Members' Reception 17 Apr:  Guildhall, Members' Dining Room
MMIW #17  Valuing Networks 18 Apr:  Zoom Meeting — Nanette Young
Click here for our rolling calendar or here for City events

A City en Fête!

How to get a big lift? Go to Edinburgh in August, the biggest arts festival in the world! The city is teeming and everyone has a smile on their face!


Auld Reekie Puts A Smile On Your Face!

How to get a big lift? Go to Edinburgh in August, the biggest arts festival in the world! The city is teeming and everyone has a smile on their face!

The richness of the Fringe is dazzling!  – 3,396 shows providing 53,232 performances in 300 venues last year. There is great talent in the UK and some top talent comes in for the Fringe from abroad.  Performances cover the range of performing arts – obviously comedy with many emerging talents. There is also drama (classical, modern, original writing), music of all sorts, dance, children’s theatre, foreign traditional theatre, spoken word and storytelling, and so on. We get in three or four events a day.

What has been memorable for me?  So many.  Peer Gynt done by a very experienced company with striking stage and costume design. The Familie Flöz from Germany, acting with caricature heads with great subtlety  (YouTube them!). An exceptional Medea using dance and spoken word by a student company.

I was able to tell Past Master Sir George Cox, Pro-Chancellor of Warwick University at the time, of one of the most memorable productions for me - a riveting performance of a Norwegian modern play by “his” Dramatic Society.

The cast of a play about a WWII Bomber crew

Simon Callow did a great one man show as Juvenal tearing into the egoistical rulers, ambitious young turks,  flamboyant  pretty young and not so young men, adulterers, intriguers and political schemers, voracious women and mild cuckolds, . Why did he dress in modern black tie? Ummm!

Alistair McGowan playing Satie, composer and performer.  As well as showing us the man through Satie’s words, McGowan played a number of pieces, very well. 

Many well-known names perform and they can be amazingly accessible – it is part of the unbuttoned feel of it all. Paxman sitting in the Pleasance courtyard, constatntly  looking up as people approached, expected to be greeted!  Henry Blofeld stopping to have a word in the Student Union centre.  I bumped into Simon C. himself.

Hardly any venues are theatres as such. Often they are simply large rooms, not necessarily with banked seating or raised stages. Proscenium Arch - what’s that? Productions run nose to tail. So as one stands outside the venue planning a quick coffee the actors are there as well, still in costume, talking over the performance or making plans. It’s a pleasure to congratulate them and they like to talk about it.  

One develops favourites. One of mine is a classical guitarist, Jonathan Prag. He performs in St Columba’s Church By The Castle with a café on a little beautifully kept terrace with a special view.

Coffee on the Terrace of St Columba's By The Castle...

Serendipity plays a huge part. A most memorable moment was popping into a café, and finding an excellent singer-guitarist – reminiscent of early Dylan. He was working for customers' contributions. He did indeed oblige me with a Dylan request.

A random performance...

I must mention the International Festival. This is high end, often in the large theatres and halls. There is a fine concert programme, though last year I saw the most wonderful performance of Krapp’s Last Tape. The Beckett estate have to sanction any performances and the director (Michael Colgan of Ireland) and actor (Australian Barry McGovern) are renowned Beckett-ists. One despised, pitied, and ached for Krapp and his efforts to revise his empty life, so intense was the performance with its sparse words.

Come to our show...

Almost all the venues are within walking distance; one or two need a ride on the excellent bus service. The hub is the Royal Mile, with constant performance activity. Wonderful street entertainers.  Musicians are busking – the best of them giving a demo of their show.  The Fringe

organisers put up small stages in the middle of the Royal Mile and performing groups book time slots to do a quick sample.  This one was the best Entertainer I've seen!

To get some time out of the melee the established cultural centres provide quiet distraction.  The Scottish National Gallery on Princes Street lays special exhibitions – in 2016 it was about Daubigny, the pathfinder for the Impressionists, including paintings which showed his influence on their work. Holyrood House last year had exhibited photographs by Roger Fenton from the Crimean war - the first time photography had been used in battle zones.

Time off in the Old Town...

And all the sights of Edinburgh, perhaps the best European city (outside London)!! Lots of interesting places to eat. Fascinating little shops – there is a fine second-hand bookshop on Victoria Street and one near Blackwell’s. On Canongate near the striking Scottish Parliament building I found a very well run shop of old records.

Victoria Street, by my fusty old 

Some Fringe shows are already listed and booking. The big Fringe catalogue will be published in April. Most events have good availability of tickets. Booking is through a single Fringe facility and is a minor miracle. They must distribute something like 150,000 tickets through a number of outlets around the city and it all works perfectly booking on-line or at a ticket office.

Many of the tickets we buy are just a day or two in advance. Sometimes we purchase on the day. The big name comics can sell out maybe a week or more ahead though not always. We got seats for Paul Merton’s improv. show booking just a day or two ahead – he takes one of the bigger venues. Some regular companies have built up a name and sell all their tickets. One such that we visit does a spoof on a Shakespeare play each year: “Shakespeare for Breakfast”!

Not sure what this is - but it was intense!

The websites are below.

We are going again this year with friends. We’ve no idea yet what we will see but we know it will be stimulating, packed and entertaining!  Where else can you go for such infectious joie de vivre?




Edward Sankey,  Past Master  Some shows already on display. You can get the big catalogue.  Programme published in the evening of 14 March.