The World's Largest Arts Festival?
More than half a million people planned their August holidays last year around a trip to Edinburgh. This year organisers of the 'world's largest arts festival' are expecting even more.
What is commonly seen as the singular 'Festival' is in reality six different events including the original, eponymous Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Military Tattoo , a Jazz Festival, Film Festival and Book Festival. Held over three weeks in late summer, the annual event spills out into every major - and not so major - theatre and concert space (including pubs, restaurants and plots of grass) in the city.
The annual event, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year, aims to bring together an international mix of cultural events for all while also promoting the Scottish arts and culture to international visitors. This is important as 20% of visitors are from overseas and 30% from areas in the UK outside Scotland.
The event has also proved vital for the local economy. Altogether , the six festivals generate £122m each year and sustain over 4,000 jobs in Scotland.
The most popular component of the six-headed event, the Festival Fringe, began by accident. In 1947, the first International Festival, attracted more performers than planned for. Eight theatre groups, who showed up uninvited, would not be deterred by lack of support or venue. They performed on the streets and on make-shift stages around the official sites and earned a reputation amongst press and audiences alike.
In 1955, the number of non-approved and supported groups had grown and, in order to co-ordinate their efforts, formed The Festival Fringe Society. Today, the Fringe, an eclectic mix of independent bodies, is by far the largest and most well-attended aspect of the three weeks. This year it comprises more than 10,000 performers in 1,278 shows (or an estimated 14,297 performances!)- from music to theatre, opera, dance, visual art, discussions and children's events.
The 1997 Fringe will be the launchpad for nearly 400 UK and world premieres, confirming the event's reputation as a breeding ground for new talent. On the theatre front, 59% of shows are premieres - many no doubt fuelled by the proviso that absolutely no subject is taboo. Other highlights of this year's schedule range from appearances by comedians Frank Skinner, David Baddiel, Jack Dee, and Jo Brand to transfers of successful London plays such as Mark Ravenhill's acclaimed Shopping and F***ing.
The real highlight of the schedule will be the penultimate Fringe Sunday (17 August) which brings together a cross-section of hundreds of performers for a full day (11am - 5pm) of festival entertainment. The free festivities, held in Holyrood Park beneath the imposing castle, are expected to draw 200,000 visitors.
The Fringe's more upmarket, illegitimate parent will itself stage some 200 performances of over 75 productions and concerts. Highlights of the 1997 International Festival include the San Francisco Ballet, the Kirov Orchestra and a new production of Measure for Measure from French Shakespearean director Stephane Braunschweig who will be directing for the first time in English.
For more information and a full programme of events, check out the following related sites:
Also, watch this space for live coverage from the festival later in the month. And remember, you can book tickets for all of the above events through our online ticket ordering service.