What is CAFF?

The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) is an arts service organization formed to support Fringe Festivals. Its membership is comprised of 34 Fringe Festivals that have a similar structure based on its guiding principles. The Association provides mentorship, professional development, and support for its members.


The first Canadian Fringe was the Edmonton Fringe Festival (est. 1982). Inspired by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (est. 1947), the success and growth of Edmonton’s adapted formula soon led to the creation of Fringe Festivals across Canada and the United States. Each festival evolved its own flavour to match the distinct personality of its home city, yet each dedicated to the Fringe philosophy of accessible, inexpensive and fun theatre-going.


The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals was formed to protect these five guiding principles:

  • Participants will be selected on a non-juried basis, through a first-come, first-served process, a lottery, or other method approved by the Association.
  • Artists will receive 100% of the tickets and pass price, as agreed upon between the artists and festivals (less any applicable government taxes). Festivals may add a surcharge to tickets and passes.
  • Fringe festival producers do not interfere with artistic content of each performance.
  • Festivals must provide an easily accessible opportunity for all audiences and all artists to participate in Fringe Festivals.
  • Festivals will promote and model inclusivity, diversity and multiculturalism, and will endeavor to incorporate them into all aspects of our organizations including our boards, staff, and volunteers.


In 1994, the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals was officially registered as a non-profit organization with the following mandate:

  • To safeguard the integrity of Fringe Festivals as outlined in the four minimum criteria.
  • To recognize that the health of all member Festivals is important to the Circuit and therefore the artists’ health as a whole.
  • To encourage communication and cooperation between member Festivals thereby fostering the continuity of our guiding principles.


The mission of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals is to unite, support, empower and strengthen member festivals in order to cultivate and foster independent artistic exploration for artists and audiences across North America

Fringe and Fringe Festival are registered trademarks of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) and cannot be used without expressed written permission from the Association. This trademark allows CAFF to ensure that any theatre festival in Canada that wishes to call itself “Fringe” must abide by the CAFF mandate and the four guiding principles.

CAFF Today

There are currently 34 members of The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals including 11 members in the United States. Canada now enjoys more Fringe Festivals than any other country in the world and each festival is a leader in the development of theatre artists and audiences in its community.

Collectively, CAFF festival audiences are a boon for independent artists. In the last 3 years alone, they have generated more than $10,000,000 in box office revenues, returned directly to our artists.

For Artists

The Fringe provides an unequaled opportunity to bring to light new and innovative works or rarely staged classics. It is also a forum for local artists to mingle and exchange ideas with members of the national and international theatre community. For many groups, the Fringe has brought overnight success with productions being scouted and remounted by numerous established companies such as Mirvish Productions, The World Stage Festival, Magnetic North, and the High Performance Rodeo. Fringe artists have also gone on to win numerous prestigious awards such as the Chalmers Award, the Governor General’s Award for Theatre and Tony Awards.

For Audiences

The Fringe is a unique and exciting menagerie of drama, comedy, musical theatre, clown, dance, and multi-media works… A place of discovery and invention. Fringe audiences also have the unique opportunity to interact with Fringe artists and to share their thoughts about the performances while on the festival site. Fringe audiences are encouraged to spread the word about the great shows they have discovered and post reviews for others to read and consider when planning what shows to see. Typically, it is the audience’s positive word of mouth that has propelled productions to sold-out runs at Fringe Festivals across the continent. 

CAFF Updates

What has CAFF been up to? – A Look Back at 2022

As we come back from a welcomed holiday break and look forward into 2023, the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals and its members are excited for the year ahead. We are ready to get to work and bring you a full season of Fringe Festivals across the continent.

The 2022 calendar year has been one to celebrate as we were able to gather once again and return to the festival performances and atmosphere our Fringes are known for. Almost all our members had full events and we were excited to welcome back our international artists as the world opened.

In May 2022, CAFF was a sponsor and contributor to the World Fringe Congress in Orlando hosted by the Orlando Fringe. This was the first in-person international conference for Fringe Producers since we all met in Adelaide in February 2020, not knowing at the time the disruption that was ahead of us. Not only were we able to share our experiences, as the pandemic affected Producers around the world, we took the time to learn new skills, and have meaningful conversations about how the Fringe Movement shifts into the future.

CAFF held its own in-person conference in November 2022 in Montreal hosted by the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival and MainLine Theatre. Once again, it was incredible to be in the same room together as Fringe Producers to support each other, learn from each other, and discuss the future. We returned to many of the conversations we started in 2019 that were paused during the pandemic and have set out a full work plan for the Association and its Committees for the next few years. Watch for some new initiatives in the coming months and years as we embrace Fringe in a post pandemic, more inclusive world. 

Speaking of pauses, CAFF was pleased to bring back our Touring Lottery in the fall of 2022 for touring in 2023 after a two-year hiatus. This was the first time that we did a BIPOC priority draw lottery where BIPOC companies were drawn first up to 50% in each category. We are pleased to say that we achieved this target for the 2023 lottery and will continue to do this moving forward with possible expansion. We also broke apart the international category into two categories – American and International – to give more opportunities for our artists from over seas. 

Overall, it has been a year to celebrate coming back together again and return Fringe to its full life. We are excited for what the future brings and look forward to sharing news and new initiatives in 2023 as we rise and keep on Fringin.’
             – The CAFF Team