There is a popular misconception about the Edinburgh Festival – that it’s just one festival!
In fact, there are several festivals that run concurrently, and I’ll quickly go through some of them here.
Firstly, there is the eponymous, “Official Festival”. This tends to consist of pretty highbrow performances – Grand Opera; Ballet, Serious theatre and the like, and the tickets for this are usually pretty expesive (although it’s worth looking at their website ahead of time as there are often good deals to be had – often two tickets for the price of one!)
The official festival will usually have a theme of some sort, quite loosely connected, but there, nevertheless – one year it was the recent history of Eastern Europe (actually much more exciting than it sounds!). Another year saw the history and experience of Afrigan emigrants as a connecting thread.
There is usually a visual art element as well, with three galleries in the centre of the city hosting t major exhibitions – often a major retrospective of a reknowned artist in the Royal Academy, a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century art in the National Gallery, and an exhibition of modern art in the Dean Gallery. There are, of course, many other galleries exhibiting classical and contemporary art, and an overview of these can be found in a free guide to art at the festival which is available.
So much for the festival proper – we now move on to the glorious chaos (and the real reason for the festival’s fame – and noteriety) the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The fringe is a unique parallel festival that combines professional performers with students and amateurs, putting on thousands of shows at multiple locations over the city. I’ve been to show on boats, in gardens, in railway stations, in garages and, of course, in theatres! There is a big comedy element, with most well-known and up and coming comedians making a beeline for Scotland’s capital.
There are theatre shows – some classic, some contemporary, and many first-runs. Some of the shows are quite expensive, but most are very cheap – and once again it’s possible to book ahead and get good value! And some shows are even free!
Of course, with so many performers and shows, it’s a bit of a mixed bag – and I have seen some really terrible shows, but the lottery element is half the fun!
The two festivals run at about same time as each other, although there is no real connection between them (you can’t buy fringe tickets at festival outlets, for example). The fesval usually starts in the first week of august, and runs for five weeks, although things are pretty much wrapping up by the first week in September.
One final thing – remember this is scotland, so you’ll have to bring an umbrealla as well as your sunglasses!