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aUtUMn/WintEr 2011 tHE oFFicial MaGaZinE oF tHE EdinBUrGH FEStiValS

festivals maga zine

SHoW and tEll Storytelling looks to the isles


Scream if you want to go faster Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: Primal Scream, the Loony Dook and more

cask force

Behind Scotland’s favourite tipple

ten a day Top activities to enjoy the season

festivals maga zine AUTUMN/WINTER 2011

Contents Director’s letter Top ten autumn and winter activities Show and tell Tak a cup o’ kindness yet Cask force Keep in touch The art of shopping Festival calendar Coming soon - Imaginate Festival Coming soon - Science Festival Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo Dance the night away

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We welcome all comments, questions, submissions and distribution enquiries. Please write to us at:

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festivals magazine

Objects of desire

Top Ten Autumn and Winter Activities

The wait is over for natural wonders of the world

Get out and about in Edinburgh’s cooler months


Show and Tell Island Odysseys at the Storytelling Festival


Festivals Galore

ready for a summer of festivals Tak a Cup O’GetKindness yet

All about Edinburgh’s Hogmanay


Cask Force See another side to Scotland’s biggest export

www.edin b urghfestiva l s. c o. u k


festivals magazine

director’s letter

director’s letter Letter from Festivals Edinburgh Director Faith Liddell


s long ago as the 1960s there was a sign welcoming drivers to “Edinburgh, the Festival City”. If it was true that Edinburgh was a festival city back then, how much more true is it today when scarcely a month goes by without another cultural celebration? Across the year, there are 12 major festivals in Edinburgh, which means visitors are in for a double treat. Not only is the Scottish capital one of the most outstandingly beautiful cities in Europe, but it has a vibrant programme of arts and events to match. In short, you’ll be spoilt for choice. On the one hand, you will want to visit the sites that form Edinburgh’s iconic skyline, such as the ancient Edinburgh Castle, the towering Arthur’s Seat and, in between, the historic cobbles and closes of the Old Town. On the other hand, you will also want to feel part of Scotland’s rich cultural heritage by joining in with the festival fun. Now the high-profile celebrations of the summer festivals have come to an end, Edinburgh barely pauses for breath before laying on yet more entertainment. First, in October, comes the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, a lively tribute to the magic of the spoken word. As you would expect, it includes many events for children and families, but crucially, this is a festival that believes stories have a hold over all of us, whatever our age, and there is plenty on offer for adult audiences.

With its watery theme inspired by the island cultures of Scotland and the Mediterranean, this is a ten-day festival driven by the power of the imagination. The craft of the storyteller goes deep into Scotland’s history and the festival is a chance to see first hand that the artform is alive and well. The affinity Scottish people have with Hogmanay, or New Year, also has a long history. In Scotland, the last day of the year is an occasion that has traditionally carried more weight than Christmas. That’s why Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has become the world’s greatest New Year party, a three-day programme of winter activities to see out the old and bring in the new. It is tremendous, good-natured fun, attracting revellers from all over the world. All this is in addition to the chance to enjoy Scottish food, drink and hospitality for yourself. Whether you’re exploring the world of malt whisky or discovering your family tartan, you’ll return home with many a story of your own. ‘I hope you enjoy reading this autumn/winter edition of the Edinburgh Festivals magazine and find many useful ideas and suggestions to enhance your time in Edinburgh.

We hope that this version of our digital magazine will help to inspire you.


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autumn and winter activities


Discover Edinburgh’s green (or red!) spaces It’s surprisingly easy to get some fresh air in Edinburgh. For a gentle stroll, enjoying the changing autumn colours, you can wander the Meadows, Princes Street Gardens or the Royal Botanic Garden. For a more bracing winter walk, you can tackle Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill.


Wander The Enchanted Forest You don’t need to travel far outside of Edinburgh to get a taste of the Highlands. By the time you reach Pitlochry, 90 minutes north, you can already feel the mountains rising. Visit at night during October and you can experience the magic of the Enchanted Forest, a sound-and-light show that plays to audiences of some 25 000 people. Explorers’ Garden, Pitlochry, 7–29 October,

The weather might be getting cooler, but Edinburgh is still jam-packed full of great ‘must-do’ experiences.


Get spooked by the Ghosts and Ghouls Now the evenings are dark, the atmosphere is suitably spooky for a walking tour of Edinburgh’s creepier corners. The two-hour wander through chilling closes and underground vaults sets off twice an evening.


4 Talk the talk at the 4.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival

6 Hit the slopes with 4. your skis

8 Hiss and boo at Cinderella 4. If you are visiting from outside the UK and have never seen a pantomime, it is very hard to imagine quite how silly, spectacular and joyous this die-hard tradition is. The form is especially vibrant in Scotland, where actors such as Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott command a devoted following. Be prepared to hiss, boo and shout: “He’s behind you!” King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 3 December– 22 January,

If the snow hasn’t come down yet, you can head to Hillend on the outskirts of Edinburgh and enjoy a slalom on Britain’s longest artificial ski slope. ‘If you’re here in ski season, then you should head north to the slopes of Glencoe, the Nevis Range, Cairngorm, the Lecht and Glenshee.

Listen to the experts at spinning a line in this 10-day celebration of the oral tradition. This year’s theme is “An Island Odyssey” and takes you on an imaginative journey to the islands of Scotland and back to the great storytellers of Ancient Greece. 21–30 October,



Take a day trip to Glasgow Daytime trains from Waverley Station to Glasgow depart every 15 minutes and take less than an hour to get to the heart of the city. Once there you have the pick of city-centre shopping and a wide choice of art galleries and museums.


Settle in for some winter hospitality A glass of gluwein at the German Market will warm you up even on the coldest of days, but eventually you’ll want to come indoors for some famous Scottish hospitality. There is no shortage of atmospheric pubs in Edinburgh. Some, such as the Jolly Judge and Monteiths, are hidden up closes off the Royal Mile; others, such as Bannerman’s, feel like they’ve been quarried into the depths of the Cowgate; and some, such as Whigmams Wine Cellar on Charlotte Square, are so comfortable you’ll feel like you’re at home.

See how Edinburgh Sparkles The city keeps the Christmas shoppers diverted with a lively series of temporary attractions in Princes Street Gardens. Most visible is the big wheel that nestles alongside the Scott Monument, giving you a highlevel view of the city. There’s also a busy German market selling gifts, toys and speciality food. Then you can burn off the calories at an outdoor ice rink. Throughout December,

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Countdown to the bells at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Primal Scream will be making the biggest noise as they headline the Concert in the Gardens and usher in 2012, but there is plenty more to shout about at the world’s liveliest New Year party, from the tranquillity of the Torchlight Procession to the insanity of the Loony Dook. 30 December– 1 January,

© credit picture to Peter dibdin

show and tell The 2011 Scottish International Storytelling Festival is making the connection between Homer’s Odyssey, the Scottish islands and the shores of the Mediterranean. scottish international storytelling festival, 21–30 october, >>


If you’re looking for the Scottish Storytelling Centre, you’ll find it on the Royal Mile in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Over the road you’ll see the World’s End pub, so called because this is where Edinburgh’s world once ended. Take a note of the brass cobbles on the pavement; they indicate where the foundations of the Netherbow Port once stood. This gateway was part of the Flodden Wall, built to protect the city against possible English invasion, and was one of the main entrances to 16th-century Edinburgh. Beyond the Netherbow Port you were in a different world. For Donald Smith, this is of symbolic significance. As well as running the Scottish Storytelling Centre, he is artistic director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, an event that opens all kinds of gateways onto the world. “Storytelling is a wonderful gateway to culture,” he says. “The festival is a gateway into Scottish culture and storytelling is a gateway into international traditions. Also, the Edinburgh festivals are a gateway between Scotland and the rest of the world.”

In this way, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival can be your gateway into Scotland. It takes place not only here in the Scottish Storytelling Centre, in a building that adjoins the medieval John Knox House, but at several venues in Edinburgh and, indeed, right across Scotland. “We’ve expanded the Edinburgh footprint, but we’ve also expanded the festival on tour, so people are going out to perform on Iona, Orkney, Lewis and so on,” he says. The theme of this year’s ten-day festival is “An Island Odyssey: Scotland and Old Europe,” a title ripe with potential. It gives Smith the opportunity to ask Scottish storytellers to air some of this country’s many sea-based stories, to invite Mediterranean storytellers to introduce us to their island stories and then to venture back 2800 years to Homer’s Odyssey, one of the greatest stories of them all. “It’s a big rich theme,” he says. “Two things contributed to it. One relates to the unique combination of Scottish and international

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strands that the festival has – we’re interested in the flowering of Scottish culture and its international connections. The other is that this is Scotland’s Year of Islands and it just so happens we have fantastic storytellers in most of our island communities. So we put those things together: the cross-European theme and the richness of Scotland’s island themes.” Focusing on the art of the traditional storyteller, sometimes with musical accompaniment, the festival is making the connection between Scottish and Mediterranean cultures that you would normally regard as being very different. Represented in the programme are 14 Scottish islands and seven European islands. Expect the Scottish contingent to share tales of pirates, fishermen and selkies (mysterious creatures that shed their seal skins to become human). Their counterparts from Cyprus, Crete, Sardinia and Greece will be remembering the ancient gods, heroes and monsters from their own culture, not to mention the story of the original Olympic Games.

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“The storytelling tradition goes back to the Odyssey, so there’s 2800 years in Europe alone,” says Smith. “We are also interested in the relationships between the storytelling, the music, the song and the dance traditions, which is actually quite a big theme in the Odyssey. With many of our international partners this year, you’ll quite often see there’s a storyteller and a musician coming, and in some cases, the Greeks in particular, we’ve got dance as well. The inter-relationship between these different forms is something we’re also exploring in Scotland.” As for the Odyssey, this great epic poem is being performed in instalments throughout the festival by guest storytellers who will also talk about the culture of their own homelands. This is all a taster for 29 October when, in one marathon afternoon and evening session, the whole story about the Greek hero Odysseus and the fall of Troy will be told.

© credit picture to Peter Dibdin

“What the Odyssey embraces in terms of folk tales and the epic dimension of storytelling is worthy of celebrating,” says Smith. “Storytelling as an art is one of the Odyssey’s key subjects.

It features in all sorts of ways; accompanied by music, not accompanied by music, involving dance, involving formal bardic traditions, involving somebody getting up to tell their own experience. The event on 29 October is a unique oral telling of the whole Odyssey story – I don’t know if that’s ever happened before.” You will be struck by how grown-up all this sounds. There are also performances for children and families, including pre-school sessions in the National Museum of Scotland and a series of “meet the storyteller” events, but the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is very much an adult affair that takes the oral tradition as seriously as any other artform. In Scotland, it is arguably the oldest indigenous artform there is; everything else – theatre, opera, orchestras, literature – came later. Some of this year’s programme has been made possible by the establishment in 2009 of the Federation for European Storytelling (FEST), an indication of how this ancient craft is coming into the mainstream. Different countries are at different stages of development in terms of their

support for the artform, but there’s no question perspectives are changing. “There’s an incredible amount happening around the renaissance of storytelling all over the world,” says Smith. “There’s more acceptance and recognition. There’s a really dynamic set of relationships, partnerships and exchanges going on all round the world.” His own pioneering festival has helped kick-start this movement. To keep the tradition alive, the programme always includes several events in which participants can develop storytelling skills of their own – and this year is no exception. So it seems only appropriate that the 2011 festival should be his most expansive yet: “It is more creatively ambitious than anything we’ve done before, both in terms of the extent of the programme geographically and the way the island theme is developed and also the way the Odyssey theme runs though it.” As for your own journey through the festival, well, that’ll be another story.

Scottish International

Storytelling Festival 2011

An Island Odyssey:


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Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop launches the Festival on Incholm Island with Director Donald Smith.

© credit picture to Peter Dibdin

21 October – 30 October Box office: 0131 556 9579

© credit picture to Peter Dibdin

Scotland and Old Europe

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Tak a cup o’ kindness yet

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Tak a cup o’ kindness yet

festivals magazine

tak a cup o’ kindness yet In stunningly beautiful surrounds, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay takes centre stage. There’s hardly a city in the world that has the immediate impact of Edinburgh. For those who arrive for the first time in the city, especially by train, the Scottish capital is a stunning sight. There’s no question you know when you’ve arrived.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, 30 December 2011–1 January 2012, >>

www.edin b urghfestiva ls. c o. u k


festivals magazine

Tak a cup o’ kindness yet

Walk up the slope from Waverley Station and you are in the midst of beauty, natural and manmade. Ahead of you is Princes Street Gardens with the spiky tower of the Scott Monument jutting out. To your right, the Georgian elegance of the New Town and to your left, a looming volcanic rock capped by Edinburgh Castle and defined by the medieval layout of the Old Town. Turn around and you have a view of Arthur’s Seat, the city’s own 832-foot mountain. It’s breathtaking. Within your first minutes, you will have a sense of what makes this place so very special. Already, you will start to understand how the topography

and architecture are what distinguishes Edinburgh as a natural festival city. Whatever event you’re in town for, it’s simply a fantastic place to be. This is never more true than during Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, the annual three-day celebration to welcome in the New Year. It is a festival characterised not only by the great bands that play at the Street Party, not only by the camaraderie of your fellow revellers and not only by the programme of daytime entertainment. It is also characterised by the atmospheric beauty of Edinburgh in winter, a place that has inspired everyone from 18th-century Enlightenment

thinkers to modern-day novelists, such as Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. “This is the one time of year that the city itself is the theatre,” says Pete Irvine, the artistic director of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. “Most of our events are in darkness so we light them. That light and fire gives the whole thing its extraordinary warmth.” He’s thinking of an event such as the Torchlight Procession, which kicks off proceedings on 30 December. Thousands of visitors and ordinary members of the public gather on the Royal Mile.

Tak a cup o’ kindness yet

Once there, the torches get thrown in a bonfire and a blast of fireworks lets the city know Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has begun. “The Torchlight Procession is a big family launch with a son et lumière,” says Irvine, loving the heartwarming atmosphere it creates. Edinburgh is very keen on its fireworks and there’s another even more spectacular display at the stroke of midnight on 31 December when the city erupts from every direction. This is a festival no one can ignore. These fireworks come at the height of the biggest – and happiest – party you’ve ever seen. Traffic is diverted from the city centre, allowing revellers to fill the streets and enjoy a night of good-natured entertainment. There are live music stages catering to all tastes from indie to folk, giant screens keeping you apprised of what’s going on, a mass ceilidh dancing event known as the Keilidh and a general atmosphere of peace and good will.

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For Edinburgh’s Hogmanay they will be doing that for one last time, marching through dance-rock classics such as Movin’ On Up, Loaded and Come Together as the midnight bells approach. Then, to get 2012 off to an unbeatable start, they’ll be running through three decades’ worth of greatest hits. “It will be a brilliant end to the best year we have ever had,” says Gillespie. In normal circumstances, that would be enough for anyone, but Edinburgh takes its partying seriously and there’s more to follow on New Year’s Day. As well as an ambitious large-scale event funded by the Scottish Government’s Expo fund and linked to the cultural programme surrounding the London 2012 Olympic Games, there will be old favourites such as the Loony Dook in which hardy souls take to the water at South Queensferry in the shadow of the Forth Road Bridge for the first chilly swim of the year.

“The Street Party has an incredibly high safety record,” says Irvine, who has been in charge of the event since its inception in 1993/94. “It’s a truly amazing thing. Everyone’s on the same side, everyone is there to celebrate the turning of one year into the next and everyone is in a good mood. They become quite euphoric.”

Oddly enough, none of this would have happened without the Presbyterian church. In its early days, the Calvinist authorities discouraged people from celebrating Christmas which they associated with Catholicism. It meant that until as recently as 1958 in Scotland, 25 December was a normal working day. The knock-on effect was that people were only too ready to have a bit of a party once Hogmanay came around.

While all that is going on, ticket holders for the Concert in the Gardens will be rocking out to Primal Scream. It is 20 years since Bobby Gillespie’s band released Screamadelica, an album they have been playing in its entirety on their anniversary tour this year.

The tradition grew up of going from house to house first-footing your neighbours in a spirit of hospitality that survives to this day. In rural areas, especially, the celebrations can last for several nights. Things are a little different in the city, but the custom of

good neighbourliness persists. In 1993, the City of Edinburgh Council decided to formalise the celebrations that would take place spontaneously on the streets, notably around the Tron Kirk on the High Street, and so Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as we know it today was born. “We call ourselves the home of Hogmanay,” says Irvine. “What people come for is the music, the tradition, the fact it’s on a really big scale and it’s Scots being their most hospitable. People used to go first-footing and visit their friends in the town, leaving their door open. Now people don’t do that, but in Edinburgh we welcome the world.” www.edin b urghfestiva ls. c o. u k


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Cask foRCe

cask force in scotland, whisky is a £6.4bn industry: the scotch malt Whisky society is one of the classiest ways of finding out why.

if you take a seat in the airy georgian lounge of the scotch malt Whisky society, you may think you’re seeing double. on first view, every bottle on the wall behind the bar looks the same. take a closer look, however, and you’ll realise that although the designs do not vary, the writing does.

for a first timer, the choice is staggering; bottles come from over 120 distilleries with new supplies arriving by the month. fortunately, the staff can advise you on your selection, drawing on the observations of a dedicated tasting panel, or offer you a malt of the moment.

each bottle is printed with a different number and that is the only clue about what you are drinking. this is because the society, which has an international membership, specialises in selling cask-strength malt whisky that comes direct from the distillery. it means the quality is very good, but the flavour is not exactly the same as the bottles you see elsewhere. in fact, it changes from cask to cask. because of this variation, the distillers prefer to remain a little more anonymous.

to make the most of this, you need to become a member of the society- or come as the guest of someone who is! learn more about scotland’s whisky heritage at

28 Queen street, edinburgh; the vaults, 87 giles street, leith; 19 greville street, london. >>


keep in touch Ensure you are on the front line for festival info,offers and deals!

festivals magazine

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 5–29 August >>

There was a time when you were lucky to get a postcard from your friends when they went on holiday. Now, in the digital age when channels of communication are always open, you notice if you haven’t heard from them for more than a couple of hours. We’ve all got used to staying in the loop and the Edinburgh Festivals are no exception. If you want to keep abreast with the latest news from the Scottish capital, whether you’re out and about with your mobile or at home with your computer, here are the best ways to do it: Facebook If you’re on the social networking site, go to and click “like”. You’ll be one of who choose to stay up to date with what’s happening in the Festival City.

Twitter For handy reminders of festival launches, key events, competitions and more, follow While you’re at it, you might also like to follow where festival-goers share their suggestions for making the festivals even better.

YouTube To get you in the mood for your visit or to remind you of the great times you had, check out... Here you’ll find videos explaining the history of Edinburgh’s Festivals and picking out highlights of the 12 major festivals through the year. www.edin b urghfestiva ls. c o. u k


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the aRt of shoPPing

THE ART of shopping

If you are visiting Edinburgh this autumn or winter, try a spot of Christmas shopping to give your gifts a distinctively Scottish flavour. Edinburgh is known for its diverse and unique opportunities to shop, and in the winter season it really comes into its own. Anyone looking for tartan and shortbread need look no further than the city-centre tourist shops, but for those in a more adventurous mood, there are many shops specialising in the best of 21st-century Scotland close at hand. A good starting point are the gift shops connected with the National Galleries and the Royal Museum of Scotland. As well as stocking books, posters and souvenirs related to the current exhibitions, these all sell contemporary crafts, locally made jewellery and some original clothing. If that puts you in an arty frame of mind, you should spend time in the commercial galleries in the New Town where you’ll find painting, prints and sculpture by established and up-and-coming artists.


WW W.e d i n b U R g hfe s ti val s. C o. U k

For a literal taste of Scotland, you could try the food department of Jenners department store on Princes Street for local specialities and maybe a hamper. Alternatively, you could check out the artisan cheeses in IJ Mellis Cheesemonger on Victoria Street or the range of single malts around the corner in Royal Mile Whiskies. The boutique shops of George Street are where you’ll find up-market clothes and jewellery. If you need a present for a music lover, there’s a great selection of Scottish folk recordings in Coda Music on the Mound. Meanwhile in the Grassmarket, you’ll find the best of local indie bands in Avalanche (tag line: “supporting Scottish music”). Whatever your desire, from authentic Scottish treats to Edinburgh’s hippest boutiques, Scotland’s first city has something for everyone.

traditional german Christmas markets 26 nov – 05 Jan 2012 >>

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festival CalendaR

festival CalendaR Edinburgh is the world’s festival city, and there is always something happening around every corner.


EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL STORYTELLING FESTIVAL a proud upholder of the oral tradition, this festival proves everyone loves a good yarn. there are events for all ages, offering not only the chance to listen to master storytellers, but also to learn their narration skills for yourself. 21–30 October 2011


EDINBURGH’S HOGMANAY You think you’ve been to some big parties, but you haven’t seen anything until you see the crowds thronging edinburgh city centre to welcome the new Year. in the days on either side, there are family events including a torchlight procession up Calton hill and the annual loony dook in which foolhardy members of the public jump in the water at south Queensferry. 30 December–1 January 2011/12


WW W.e d i n b U R g hfe s ti val s. C o. U k





europe’s largest celebration of science and technology is an opportunity to catch up with the latest inventions, innovations and big ideas. With everything from hands-on experiments for children to eye-opening talks for grown-ups, it’s a splendid invention in its own right.

We can agree that children deserve to see as good theatre as their parents see. at this festival, however, they see theatre that’s even better. showcasing international and scottish performances, it presents only the best for toddlers, tots and teens.

30 March–15 April 2012

7–14 May 212


EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is it a programme about the far east or a programme taking place in the far west? that’s the teaser posed by this year’s line-up of world-class international orchestras, dance troupes, theatre ensembles and opera companies presenting work inspired by the vibrant cultures of the east. expect your centre of gravity to shift. 30 June–1 July 2012




edinburgh art festival is scotland’s largest annual festival of visual art, bringing together more than 40 museums, galleries and pop-up spaces across the city and beyond with internationally-renowned names exhibiting alongside the best emerging talent. the festival is accompanied by a programme of specially-commissioned artwork and a diverse events programme. 2 August–2 September 2012

EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE the world’s largest arts festival an all-consuming outpouring of creativity is completely open access. big-name comics, first time actors, established artists and theatre makers, cult cabaret stars, musical and dance spectaculars, intimate revues... if you can think of it, someone is almost certainly putting it on. 3–27 August 2012

EDINBURGH JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL Wriggling free of easy categorisation, this lively summer feast of music embraces all corners of the jazz and blues spectrum, from traditional to avant garde, with all manner of influences, be it folk, or pop, thrown in. there are events for connoisseurs and jazz novices, featuring world-class players and upand-coming stars of tomorrow.


EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAl Under canvas in the picturesque setting of Charlotte square gardens, hundreds of the world’s best authors gather to discuss ideas, inventions and inspirations. there are nobel Prize winners, stars of tomorrow (like Jk Rowling who appeared as an unknown name) and a library’s worth of authors in between. 11–27 August 2012


in a tented village on leith links to the north of the city centre, this multicultural gathering celebrates the mix of nationalities and races who live in the scottish capital. expect some of the biggest names in asian music, some of the tastiest food in world cuisine and some of the liveliest family entertainment you’ll find anywhere. 31 August–2 September 2012

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL is it a programme about the far east or a programme taking place in the far West? that’s the teaser posed by this year’s line-up of world-class orchestras, dance troupes, theatre ensembles and opera companies presenting work with an oriental theme. expect your centre of gravity to shift. 10 August–2 September

THE ROYAL EDINBURGH MILITARY TATTOO dramatic setting. spectacular entertainment. a television audience of millions. Playing every night in front of edinburgh Castle, the tattoo fields flag-wavers, motorcyclists, drill teams and massed bands in a breathtaking display. look out for the lone piper. 3–25 August 2012

28 July–6 August 2012 WWW.edin b URghfestiva ls. C o. Uk


Scottish International

Storytelling Festival 2011

An Island Odyssey: Scotland and Old Europe

co m ing so on

children’s theatre on a global stage

The Imaginate festival brings children’s theatre to life For the visitor, one of the pleasures of Edinburgh’s 12 festivals is the opportunity to encounter Scottish culture first hand. A visit to one of Edinburgh’s festivals is a must-do for any culture vulture, whether one is two or 92. What makes Edinburgh a unique cultural experience is that each of the 12 Edinburgh Festivals instinctively showcase the best of what the world has to offer. This is as true of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival as it is of the others. What is also true, however, is that this highquality children’s theatre festival is avowedly international in outlook. Like all the festivals, it rejects the parochial and embraces the big wide world. The 2012 line-up includes theatre and dance from Australia, England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. It is a testament to the quality of Scottish children’s theatre and the country’s award-winning companies that they can hold their own alongside the best the whole world has to offer. The festival’s governing principle is that children deserve to be entertained and engaged by live performance every bit as much as their parents and carers. This is no substitute babysitting service, but a programme of artistic excellence. Indeed, the imagination, openness and freedom of children’s theatre frequently produces shows superior to those that adult audiences get to see. Embracing puppetry, clowning, drama, music and dance, the festival neither shies away from contentious themes nor patronises the young audience. Pitched at a variety of age groups from toddler to teenager, the shows are carefully selected to stimulate, surprise and, above all, to give a good time.

Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival, 7–14 May, 2012. >>

www.edin b urghfestiva ls. c o. u k




coming soon

gift of the lab In April, the city gives itself over the the allure of Science.

You have only to look at the popularity of television programmes such as Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe and the wildlife documentaries of David Attenborough to realise how much people are fascinated by science. Whatever our memories of school laboratories, we never lose that childhood sense of awe at the complexity of the world around us. That’s why the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the largest of its kind in Europe, has strands aimed not only at children but also adults. For 21 years, it has taken its Generation Science programme out to Scottish schools in the months running up to the festival and, in this respect, 2012 will be no exception. It will also, however, be renewing its focus on the packed programme of lectures, demonstrations and discussions designed for an adult audience.

Bringing scientists out of the lab, the festival will pick apart the nuts and bolts of topics such as technology, music, sportsmanship, food, fashion and science fiction, things we tend to take for granted even though they have a profound effect on our everyday lives. Presenting the latest scientific findings in a variety of entertaining ways, the two-week event routinely features TV faces, Nobel Prize winners and leading experts in their fields. So while the kids are having a whale of a time in the City Art Centre discovering science can be fun, the grown-ups can be making their own discoveries in a head-spinning programme that touches on philosophy, ethics and the arts as well as the fundamental building blocks of life.

Edinburgh International Science Festival, 30 March–15 April, 2012. >>

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edinbURgh’s militaRY tattoo

on her majesty’s service

From December onwards, tickets are on sale for Scotland’s iconic Tattoo.

Royal edinburgh military tattoo, 3–25 august,; tickets available from december 1.



owever many times you’ve been to the theatre and however many fantastic set designs you’ve enjoyed, you will never have seen a backdrop to equal the one you get at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. As you sit in the purpose-built stand on the esplanade at the top of the Royal Mile, your nearest neighbour is Edinburgh Castle. The view is simply majestic. With its own history of monarchs, battles and sieges, the castle makes the perfect setting for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a highly popular outdoor pageant of massed pipes and drums, military bands and army display teams. In 2012, the event will mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been on the throne since June 1953, when she was only 25. Now, at 85, she has to keep an eye

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on four children and eight grandchildren, not to mention 15 commonwealth realms. The Tattoo is also taking the opportunity to celebrate the home team. The Scottish government has declared 2012 to be the year of creative Scotland, something that strikes a chord with Brigadier David Allfrey, the Tattoo’s producer, who has been busy talking to local artists about ways they can contribute to the spectacular event. Alongside dancers and musicians from all over the world, these new performers will only add to the breathtaking sense of occasion. “There’s an extraordinary wealth of talent across the arts in Scotland,” says Allfrey. “Without altering the Tattoo’s character, it’s an opportunity to showcase visual and performing artists.”

Book tickets From the 1 December at or call the box office on Telephone bookings 0131 225 1188 (if calling from overseas dial 0044 131 225 1188)

Edinburgh Military Tattoo 3–25 August, 2012. >>

www.edin b urghfestiva ls. c o. u k


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danCe the night aWaY

dance the night away In England, you might call it country dancing. In the USA, you’d say it was a barn dance. But in Scotland, it’s a ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”) and it’s nothing less than a birling, twirling, exhilarating communal knees-up. Actually, in its purest form, a ceilidh is a little bit more than that. The word signifies an informal social gathering, typically of neighbours, where everyone takes their turn to entertain their friends. One person might tell a story, another will recite a poem, someone else might have a song to sing. It’s a tradition from the Highlands and islands that predates the modern era of commercial and broadcast entertainment and, because it’s such good fun, it survives in Scotland to this day.

In the cities, a ceilidh is more likely to be a night of dancing, powered by a live Scottish band playing fiddles, guitar and bodhran (a hand-held drum). There are a number of popular dances, such as the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willow, the Dashing White Sergeant and the Eightsome Reel, all with their own moves. You’re forever stomping your feet, spinning your partner and locking arms with complete strangers. It’s great, vigorous fun and, seeing as the band will always walk you through the moves in advance, even novices can join in. A fine place to start would be the event they call the Keilidh, one of the highlights of the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party, in which hordes of New Year revellers dance through the midnight fireworks – and then dance some more.

danCe the night aWaY

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aUtUMn/WintEr 2011 tHE oFFicial MaGaZinE oF tHE EdinBUrGH FEStiValS




Edinburgh Festivals Magazine - Autumn Winter 2011  

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