Guide to Scotland's Festivals 2015: Edinburgh's best festivals
From Spring's Science Festival to the mighty Fringe in August, Scotland's capital fully deserves its reputation as the UK's festival city
This article is from 2015.
Edinburgh is firmly established as a world-renowned cultural hotspot. From cutting-edge dance and breath-taking arias to rib-tickling stand-up and spine-tingling theatre, the city sure knows how to put on a show come festival time. Anna Millar helps guide you through the maze
August is the month Scotland’s capital really comes to life. And it doesn’t get any bigger – and better – than the mighty Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Brilliant and bonkers in equal part, the world’s largest arts festival welcomes acts from all over the world. In 2014, there were a whopping 49,497 performances of 3193 shows in 299 venues, making it a major challenge to navigate the titanic tome that is the official programme.
The nightly closing fireworks from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are a much-loved institution all of their own. A hot ticket year on year (and an annual sell-out to boot), Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade has welcomed more than 13m people to the mighty Tattoo over the years. From its historic venue to music, dance and precision displays, this is a rare opportunity to see performances by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands in one of the city’s most picturesque settings and dramatic backdrops.
Just down from the castle sits the Edinburgh International Festival HQ, though its creative tentacles extend to six of the city’s major theatres and concert halls, as well as a handful of smaller venues. Widely recognised as the Fringe’s more erudite sibling, the EIF showcase some of the best music, theatre, opera and dance from around the globe. Founded in 1947, the festival began with the aim of providing ‘a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’, and to this day offers a stage for some of the world’s finest artists and companies.
Elsewhere, the roundly excellent Edinburgh Art Festival showcases top-notch public art commissions and houses contemporary work in some of the country’s finest galleries, museums and artist-run spaces. Hosting over 45 exhibitions across the city in 2014, the EAF has become the UK’s largest annual celebration of visual art. Beyond the exhibitions, don’t miss the performances, screenings, artist talks and guided tours that make up the programme.
Bookworms can feel equally euphoric thanks to the multi-faceted charms of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Setting its stall(s) in the city’s pretty Charlotte Square Gardens, the EIBF has become a literary melting pot for some of the world’s best writers, poets, politicians and thinkers, contributing to over 750 events. The Book Festival’s children’s programme is equally robust, featuring amazing events for the little ones.
On a somewhat smaller scale but still growing in scope and ambition is the Festival of Politics which bases itself, rather fittingly, within the Scottish Parliament.
Just sneaking in at the end of August, is the ever vibrant Edinburgh Mela, Scotland’s biggest celebration of world music and dance. Set over three days, last year’s line-up welcomed Ghanian drummers and Chinese punk / folk experimentors, as well as a World Dance Feste and Global Food Village.
Beyond August, there’s much to excite, starting in April when the Edinburgh International Science Festival takes centre stage, providing fun for all ages. From its popular lunchtime lectures to investigations into the science of sleep, 2014’s line-up excelled, with an interactive exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.
Hot on its heels in May is the delightful Imaginate Festival. An international festival of performing arts for children and young people, its ambitious annual programme presents the finest selection of shows from Scotland and across the world.
Film fans can rejoice come June, when the Edinburgh International Film Festival rolls into town. On the scene since 1947, it continues to marry the popular with the obscure.
The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival shimmies into town in July with music to suit any mood; expect everything from bop and boogie-woogie to blues-rock, samba, soul and swing.
Come October, be sure you’re sitting comfortably for the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, which features performances, workshops and talks from tellers across the globe, while the calendar rounds off in fabulous style with the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations: a torchlit parade, live music and, of course, the fireworks.