Yay! It’s The #Edinburgh International #Festival!

ccnancyjardineThis post is by Nancy Jardine.

August is that time of year in Edinburgh, Scotland, when there’s a flurry of panic over how to get to the city and where to stay. All I can say, as a Scot, is that if you’re not there already in the city of Edinburgh by the beginning of the International Festival then you’re going to be travelling a long way to get into the city events, or you’ll be trying to find an unoccupied park bench to rest your head.

Edinburgh’s a city which hosts many festivals throughout the year. The International Festival of Arts and Drama is just one of a plethora of cultural spectaculars, though along with the Festival Fringe,  it’s quoted as being the largest gathering of performing artistes in the whole world during a fixed time period of around three weeks. http://www.edinburghfestivalcity.com/#festivals

Last year, I attended the Edinburgh Book Festival because one of my novels was being showcased in the ‘Festival Bookshop’. Since I did a day trip from my home for that, roughly a 300 mile return journey, I saw nothing of the major International Festival, except to say that the city was extremely crowded with tourists.

This year the Edinburgh International Festival runs from the 7th to the 31st August, the Fringe Festival running concurrently, and there’s every kind of imaginable artistic endeavour happening somewhere around the city. Image1

So what are these events all about and why do they happen?

The main International Festival is older than I am, having started in 1947. 1947 was a time when the world was still ploughing its way out of the effects of World War II. Life wasn’t yet ‘normal’ but many entrepreneurs were attempting to revive a spirit of enjoyment of world culture, regardless of where the performers came from. The first Edinburgh Festival of 1947 was a pioneering attempt to invite the world’s best artistes to come at the same time and entertain at different venues in Edinburgh. Please note that word ‘invite’ because it’s still the case today: the artistes performing at the main International Festival come by invitation from the Festival Director. In 1947, the festival was mainly focused on classical music but that quickly branched out the following year to include different types of performances.

Why was Edinburgh chosen as the host city for this long running festival? Rudolf Bing, a general manager of the Glyndebourne Opera house in England had been working towards setting up a festival idea since the later war years, around 1944. Performances of music and the dramatic arts had continued as much as was possible during the war years, having been seen as a boost to the spirits of the general populace and likewise army personnel, but theatre venues in some British cities had taken a toll of bombing.

Bing, and the other early organisers of the International Festival, considered a number of UK venues. Their criteria for a successful location included:

  • having sufficient music halls or theatres still operating;
  • a city large enough with the ability to create enough infrastructure to host a large influx of visitor/ tourist attendees (hotels, restaurants etc);
  • a city whose council would positively assist with the general environmental needs for such an undertaking;
  • a city whose indigenous population would also support the performances;
  • a city whose wider locale would draw multiple attraction for the international tourist.

Edinburgh fit the bill!

Dscn5608Not only did Edinburgh fit the bill in 1947, it actually had a history of hosting Performing Arts Festivals of high calibre in its past. Though the theatres and other venues which are used in Edinburgh aren’t large compared to other locations world-wide, even back in 1947 they were considered suitable to hold an appropriately sized audience. Nowadays every possible public building is jam packed, including the streets where street performers line them like highly attractive confetti.

Those initial performances of the 1947 International programme were chosen and invited by Bing and his committee, but not all of the artistes who wished to come got those invitations. Audacity or not, some performing companies made their way to Edinburgh anyway and sought unoccupied venues to perform in. Thus began the Edinburgh Festival Fringe- i.e. those performances on the Fringes of the Festival. The director of the International Festival during those early years, and the City council, may have been a trifle horrified by this ‘secondary’ attempt to gain audiences who provided competition in ticket buying but it seems that the performers themselves were less threatened since it is, in part, due to their ‘laissez-faire/free spirit’ attitude which has made the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival famous throughout the world. https://www.edfringe.com/about-us

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

One of the Edinburgh Festivals I’d like to experience would be the SISF – the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October. Performers at these events are to be admired because I think that writing a story on paper and the oral telling of a story require entirely different skills. I’ve never felt particularly comfortable at doing the latter, totally off the cuff! http://www.edinburghfestivalcity.com/festivals/scottish-international-storytelling-festival

So, writing for the Edinburgh Festivals takes many forms—every artiste needs some form of script planning; publicity and marketing is ginormous; advertising budgets very from the tiny to the extortionate. Some of those authors and script writers are very happy, I’m sure, when the venue of their artistes is filled to the gunnels!

Have you ever been to the Edinburgh International Fesitval, or one of the other Edinburgh Festivals during the year? What would you enjoy the most?

Have fun this weekend, whatever you may be doing!

Nancy Jardine writes: historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series); contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes-finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014); & time-travel historical adventures for Teen/ YA readers (Rubidium Time -Travel Series –Book 1 The Taexali Game).

My Crooked Cat books are all on #sale at 99p/ $1.56 till 15th August. That last day is today as this post is published… PhotoFunia-1439414309Amazon


The Taexali Game


Find Nancy at the following places
Blog  Website  Amazon UK author page Facebook Goodreads Twitter @nansjar & Many other places as Nancy Jardine


26 thoughts on “Yay! It’s The #Edinburgh International #Festival!

  1. My hometown, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is also host to a Fringe Festival. It’s one of the largest in the world outside of Edinburgh (I believe it’s happening now). The city is known as the festival capital of Canada, and has many festivals going on all year. I just wish there was a book festival. I’d be there every year!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Jay. The idea of a city hosting a number of concurrent festivals sounds like good marketing nowadays- so long as there aren’t too many things in competition with each other, yet still with plenty of variety to suit all tastes. Edmonton came up on my google search for the Ed Fringe Festival.


      1. It seems to be working for Edmonton. They’ve been listed as one of the hot summer destinations by National Geographic. Although I haven’t been to the majority of the festivals, I would love to go to the Heritage Festival (cultural festival showcasing all the cultures represented in the city, including food) and a Taste of Edmonton (a food festival where restaurants get to share their best food). Okay, so I like food.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Mike – the ticket prices are always the drawback. When I was a student in the 1970s, in Glasgow, a trip to an Edinburgh Festival event only happened after I’d been earning at my summer job for around 8 weeks. The main festival tickets were way beyond my earnings though, especially the Classical Music events & the Ballet. I’ve never been to Vegas but I’m getting the chance to see a bit of Vegas through your eyes!


  2. I’m not fond of crowds, unless I’m performing in front of them. Still the festivals sound like so much fun. On a side note, writing a book and preparing a storytelling are actually very similar, one is just a bit more condensed, and so much fun.
    Thanks for sharing the history and story of these festivals. Doris


    1. Hello Doris. Writing a book and completely oral storytelling (i.e. impromptu and unscripted) need a vibrant and energetic imagination. If the telling is a rehearsed story, then I guess that the more times you do it, the more fluent you become.


  3. Thanks for the information and great photos of the festival. The energy and vibe look like so much fun! I’d love to check out the Edinburgh Book Festival one day too. Love your posts, Nancy, and it’s fun to experience Scotland vicariously!


    1. Hi Sarah. I wish I was down there this year but instead I watch the late night TV updates… to make myself jealous about what I’ve missed!


    1. Stephanie- when I was teaching there were lessons where I’d start an oral story in class, prompting the kids to add to it as we created the story. Sometimes it worked really well and at others if the kids came to a natural ‘dead end’ I had trouble picking up and continuing myself. It was fun when the enthusiasm continued- some judicious crowd contrrol needed with the pushier 12 year olds! 🙂 But doing it completely on my own was something I found a big challenge.


    1. You’ve been busy lately , Abbie and probably need that indoor time. Fortunately it never gets really hot ( aka your 100 plus) in Edinburgh so wandering the streets is generally easy to do, and fun meandering in about the crowds.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, a big event, with lots of energy there I bet. I don’t enjoy crowds much either anymore but that sounds exciting. Thanks for sharing the info. Would love to visit Scotland.


    1. I enjoy wandering among the Edinburgh Festival crowds because there’s an atmosphere of happiness and excitement in the air. It’s great to watch the faces of the spectators at street entertaining events because, although the quality of the performers is generally excellent, the onlooker just doesn’t quite know what to expect and the WOW! factor in a tiny space that’s cleared for them is amazing to see, feel and hear!


  5. Nancy,
    I love festivals and I’d love to go to one in Edinburgh one day. I would love to see the variety of the artists. How each one expresses themselves, especially if it’s something I would have never thought of. It’s a true expression of the wonder of creativity.
    Thank you for the post.
    – Stephen


  6. I always enjoy your glimpses into Scotland and this was no exception. But I just want to observe that I love the word extortionate. I didn’t even know it was a word but I’m going to start using it.


    1. Ha! You make me want to reach for my dictionary, Joe. It’s not a particularly Scottish word although it was a popular one in my mother’s household when I was growing up. if you want a Scottish one for expensive as well, you might use ‘affa dear’. 😉


  7. I’d love to go to Scotland someday. This picture of Edinburg sounds wonderful. From my mother’s side, I’ve got some Scot-Irish in me… or so I’ve been told. Hollywood has a Fringe festival, but it is very small compared to Edinburg.


    1. Travis- the the idea of Hollywood having a ‘smaller’ Fringe Fest than Edinburgh is almost mind bloggling since US Festivals are generally huge compared to ours.


  8. I’m not much of a festival-goer because most are held in places far away from where I live. I have been to a Highland Game or two in years past and enjoyed those, but again, they were on a small scale. Sometimes living in a rural area has drawbacks, but then again, I’m becoming more and more of a hermit and enjoy the solace of the woods more than the busyness of big cities. Enjoy the festival, Nancy, and thanks for the education about so many wonderful Scottish things!


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