EVERY year since she took up the post, the chief executive of the Fringe, Shona McCarthy, says she is not concerned about the size of the Fringe programme, but is focussed on the experiences of its audience and performers.

However, the impact of the festival - which, with more than 3,800 shows and 323 venues, is the largest yet - on the city in which it is home, has become a pressing topic, especially in social media.

Ms McCarthy, however, said the impact of the Fringe should not be conflated with the issue of tourism and its impact on the city.

Critics of the impact of tourism on the city, often point to the packed, over-crowded streets of the Festival month as a visible sign of its effects.

She said: “As someone coming from Northern Ireland, somewhere that struggled for tourism, I find it we are in this weird moment in Edinburgh where we are in seriously in danger of being anti-tourist, and just on a personal level, I would counsel the city to be careful about that.

“There is a conflation of the Fringe and over-tourism: this is June, and Edinburgh is really busy. This is a city with a castle, with Medieval history, it is bloody gorgeous...so the idea that a three week festival should take on responsibility for things that are really a year-long issue for the city, and are about better management I think, rather than an anti-tourist agenda.”

Ms McCarthy said that the Fringe, which is un-curated, does not have a “growth agenda”.

She added: “The biggest growth in our audiences is from Edinburgh and Scotland. We have been at 8% of audiences from international visitors, and that has stayed the same for the last three years.The idea that the Fringe is responsible for over-tourism seems just a bit weird to me.”

Well known names at the festival this year include Frances Barber, Kathy Burke directing Honest Amy, and Podrick from Game of Thrones, Daniel Portman.

BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist and writer Akala brings spoken word show Akala – In Conversation – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, while actress and activist Rose McGowan will combine memoir and music in Fringe debut Planet 9.