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Creative Informatics at the (virtual) Fringe!

For the first time since 1947, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as we know it is not going ahead as planned. In the absence of a physical Fringe, the venues, artists and organisations that make the Fringe happen are finding new ways to keep the spirit of the festival alive and engage with Fringe fans around the world!

At Creative Informatics HQ, we’re keen to do our bit to support Edinburgh’s fantastic festivals at this challenging time. Here are a few of the Fringe themed activities keeping our team busy this summer…


Creative Informatics Co-Director Melissa Terras is leading a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh who are using Artificial Intelligence to analyse digital archives of Fringe listings, and imagine a series of new, mind-bending online spectacles!


In partnership with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, researchers delved into eight years worth of data from Fringe programmes, instructing their ‘ImprovBot’ AI to repetitively mine the 100-word text descriptions of every show from 2011 to 2019, amounting to more than two million words.

The ImprovBot will riff on this data to devise the world’s first AI-generated event blurbs for an imagined festival of comedy, drama, musicals, and cabaret. It will come up with more than 350 show descriptions, that will no doubt range from the bizarre to the hilarious.

The Improverts, the Fringe’s longest running improvised comedy group, will then use the descriptions to give their playful take on the shows generated via ImprovBot on Twitter.

Show descriptions will be posted hourly from the ImprovBot.ai Twitter account from the 7th until the 31st of August, allowing online audiences to interact with ImprovBot that created the performances – and the comedy troupe tasked with staging them. Find out more and read somer of ImrpovBots ‘previews’ at https://improvbot.ai/.

Imagining Fringe Futures

With no possibility of Fringe venues operating as normal this year, many performances have moved online, either to raise funds or in some cases just to raise morale. The Fringe Society has developed a range of digital activities to support artists and venues, but as in-person audiences return, what should the online landscape of the Fringe look like in the future?

Fringe Futures Online

Creative Informatics Research Associate Chris Elsden is looking for artists and performers who have recently participated in a Fringe show and are willing to take part in a short online interview to discuss their experiences of online performances. We want to hear your thoughts and strategies for connecting with audiences and other artists remotely when physical peformances are not possible.

The findings of this research will be used to help shape new ideas for supporting Fringe performers online, in 2021 and beyond. If you’re interested in contributing to this research, please complete this short online form: bit.ly/CIFFR

Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll be directed to a Doodle poll to indicate your availability for an interview. Everyone who takes part in an interview will be given a £20 shopping voucher.If you have any questions about Fringe Futures, you can contact Chris directly at celsden@ed.ac.uk or on Twitter @ElsdenChris.

Data Needs Creative People

If you’re looking for some online shows to give your August a bit more Fringe, you can join Creative Informatics Programme Manager Nicola Osborne on Sunday the 16th of August for Data Needs Creative People.

Nicola Osborne: Data Needs Creative People

Nicola is performing as part of The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Just Festival, Edinburgh’s Social Justice and Human Rights Festival!

Following up on her 2019 Fringe show, Creative People Need Data, Nicola’s new show will talk about Creative Informatics and the fresh perspectives creative people offer on data and data science that enable them to innovate, create, provoke, disrupt and delight. Register for your free ticket now!


We hope you can take part in some of our virtual Fringe events and research this summer! If would like more information on any of the above please contact the Creative Informatics team at creativeinformatics@ed.ac.uk.




If you have any questions about Creative Informatics, please contact us.

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