The 2010 Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, gets under way in the Scottish capital today (6 August 2010). The 64th annual Fringe, which continues until 30 August, involves an estimated 21,148 performers from around the world presenting 40,254 performances of a record-breaking 2,453 shows in 259 venues. The number of shows is up 17% on 2009 - of those, 29% are theatre (a one percent increase on last year), while comedy makes up 35%.

Among the big names involved in the theatre line-up this year are: Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who's producing a show about sex trafficking; Simon Callow, playing the bard in one-man show Shakespeare – the Man from Stratford; glamour model-turned-actress Abi Titmuss, starring in an anniversary revival of John Godber's Up 'n' Under; Gyles Brandreth, who has written a new piece based on Alice in Wonderland; and Clarke Peters, who leads the cast in a revival of his Olivier Award-winning musical Five Guys Named Moe, which transfers home to London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East immediately after the festival.

As well as the shows, there a several venue changes this year. Foremost among them, Assembly Rooms, as part of its 30th birthday celebrations, has created a new venue in the city's Princes Street Gardens, which will feature music, comedy, theatre and cabaret as well as an outdoor programme of free. After a year off for maintenance, the Famous Spiegeltent returns in George Square, where the Musical Theatre @ George Square, which for the past few years has been the only Fringe venue dedicated exclusively to musicals, is no more, replaced by C Plaza, an extension C venues.

More than half a million people plan their August holidays each year around a trip to Edinburgh. Though commonly seen as one single festival, the event is in reality several different festivals - the main ones being the original Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Military Tattoo, the Film Festival and the Book Festival - of which the Fringe is, by far, the largest, representing 75 percent of the overall festival market share and annually generating around £75 million for the local economy.

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