Overall, admits Larry Whitty, “conference has always been rather boring and powerless, so most people would come for the fringe” and avoid the hall, except for a couple of important debates. Indeed, self-described “conference junkies” often consider plenary sessions as somewhat peripheral. What matters is socialising, networking and exchanging ideas and all of this happens on the margins of the main hall. The party conference fringe has a long history but it has undergone a deep transformation in the last 20 years of the 20th century. In a development not dissimilar to the famous Edinburgh Festival, the “fringe” has grown exponentially. It attracts performers who use the opportunity of a large and international event to gain attention.
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