new work, with 226 world premieres this year alone.

At about the same time as Brighton closes, in a great cosmic festival relay, 460 miles North, a beast is stirring as Edinburgh Fringe's programme launches once more... but when you open that brochure, be not afeard. The north of this Isle is full of familiar faces...

Already a well-worn path for shows transferring to Edinburgh, with the growing cost and crowded market of the Fringe mother ship, an interesting ecosystem has developed which supports both festivals well. Brighton has even become the Fringe of choice for Scottish work to be seen first. Thief by Liam Rudden and the Bonny Boys are Few by Enormous Yes to name but two.

For Rudden, the entertainment editor of the Edinburgh Evening News, who returned for a second year to Brighton Fringe, this time to premiere his new play Thief at the Marlborough before transferring to Edinburgh, the reason is quite clear: "Brighton Fringe is a compact beast, and I knew that a new work would not be swamped by the sheer volume of shows. It's a place where it can breathe and enjoy receptive, informed audiences- the obvious choice really."

By contrast, for Enormous Yes, a Glasgow-based company, after their Arches performances in September they had considered the costs of bringing their work to Edinburgh but instead chose Brighton Fringe: "aside from being affordable for a new company with not much to their name, it's a really open and eclectic environment with curious and supportive audiences. Industry folk were really open to coming along and an immediate result for us was being offered slot at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe."

Richard Stamp of Fringe Guru and iFringe, himself an Edinburger of many years, who has just spent his entire month in Brighton, says "The Edinburgh Fringe is a giant trade show now - it's folly to go there with anything other than your best work. What's special about Brighton is that it's still got a raw energy, the possibility that a show you picked at random from the programme might be an undiscovered treasure. For someone in my line of work, there's no more exciting place to be."

Beyond this Edinburgh synergy though, Brighton Fringe is coming into its own as a festival in its own right and within Brighton itself. With the growth of major pop-up venues the Warren and the Brighton Pleasure Garden, there is a new physical presence in town, creating a market that hadn't existed before down here. It feels a bit like the Wild West, with a very carpe diem Brighton outlook: you're still exploring, everything's very new, a bit dangerous with more and more people experiencing it for the first time, both artists and general public, local and from outside. And I think they'll be back with their mates next year, too.

The opportunities are clear for Brighton Fringe and we intend to take them with both hands as I wrote four weeks ago. Our role is to nurture and support this fragile, growing ecosystem which is the future of the arts in Brighton and beyond. Yes it deserves more public funding support but we won't stand around waiting for that to happen while the *actual* public are voting with their feet, hearts, minds - and bums on seats.