There were some great experiences living in Edinburgh that I would have got a lot more out of had my personal circumstances been better. I feel privileged to have lived in Edinburgh during the biggest arts festival in the world. This year it ran from 3rd August to 27th August and apparently consisted of 2695 shows across 279 venues. I believe that this might be an underestimation. Purely, because walking around the city venues have an official board outside of them saying “Fringe venue 250” (for example). The largest number I remember seeing is 301. Everyone thinks of the festival season in Edinburgh as a comedy festival but really that is just a small part of it. There are loads of festivals going on at the same time, including for example, a book festival.
The Edinburgh Fringe
I probably managed to see about 20 comedy acts during the festival and a few unknown acoustic musicians, all for free and the city really came alive with the creativity. There are street musicians in abundance, some doing interesting things such as playing a saw that you would usually use to cut down a tree. It has a very carnival feel and reminded me of an amplified version of what you would get on the main streets in some major European tourist destinations during holiday season.
The city is a lot busier during this time and most of the activity on the streets is restricted to an area of the royal mile (a famous street that starts at the castle). It’s good that it’s restricted to an area of this street because when living in Edinburgh it can be quite frustrating how slow it is to crawl through it. Like when you’re leaving a concert or a football match it can be almost a snail pace.
Walking through it people will trip over each other desperately trying to hand you flyers advertising shows. This happens every 5 seconds or so, quicker than you can read them you accumulate flyers. During a busy time it was actually quite overwhelming. There was a lot of creativity with advertising shows with everyone wanting theirs to stand out. You might see a group of people dressed as nuns walking around the city in a choreographed manner singing some kind of mystical sounding song advertising a show. Or people just walking around with their trousers down … .
The Royal Mile
My favourite were a group walking down the street carrying a coffin and dressed accordingly as if they really were going to a funeral. Music was playing and it was very forlorn and they were all looking down at their feet with a very lethargic sad energy. Some of the mob were holding signs up saying things such as “NHS”, perhaps implying that the show was symbolic and mourning the death of something that was not a person? Anyway, after awhile, as they were still walking the music picked up and the old man who was at the front starting dancing with his umbrella, in a very hop, skip and jump, swagger kind of I-don’t-have-a-single-care-in-the-world type of way, like something from a musical. It looked really funny seeing the contrast and that he was dancing happily whilst the coffin and mourners were being carried behind him.
The comedy highlight for me is quite topical considering my plan for destination Berlin. We went to see Paco Erhard, a German comedian (yes they do exist), who was mainly joking about what it is to be German and interesting British to German stereotypes and experiences. He was very sharp and he has gigged world wide so I’d definitely recommend seeing him if he is ever in your town. We had a lot of laughs with him.