The cultural map of the UK, invariably centered upon London, is about to tilt northwards, as it does every year around this time, when all roads lead to the Athens of the north, Edinburgh. The annual orgy of theatre, music, opera, visual art, film and literature that is the Edinburgh Festival - or more accurately, the various individual festivals that between them make it up - offers everyone from aficionados to the merely curious an opportunity to take in an unrivalled breadth and depth of artistic activity.
The Festival Fringe alone - with, this year, some 666 fringe companies presenting 1,462 shows from 50 different countries - is the largest arts festival anywhere in the world. And the sheer concentration of arts and audience, in one of the Britain's most majestically beautiful cities, makes it the most scintillating place on the planet for the culturally inclined to see and be seen.
At once a shop window for artists to display their wares in and a market place for audiences to buy them from, Edinburgh is also both alternately exhilarating and overwhelming to be on either side of the equation. For artists, reputations are sometimes made but more often fortunes are lost by showcasing themselves here. For audiences, the promise of discovery is frequently tempered by disappointment at yet another wasted hour (and yet another wasted tenner or so for the ticket) at making the wrong choices. Though there's no automatic prescription to help you make the right decisions, these are some of my survival strategies through the obstacle course that Auld Reekie in August sometimes represents.
Planning, planning, planning....
Which is the fairest of them all?
To book or not to book?
Combatting Fringe fatigue
Overhyped & up here