Edinburgh: the best festival city in the world
Whether you quantify success in numbers of tickets sold or by critical acclaim, for serious festival-goers, Edinburgh in August remains the place to be
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (5–29 Aug) has long been a byword for innovation, daring, boldness and bravery as it lays on everything from kids entertainment, comedy, dance, theatre, music, cabaret, talks and magic in a city where almost every corner has something ‘Fringey’ going on. The stats tell a large part of the Fringe’s story all by themselves: in 2015 alone there were a mighty 50,459 performances of 3314 shows in 313 venues. Such a vast choice makes it an enormous challenge to get round even a sliver of the programme while keeping an eye on what’s hot (and what’s not), but taking a chance is a strong element of what makes the Fringe both enormous fun and truly unique.
While some Fringe tickets will be on sale from early 2016, the Edinburgh International Festival (5–29 Aug) are speedily off the blocks once again with information about their 2016 schedule being released while the embers were still dying from the 2015 event. It’s already been announced that opera superstar Cecilia Bartoli heads up the cast for a new staging of Bellini’s Norma. Other announced highlights include a showing of Mark Cousins’ documentary, Atomic, with its soundtrack performed live by Mogwai; a project provisionally titled Flit features members of Portishead, the Unthanks, Mogwai and Lau; and the BBC SSO, Edinburgh Festival Chorus and Donald Runnicles present Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder.
A genuine August bestseller comes in the form of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (5–27 Aug). A truly invigorating event for all the senses, its music, costumes and firework displays make this a proud staple of the festival calendar. The 2016 event marks the Queen’s 90th birthday while Tunes of Glory features the Massed Pipes and Drums with representatives coming from the likes of Norway, New Zealand and Jordan. As well as the 220,000 people who attend each year, the Tattoo attracts a TV audience of around 100 million.
For visual art buffs, the Edinburgh Art Festival (28 Jul–28 Aug) has been showcasing work from Scottish and global painters, photographers, sculptors and proponents of multimedia since 2004. Keep an eye on announcements of the big summer shows at the likes of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Fruitmarket Gallery as they are likely to be embraced as part of the EAF. Beyond the exhibitions, there should be performances, screenings, artist talks and guided tours to fill out an already packed programme.