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It’s 20 years for the Hamilton Fringe Festival

The city’s annual unjuried theatre event attracts works from around the world and close to 20,000 attendees. 

The Hamilton Fringe Festival will celebrate its 20th birthday with an extended party running July 17 to 28. 

Hamilton Fringe is an annual, unjuried theatre festival that selects participating artists through a lottery system. During Fringe, audiences can enjoy performances by talented local artists as well as those from around the world. The festival sees close to 20,000 attendees in just under two weeks.

The festival’s parent, the Hamilton Festival Theatre Company (HFTco), describes itself as “a not-for-profit charitable organization committed to training, platforming, and amplifying Hamilton’s theatre artists and storytellers. Since 2003, we have been building a community for artists and arts lovers…cultivating work that is accessible, innovative, and artistically adventurous.”

Hamilton Fringe is the largest theatre festival in the Greater Hamilton Area and is a member of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF). The Fringe originated in Scotland in 1947, when a handful of theatre groups left out of the Edinburgh International Festival decided to stage their shows “on the fringe” of the larger festival. The idea spread as a grassroots movement and a collection of Fringes has become key in the Canadian performance calendar. 

Unlike traditional performing arts festivals, CAFF-regulated festivals return 100 per cent of ticket profits back to the artists. In 2023, the Hamilton Fringe returned more than $75,000 in box office revenue directly to its artists.

Fringe organizers do not censor the artistic content of productions and strive to provide accessible opportunities for audiences and artists to take part. According to the Hamilton Fringe website, festivals on the CAFF circuit “subsidize artists’ costs such as staging, audience seating, lighting and sound equipment, ticketing services, and marketing.”

HFTco’s annual programming supports independent, emerging, and established theatre artists through its cornerstone summer Fringe Festival as well as the Frost Bites biannual winter festival, the ALERT education program for emerging arts leaders, and the Spark Teen Intensive. 

New in 2024 is Fringe on the Streets! In a partnership between the Hamilton Fringe and the City of Hamilton, this is a series of free performances at public locations throughout downtown Hamilton. A walking tour will lead participants to destinations showcased creatively by artists “in the spirit of re-discovering, re-defining, and re-animating the city.”

Tickets going on sale at hftco.ca in early June.

Editor's note: Story to be updated as events are announced.