Every year in August, the Scottish capital plays host to the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Mela, Edinburgh Art Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. At its peak, more than 25,000 artists, entertainers and thinkers populate the city with over 1,000 shows per day.
The world’s biggest arts festival just keeps growing larger by the year. This year, the Edinburgh International and Fringe festivals, which started together for the first time since 1998, will bring together the best of both worlds.
This year the Edinburgh International Festival officially opened with the Harmonium Project – a free outdoor event that also marked the 50th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus. The project, created by 59 Productions, combined John Adams’s choral work Harmonium with a series of spectacular animations that were projected onto the outside of the venue —Usher Hall.
Other musical highlights over the weekend at the Usher Hall include the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles, and Celtic Dialogues with Jordi Savall, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. The Queens Hall series opens with the Nash Ensemble, whilst Rudolf Buchbinder begins his cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas at the Playfair Library Hall.
Fergus Linehan, Edinburgh International Festival Director said: “It is now time for the team at the Edinburgh International Festival to take a back seat and leave audiences in the hands of the thousands of extraordinary artists that are arriving in our city to light up our theatres and concert halls. Here's to the courage and generosity of all of all those up onstage and thank you from all of us in the shadows”.
Meanwhile, over the three weeks of the Fringe there will be more than 50,000 performances of 3,314 shows, most of which are billed as comedy. Chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Kath Mainland, said it was the largest, oldest, most renowned festival in the world.
“Every year we think we know what it’s going to deliver, but every year it surprises, delights, amazes and inspires. The Fringe is a festival like no other,” she said. “Completely open access – where artists don’t need to wait for an invitation, where anyone with a story to tell is welcome. Where there’s no curator, no vetting, no barriers; just incredible talent from almost 50 countries all over the world.”
Throughout the festival hundreds of awards will be handed out to acts from almost 50 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Russia and Finland. It has a reputation for giving new talent its big break, and Mainland said its importance could not be underestimated.
“It’s an incredibly important festival for Scotland, the UK and our performing artists. A vital platform to showcase the range and diversity of creative skills on offer,” she said. “It is a profoundly international marketplace which can have transformative effects on careers. It is an explosion of culture which can be life-changing for the audience. And lots and lots of fun.”