RAIN won't dampen the spirits of visitors to York's biggest arts festival this summer - and not because a heatwave is forecast.

Organisers will erect a marquee cover over the turfed cafe area – the "village green" – between venues in Parliament Street, offering shelter to the thousands of festival goers expected to attend the Great Yorkshire Fringe mark two.

Last year's inaugural event attracted more than 120,000 people, drawn to a varied programme of comedy, music, cabaret, magic and theatre - despite poor weather marring a week of the festival.

For 2016, the Fringe has trebled in size, featuring some 150 acts and 300 shows running from Friday, July 15 to Monday August 1 - seven days longer than last year.

It has also expanded to take in venues outside Parliament Street, including the 100-seater Gillygate Shed at the Gillygate pub (with a late licence for the festival), the Black Swan in Peasholme Green (host of the Burning Duck Woodsduck Comedy Festival), and the Arts Barge Riverside Festival at Tower Gardens (from July 27 to 31 as part of the Free Fringe).

As before, the three main venues will be in Parliament Street: the White Rose Rotunda, a century-old Spiegeltent which seats 300; the 200-seater Turn Pot, and the Tea Pot, which has doubled last year's capacity to 200 and will host the popular New Comedian of the Year competition.

Once more, street food will be on sale in Parliament Street, as part of Feastival - but this time, diners and drinkers will have cover from whatever the weather throws at them.

"We had six days of rain last year," recalls Martin Witts, festival founder and artistic director, who lives in York. "It was difficult."

Despite selling thousands of tickets last year, the festival still lost money. In fact, Martin doesn't expect the Great Yorkshire Fringe to break even until year four. Such frankness illustrates the commitment to establishing this arts jamboree firmly in the York calendar in the future.

York Press:

ABOVE: John Hewer as Tommy Cooper coming to the Great Yorkshire Fringe

The trajectory is for the Fringe to expand, spreading into extra venues and attracting more acts. That is already happening this year.

Martin says: "The programme is more family friendly. There are more children's events and free events during the day. There will be live music too as we will have pianos on site in Parliament Street and acoustic sets on the green."

Many acts stop over in York en route to the Fringe in Scotland's capital in late August - so it's not surprising that the Great Yorkshire Fringe is earning the nickname of a "mini Edinburgh".

As in Edinburgh, comedy is a popular draw for punters in York. Returning for second helpings this year will be Paul Foot, and Pocklington-born Richard Herring is York-bound too. Jerry Sadowitz is booked in for one-night only with his show: It's All B*llocks!

Martin expects the New Comedian of the Year competition to be as popular as ever and predicts stars will be born with winners becoming "the face of the future".

He says as alternative comedians become more mainstream, audiences are looking for something different and special. Comedians with skills, such as magic acts, are likely to become popular.

There is a nostalgia too, he says, for comedians and shows from the past. The masterly of Tommy Cooper will be revived in Just Like That! - a tribute show with John Hewer playing the man in the fez.

Families will be entertained with Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales, an hour-long performance for pre-schoolers based on the stories of Julia Donaldson, which will have 30 shows across the festival. Martin expects this to be a hit following its success in London.

There's plenty of quirky too. The Great Yorkshire Fringe Dog Show will take place on the first Saturday of the festival, with prizes for the dog with the nicest eyes and the pooch with the best fringe.

Look out too for the Great Yorkshire Fringe double-decker bus which will act as a box office and will be parked in the city centre from Wednesday, June 1.

For full details and the festival line-up, go to greatyorkshirefringe.com

Fringe highlights

York Press:

Above: Austentatious and Pete Firman


Pete Firman: The TV magician (star of BBC1's The Magicians) previews new jokes and tricks for his next show. Expect his own trademark blend of crowd-pleasing comedy and jaw-dropping magic.

July 20 at The Tea Pot


Austentatious – An Improvised Jane Austin Novel: Performed in period costume with live musical accompaniment, this Regency treat improvises a new Jane Austen work before your eyes, based on a single audience suggestion. Previous ‘lost’ masterpieces have included Sixth Sense & Sensibility, Double 0 Darcy and Mansfield Shark. No two shows are ever the same.

July 20 at The White Rose Rotunda


Baby Loves Disco: Following its sell-out seasons in Edinburgh, this is where dayclubbing takes the place of nightclubbing with resident DJs spinning chart floor fillers from the days before parenthood for families to enjoy together.

July 17 at The Turn Pot


Grand Old Uke of York: Yorkshire's most vibrant ukulele collective take on the sounds of Avicii, Stevie Wonder, Queen, ACDC, Olly Murs, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, The Cure, George Ezra and more.

July 19 at The White Rose Rotunda


Coquette presents…Moulin Ouse: Glamorous showgirls, amazing variety acts and top cabaret performers from across the UK will fill the spiegeltent with glitter, feathers and a few surprises.

From July 22-29 across two locations


Taiko Drumming Workshop: Learn the exciting, energetic and dynamic art of Japanese Taiko drumming.

July 16 at The Turn Pot