Edinburgh Festival: Biggest arts festival in the world begins

EDINBURGH - Thousands of performers from across the world are in Edinburgh for the start of the world’s biggest arts festival on Saturday. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe will see more than 3,000 shows from 58 countries mark its 75th anniversary.
Its line-up will include comedians Frankie Boyle, Stewart Lee and Al Murray. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo returns, while the Edinburgh International Festival will see live audiences return to indoor venues. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the Fleabag star who is president of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said its new vision would make the whole event more inclusive and accessible.
The Edinburgh International Festival opens later with a free gala event, Macro, by physical theatre firm Gravity & Other Myths at Murrayfield Stadium.
In Macro, a 30-strong troupe team up with the National Youth Choir of Scotland. There will be music, projections, drums, a huge light display as well as acrobatics and dance.
A free finale gala by the Philadelphia Orchestra on the final weekend at the Playhouse will close the international festival. The finale gala will also be beamed live into the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens. Creativity in the UK, is another free immersive event during the festival using light and sound to explore the potential of the human mind.
It has been created by Collective Act, presented by Edinburgh Science, and brings together Turner Prize-winning artists Assemble, Grammy and Mercury nominated musician and composer Jon Hopkins, and a team of leading technologists, scientists and philosophers.
The streets are packed, traffic is at a standstill and the cobbled streets are full of discarded flyers.The sun is shining for the moment, but everyone is grumbling about the prospect of rain, their anxiety about Covid and the difficulties of affording anything in Edinburgh in August.
Both festivals mark their 75th anniversary this summer and the resilience which has allowed them to deal with post war uncertainty and rationing seems to have prepared them well. Last year’s festival was a scaled back event, staged outdoors in plush marquees (the international festival) or concrete car parks (the fringe). Socially distanced and heavily subsidised, it was a place holder. Some established names, like Jason Byrne and Alan Cumming took part because they felt they owed it to the festival where their careers began. Others worried that the festivals might not survive the pandemic, so there’s a certain amount of relief this August.
There’s also a better understanding of the dynamic of this festival city, where programmes overlap and cross promote. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is back in the mix, along with book and art festivals. The tattoo’s nightly fireworks will have to satisfy tourists and locals alike - there’ll be no closing concert this year. Orchestras are staying for residencies, rather than single concerts.
Artists appearing at one festival, are encouraged to take part in others. Audiences happily move between the festivals, and I suspect will do so this year more than ever.

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