Edinburgh Festival Comes To An End For Another Year

The huge fireworks display on Sunday night marked the end of another Edinburgh Festival, a time of nostalgia but also one of relief as the city returned to its more manageable self. Some have claimed that this year’s festivities haven’t lived up to the reputation built from previous years with only a handful of questionably brilliant performances. Regardless of whether or not you felt that Edinburgh’s August 2010 was a let down, it cannot be denied that Edinburgh remains the world’s biggest Arts Festival and a vibrant place to view a collection of performances where celebrities and outsiders can perform side by side.

Lots of hype and drama have surrounded this year’s festival, in particular the Foster’s Comedy Award where newcomer and favourite Bo Burnham (who turned twenty during August) lost out to Russell Kane for the Best Comedy award. It was also coincidently the first time that two women have been nominated for the award with Josie Long and Sarah Millican also losing out to Kane. In the Best Newcomer award it was the first time that one of the Laughing Horse’s Free Fringe shows has been nominated for an award with ‘An Audience with Imran Yusuf’ losing out to Roisin Conaty.

In Theatre, Daniel Kitson’s latest story show ‘It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later’ has created quite a stir as has Frantic Assembly’s ‘Beautiful Burnout’ whilst ‘Gospel at Colonus’ received rave reviews at the International Festival.

All in all it has been a highly successful Festival with sales at the box office exceeding £2.67 million, 3 percent higher than last year with almost 1.95 million tickets sold for over 40,000 performances. As the Festival continues to grow, we as an audience sit twiddling our thumbs for 11 months of the year as we eagerly await what the following year will through at us.

Edinburgh Festival Preview

The Edinburgh Festival officially kicked off this weekend with the Jazz and Blues Festival opening the month’s festivities. On Saturday the city was made witness to a jamboree parade entitled Clandemonium where people of all ages and musical abilities joined together on a march around the streets of Edinburgh making mishmash musical ballads as arranged by drummer Tom Bancroft. This was followed by the return of the Mardi Gras featuring 4 performance areas showcasing a variety of jazz, blues and samba acts. Sunday was host to the Jazz Al Fresco down in the Grassmarket, a quaint setting for light afternoon music with its cobbled streets set against the backdrop of the castle where three stages were erected and chairs had been placed around the surrounding pubs and restaurants. A very relaxed atmosphere; it was sadly hindered by the arrival of rain, a factor which is sadly somewhat inevitable in this part of the world.

As of next weekend the Festival starts properly following a preview week where many shows can be seen at a reduced price to what they will be during the main festival period. With the thousands of shows spanning hundreds of venues there is a plethora of things to see and do. By no means do I have any idea of what will be good but there are a few things which I have read and seen here and there which look as though they could be quite interesting and different:

On Friday August 13th an underground group called Subtlemob are inviting people to go to a secret location with a music player after downloading a personalised mp3 from here, giving them the necessary instructions to partake in a mass slow dance where the only advice given at the moment is to “try to remain invisible”.

On Saturday August 7th the Confraternity of Neoflagellants as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival Expo Commission are organising a zombie walk starting at the Scott Monument at 11pm which is free and anyone can partake in.

Turner Prize winner Martin Creed is presenting his Ballet Work No. 1020 at the Traverse Theatre which features five dancers accompanied by a live band including Creed himself which is said to be “funny and thoughtful”. He also has an exhibition running at the Fruitmarket Gallery which is running until October 31st and features his transformation of the gallery’s staircase into a giant interactive synthesizer.

Sculptor Antony Gormley, best know for his Angel of the North sculpture has placed six cast iron figures moulded from his own naked body at various places along the Water of Leith as a social experiment to see the public’s reaction to this unusual artwork.

Returning this year is the Faulty Towers Dining Experience at the B’est Restaurant where improvised comedy in the style of the British program accompanies a three course meal complete with Basil, Sybil and Manuel.

A Midsummer Night’s Madness sees a hip-hop adaptation of the Shakespeare play performed by a selection of actor-musicians from Hackney and Harlem. This alternative take on a classic with its vibrant music, explosive dance, drama and comedy definitely looks promising.

For one performance only Guy Masterson is enacting his solo rendition of Animal Farm at the Assembly rooms on August 17th which has received significant praise and been called “simply unmissable”.

Musical cabaret group Varieté Velociped Sweden are presenting The Butterfly Effect at Augustine’s, a fully orchestrated musical experience involving everything from Brahms performed on a steel bicycle to songs played using wine glasses and skis.

The Edge Festival taking place at the end of August sees some big names in the pop/rock music world descending on Edinburgh, highlights including Beirut, Modest Mouse, Eels, The Low Anthem, Mark Lanegan and Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip.

As you can see I have only touched on some of the potentially great things taking place at this years festival not even considering any of the comedy, book festival or military tatoo among other categories. Either way I am very excited about the upcoming month and it is strange, Edinburgh feels as though it is transforming into a holiday destination where tourists and performers outweigh the local residents and where the general mood and feeling of the city has shifted but I am sure it is one for the better.