Edinburgh has been awarded an eclectic range of titles over the years, ranging from the Athens of the North to the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, not to mention that it’s commonly thought to be one of the world’s most haunted cities. But a title that perhaps draws more than your average ghost buster or book worm to Edinburgh is its status as the world’s leading festival city.
In 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival was established among post-war society to project the city as ‘the cultural resort of Europe’, as claimed by Sir John Falconer, the Lord Provost at the time. The founders envisaged a global cultural event to unite people after years of conflict. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe developed that same year out of theatre companies who longed to perform but were not invited. To this day, the Fringe’s founding principles of an open-access festival for any willing performer remain. Also established in 1947 was the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the world’s longest continually running film festival to date.
Enough of the history for now. Each year, Edinburgh plays host to over 25,000 performers across more than 3000 events attended by 4.5 million people from 70 countries worldwide. And there is absolutely something for everybody. Here is a rundown of the festivals taking place this year.
The fun kicks off in mid-May with the Edinburgh International Magic Festival – the UK’s largest magic festival in the form of 80 different events across the city, from mind reading to magic school. This year Harry Potter fans can delight in a Wizard World Gathering to bring their favourite fantasy world to life.
The Edinburgh International Children’s Festival begins in late May and provides entertainment for both the young and the young-at-heart. Some of the world’s best theatre, dance, puppetry and even multi-media performances can be enjoyed in 10 venues across the city.
Whether you’re a boogie-woogie buff or swing’s more your thing, come and discover some of the industry’s finest talent among the Spiegeltents, carnivals and intimate jazz bars that make up the Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival, running for two weeks in mid-July.
In August, marvel at the world’s finest music, theatre, opera and dance at the Edinburgh International Festival. It is a thrilling three-week period of unique collaborations, premiers, exciting takes on old classics and critically acclaimed productions.
Be sure to also see something at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Hundreds of stages host thousands of performers in a dynamic, open-access variety show that includes comedy, musicals, circus and children’s shows to name but a few. Enjoy some of the leading names in entertainment or delight in finding new, unknown talents.
Edinburgh’s New Town plays host to the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, with over 800 events including author appearances, lively debates and book signings. Nobel Prize-winners take stage alongside newcomers, giving everyone in this industry a voice. There is a specially dedicated programme for children and young adults.
And that’s not all there is on offer. Discover new cinematic talent at the Edinburgh International Film Festival; take a trip to the seaside town of North Berwick to discover Fringe By The Sea; and watch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in the breathtaking backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Did somebody say FREE?
Most shows at the festivals above are pre-paid and ticketed. However, be sure to also check out The Free Festival and PHS’s Free Fringe. Both were established to support performers by enabling them to participate in the Festival without the cost of hiring a venue, therefore promoting lots of new talent every year. The audience can choose to support the performer through a voluntary donation at the end of the show. It’s also worth noting that aside from all the performances on stage, hundreds of artists take to the streets to display their talent. These acts are best caught along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.