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Edinburgh hosts International Film Festival,  International Book Festival and Festival Fringe

August 24th, 2005

Edinburgh hosts International Film Festival Internation Book Festival and Festival Fringe

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Edinburgh can rightly claim to be one of the leading cultural capitals of the world – with its role in inspiring some of history’s greatest writers, inventors and scientists.  The streets are virtually littered with plaques highlighting where Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes lived, or where chloroform was first used.

Today, the city is the setting for the largest gathering of culture vultures just about anywhere, when August heralds the festival season.

First off the block and the biggest and brashest of the lot, is the Festival Fringe which is held August 7th through the 29th. This describes itself as the world’s largest festival, with 15,000 performers presenting shows in 300 venues across the city, and selling more than 1.2 million tickets, all in just three weeks. That’s quite a feat for performers and audience-goers alike.

A real highlight of the Festival Fringe is the daily performances on the Royal Mile in the Old Town.  The cobbled street running past St Giles Cathedral and the grand City Chambers is closed to allow small stages, stall holders and out-of-this-world street performers the space to fully explore their talents. 


Anyone walking down the Royal Mile at this time, tourist or local, is bound to collect an armful of leaflets from performers promoting their shows.  From Australia, the Space Cowboy announces he’s one of just 24 sword swallowers alive today, as he delivers a cold sweat-inducing performance.  

The civilized sister in the Edinburgh Festival Family is the International Book Festival held from August 13th through the 29th. It draws literary giants, including this year Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and John Irving, along with exciting newly published authors and 200,000 visitors, who all converge on a tranquil garden square in the center of Edinburgh’s New Town.

Every author, no matter the extent of their fame or celebrity, is paid just £100 (US$181) for their appearance. Each event in the festival is in front of no more than 600 people, ensuring an intimate setting for author and audience alike, and extremely good value compared to the stadium-like venues of other book festivals.

The original Edinburgh International Festival is a collection of highbrow classical music, dance, opera and theatre for serious culture vultures. Established in 1947, the International Festival commissions work especially for its season and 2005 sees no less than six major new works, including three plays having their world premiere.

Also screening since 1947, the Edinburgh International Film Festival held from August 17th through the 28th, is billed as the longest continually running film festival in the world. Over the years, it has featured many big names, either at the beginning of their career, at the height of their power, or in retrospect, including Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Ingmar Bergman, Lasse Hallström and Anthony Minghella to name a few of the many.


Fringe Festival

Fringe Festival Clown

This year the Film Festival Under the Stars has been a popular addition to the program, with an open-air cinema installed beside the National Gallery on The Mound Precinct.

Which made, one evening, for the ultimate Scottish moment, as one walked from Princes Street towards Edinburgh Castle for the Military Tattoo, stopping to watch Ursula Andress emerge singing from the waves, as Sean Connery and 1000+ festival goers looked on.

A spectacular in the traditional sense of the word, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a showcase for the pipes and drums of the Scottish regiments. A number of visiting groups from around the world also take part, including this year from Norway, South Africa and New Zealand. It can be stirring stuff when the Scots in the crowd sing along and stamp their feet at familiar tunes, and when the massed pipes and drums burst into the modern classic Mull o’ Kintyre, there could barely be a dry eye in the stands. The closing scene of the Tattoo is the iconic lone piper playing high on the Castle’s ramparts - impressive to watch on television every year, even more so in person when the shivers runs up one’s spine.


These festivals are all on top of the many weird, wonderful and wacky happenings popping up around the city at this time, drawn by the festival crowds – an arts and craft show at one end of Princes Street, a fairground in the shadow of the Castle and rotating street performers from the four corners of the earth. 

And through it all - the crowds, the leaflets, the interlopers - another lone bagpiper, whose year-round spot is at the corner of Princes Street and Waverley Bridge, plays on.

By Morag Ingram
Freelance Writer

Books about Edinburgh available at Amazon



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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:45 PM