As promised, here is my guide for the Edinburgh Festival, August 2010. It is a comprehensive list that will tell you everything you need to know to enjoy the most famous and popular festivals currently underway this month.
The Edinburgh Festival is the city’s most momentous annual event that takes place from the end of July to the beginning of September. It is actually a collective term that is used to signify several separate art and performance festivals that occur simultaneously during the summer season. These include:
The Edinburgh International Festival
The Edinburgh International Festival is the original and “official” summer festival of the city. Initiated in 1947, the International Festival brings the best of the best of classical music, theater, opera and dance from across the globe to perform in Edinburgh, by invitation from the Festival Director (information obtained from Wikipedia).
This year’s highlights include performances of the Gershwins’ opera Porgy and Bess; the world premiere of the play Caledonia; the music of Korngold and Brahms performed by the Cleveland Orchestra (I have to give a shout out to my hometown!); and energetic and sensual Brazilian dancing.
The Festival Fringe
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, established as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, is the world’s largest and most popular performance arts festival. It runs from August 6-30th and features more than 2,000 shows each year. Venues throughout the Old Town and New Town feature hilarious stand-up comedians, absurd puppet theatre, innovative dance and acrobatic creations and outlandish musical theater productions.
Spend your days watching wacky street artists attempt to swallow flaming swords or abysmal reenactments of Shakespeare’s Othello. Amazing shows abound as well and famous actors and actresses often sign up to perform – this year Alan Cumming and Emma Thompson will grace the stage! The festival offers something for everyone – don’t miss this amazing event!
Also part of the Fringe, is the Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh Comedy Festival on the Fringe.
The Free Edinburgh Fringe runs from August 5-29th and will offer more than 300 shows and 4300 performances – all for free, of course! Click on the link to learn what’s on and how to get tickets.
The Comedy Festival will take place from August 4-30th; it is a collection of comedy shows that perform at venues across the city including in the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and the Underbelly. Featured shows this year include Lesbian Bathhouse, a production of the Broadway musical Five Guys Named Moe, and the strangely intriguing comedy show Cactus – The Seduction. I promise, you will rupture your spleen from laughter, but only after you wet your pants first!
Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Spectacular to see, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a series of military drum performances by the British Armed Forces and other international military bands. It is performed throughout the festival month on the floodlit esplanade of Edinburgh Castle and features bands, drill teams and gymnasts. This year marks the Tattoo’s Diamond Anniversary (60th year), which means the organizers will certainly deliver an outstanding show. It will run from August 6th-28th with performances on Monday to Friday at 9pm and Saturday at 7:30pm and 10:30pm. Get your tickets at the Tattoo website.
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, which runs from July 30-August 8th, features some of the hottest and freshest musicians of this decade. Still to come, performances by saxophonist Laura Macdonald; Carol Kidd, who will conjure memories of the golden age of Hollywood by singing from the repertoire of Judy Garland; the hugely popular English band The Antique Six and much more. Book your tickets.
The Mela Festival
The Edinburgh Mela Festival is a multi-art celebration of the city’s cultural diversity. Started in 1995, the festival features spectacular outdoor performances involving dance, theater, circus acts and more.
This year’s theme is migration, and the world premiere of Cargo, a “water-soaked” play centering on two migrants traveling by sea to a new home, is the headline act. Also, be sure to check out Naturally Inspired, a show that reflects on Edinburgh’s beautiful landscapes; it is a collaborative production involving the talents of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and the Scottish International Storytelling Festival as well.
This festival also offers live music and dance performances: be mesmerized by the art of Egyptian belly dance or by ethnic dancers from Southwest China. Or close your eyes and allow traditional Scottish music to overtake your imagination. On August 9th, watch the Mela fashion show, which will showcase South Asian saris made from tweed.
The Mela Festival runs only for three days from August 6-8th at Leith Links, a park located near the Leith Docks (the festival location is just a fifteen minute walk from Waverly Station). Fun will be had by all: the festival offers a wide array of children activities, including Nepalese kite making, Chinese lantern making and the Edinburgh Puppet Lab.
Tickets are on sale now at the Hub, located on the Royal Mile in the Old Town (call +44-131-473-2000) or at Leith Links between the following times: Friday 6th August, 2.00pm -9.30pm; Saturday 7th August, 11.00am-8.30pm; and Sunday 8th August, 11.00-8.30pm. Adults pay only £2 per show if tickets are purchased in advance, while children under 12 will get in for free! You can also purchase day pass wristbands.
For more information, read my original article on the Mela Festival.
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Held in a set of tents in the Charlotte Square Gardens on Princes Street from August 14-30th, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is an extremely popular event that offers more than 700 workshops, talks and performances with acclaimed authors from around the world.
This year the program theme is “A New World Order,” with a particular focus on the United States’ position in world affairs; this will be explored through a review of modern American writing. More than 45 authors will be representing America at the festival, including Joyce Carol Oates, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Garry Trudeau, the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip.
Also in attendance will be Scotland’s Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who will read from her new collection of poems to be published next year.
Bringing kids along for the festival season? Not to worry, they won’t be bored while you’re sitting around debating geo-politics with Pulitzer Prize winners. The Book Festival offers a mini-festival for children called “Blast Off to Adventure,” which will feature Scottish, British and international works about “exploration in its broadest sense.”
A new addition is the free, mini-book festival called “Unbound,” which will take place in the Spiegel tent in Charlotte Square every night from August 15-30th. On the 15th, check out McSex, a forum that will discuss Scottish erotic writing, put on by the Glasgow-based Gutter magazine.
Edinburgh Art Festival
The Art Festival is an annual visual arts festival that this year will run from July 29-September 5th. Established in 2004, the festival taps the city’s artists, galleries and museums “to present the best, exciting and most intriguing in modern and contemporary visual art.” View masterpieces by Martin Creed, one of Scotland’s most highly regarded and popular artists; Richard Wright, whose work is featured in Edinburgh’s Dean Gallery; and Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth, whose new work Staged will be installed in the City Observatory at the top of Calton Hill. It will be open to the public from July 30-August 15th. Learn more about the art festival.
Festival of Politics
Marking only its sixth year, this already award-winning event called the Festival of Politics will run from August 17-21st. Coordinated by the Scottish Parliament, featured speakers this year include the famous musician and HIV/AIDS activist Annie Lennox, journalist Martin Bell and John Prescott, who was the longest serving Deputy Prime Minister in Britain. Learn more.
Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert
The Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert is the grand finale of the Edinburgh International Festival (and really the summer festival season in general).
You can get an up close view of the fireworks while listening to a live concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the Princes Street Gardens. Although you must purchase a ticket to access the gardens for the finale show, the fireworks are nevertheless visible for free from various points in the city and you can listen to the concert on ForthFm as well.
This year the sky will explode in colorful brilliance on September 5th at 9pm. Learn how to buy your tickets.
Take this list with you – download my guide at NileGuide now!
[Photo credits: Opera by Orthorhombic; street performer by snappybex; Military Tattoo by Caroline Maybach; elephant puppet courtesy of Edinburgh Mela Festival; book festival by TimDuncan; fireworks by edinburghblog.co.uk]