Edinburgh hosts International Film Festival, International Book
Festival and Festival Fringe
August 24th, 2005
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
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.
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
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.
Edinburgh available at Amazon
Common keywords and misspellings: Edinburg
United Kingom Edinberg Festivil U.K. England