Fringe festival
Fringe festival to be held for 17 days from January 16 to February 1 will offer the UAE’s multicultural community more choices to enjoy theatre and performances. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: A new edition of the international Fringe festival — the world’s largest art and entertainment event — has come to Middle East’s cultural heartland, Sharjah.

Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) announced at a press conference on Wednesday the emirate has officially joined the global Fringe family and will be hosting the first Fringe Festival in the Middle East. The festival will be held for 17 days from January 16 to February 1 in a bid to offer the UAE’s multicultural community more choices to enjoy theatre and performances.

The streets and stages of Sharjah will be the backdrop for 600 shows featuring a pandemonium of performers, colours and creativity at key destinations in the emirate — Al Majaz Waterfront, Al Qasba and Al Noor Island.

These Shurooq destinations will host over 50 artists from the UAE, the region and the world, who will present street and circus acts, theatre, dance, music and other forms of interactive entertainment, to delight UAE audiences from all nationalities and age groups.

Sharjah Fringe Festival 2020 is presented by Shurooq in strategic partnership with Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). It will be organised by the National Arts Festival, South Africa, who also produce a thriving South African Fringe, in collaboration with Dubai-based events company Dolphin Creative.

Sharjah — a city of choice

Ahmed Al Qaseer, COO of Shurooq, explained: “By bringing Fringe to Sharjah, we want to send a message that ours is ‘a city of choice’. Through Fringe, we want the 200-plus nationalities residing in the UAE to connect with the global language of arts. At the same time, we build bridges with other cultures, which translates the vision of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who chose knowledge, culture and arts as our path of development.”


“Residents and visitors to the emirate will get the first-of-its-kind opportunity to meet the international Fringe community who have toured Adelaide, Brighton New York, and the rest of the world. We look forward to being on hundreds of entertaining journeys with these artists at our top public destinations. Sharjah Fringe truly embodies Shurooq’s vision to lead the social, cultural, environmental and economic development of Sharjah,” he added.

Majid Hamad Al Suwaidi, Manager of Overseas Promotion Department at Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, said: “The Fringe Festival is a big driver of the tourism economy, and by bringing this amazing event presented by Shurooq to Sharjah, SCTDA seeks to boost the emirate’s tourism offerings by allowing visitors and tourists hundreds of entertainment choices.”

1100 hours of pure family entertainment

The festival has a broader appeal beyond theatre-going audiences, and Sharjah has designed its

17-day agenda with a special focus on children. The 2020 Sharjah Fringe will host 600 shows covering art, theatre and street performances.

During her presentation, Nobesuthu Rayi, Executive Producer of Sharjah Fringe, said the festival will feature 35 productions, including top international Fringe favourites like The Amazing Bubble Man from the US, Stick Stones Broken Bones from South Africa, the Tom Thum beat box act from Australia, I Hate Children’s Show named ‘Best Children’s Show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’, and several others, as well as 30 street productions happening outdoor.

“This will be happening over a period of 17 days, and will be 1100 hours of pure entertainment”, she said, adding, “You will be treated to high level artistry coming in from around the world for free.”

Rayi also noted that to enable maximum engagement for school goers across the UAE, the festival has curated special schools packages, which will be on offer in the mornings. Regular programmes will begin late afternoon and continue in the evening for families. She added that as a guide to parents, all shows have been categorised according to their best fit by age group, starting at 4—6 years, followed by the 6—10 and 10—14 years categories, and finally, 14+ years.

History of Fringe Festival

Rayi added that Fringe Festival was born from the passion of a group of artists who had a stronger commitment to their craft and artistic message for people than being accepted into a traditional stage setting. A bold and novel concept for the 1940s era, which emerged in Edinburgh, soon caught up with the rest of the world. Today, over 200 Fringe events are held worldwide.

The Edinburgh edition remains the largest, featuring an average 3,000 shows. They sold over 3 million tickets for their 2019 edition. Only the Olympic Games World Cup boast bigger numbers.

With a history dating back more than 5,000 years, modern Sharjah is the UAE’s and the Middle East’s cultural powerhouse dedicated to supporting creatives minds, artists and performers at home and around the world. With a cultural project based on the pillars of inclusivity, innovation and the exchange of new ideas, 2020 Sharjah Fringe signals the start of a new artistic movement in the UAE and is a reinforcement of the emirate’s vision of embracing and encouraging the creative exploration of ‘doing things different’.