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A spirit of free comedy has broken out in Edinburgh as performers and festival-goers shun expensive venues in favour of free shows. 607 out of 2,542 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, which began last weekend, are free of charge, the highest proportion in the festival's history. The Free Fringe, a spin-off under the overall Fringe umbrella, has 40 per cent more participating shows than last year.

"Smaller venues, which are lent to artists free of charge, represent a better deal for the public and artist," said Free Fringe founder Peter Buckley Hill. "It's always the case that if you have good shows at zero pounds a ticket, and good shows that cost more, people will come to the free shows. It's more in keeping with the spirit of the festival." Buckley Hill, says“is almost a moneyless exercise”, adding, “we have found the right way of doing this – it is taking the Fringe back”.

The Free Fringe was founded in 1996 as a counterpoint to…