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Michael Coveney: Don't Rain on My parade

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The International Festival opens tonight with John Adams's El Nino in the Usher Hall, which at last has been tidied up around the spanking new foyer, though that addition looks like a plastic carbuncle on the outside.

The really quite pleasant summer showers gave way yesterday to a serious and persistent Auld Reekie monsoon around lunchtime as I moved myself across town from a hotel near the Lyceum to a flat hard by Arthur's Seat.

The grand red rock looks like a pride of sculpted lions as I look out of my new bedroom window and I'm getting itchy feet to go running round the top of the escarpment.

My exercise routine has been entirely used up this year, though, on scuttling around between venues, and dressing for the day is a challenge when the (usually reliable) BBC Weather site promises sunny intervals, heavy rain, light showers and grey slate cloudy skies all within the next 24 hours.

There's been the usual skirmishes between Fringe bosses and the International Festival, one journalist even suggesting the International Festival should pack its bags and leave town altogether.

Over a drink with Charlie Wood, one of the Underbelly directors, I expressed my fervent disgreement with this stupidity, reminding him that Beyond the Fringe was on the International Festival, and what about the concerts?

Charlie's a bright lad, but he astonished me by saying he agreed with the journalist on this. The concerts would soon peter out anyway, he suggested, and there was far more value in the encouragement of new talent on the Fringe.

I think both sides should respect the balance.You can't be a "fringe" unless there's main "official" festival. The International Festival, like the architecture and topography of the great city itself, is the bedrock on which the gaiety of all nations is released in the tumultuous excesses and imperfections of the fringe.

And how much of real value on the Fringe will be put into proper perspective by, say, the Opera de Lyon performing Porgy and Bess tomorrow night?

We shall see, and I shall report back to Charlie over dinner with a few friends after that momentous occasion.


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