The Edinburgh International Festival
It seemed from out of nowhere posters and billboards appeared around the streets of Edinburgh. Cleverly coloured in a luminous yellow, they are perfect for grabbing everyone’s attention against the otherwise grey historic buildings of the city. The International Edinburgh Festival has arrived! “Welcome world” is their slogan and it surely feels like the entire world descends on this great city. At this time of year, the crowds swell to capacity and the city buzzes with excitement, as if it has been awakened from a long slumber.
Edinburgh International Festival invites people from all over the world to perform shows in theatre, dance, music and opera. Over the years this spectacular melting pot of creativity has continued to grow, showcasing some of the finest talent around the globe. These hand-picked shows are spread throughout a number of venues in Edinburgh, such as The Hub, The Usher Hall and The Lyceum to name but a few.
This year the Edinburgh International Festival opened with an outstanding outdoor show, the Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time. Blending together animation, lighting and music from the Scottish rock band Mogwai, the geological history of Edinburgh was beamed onto the awe inspiring Edinburgh Castle rock face.
On an unseasonably windy and cold night, the excitement of the gathered audience along Castle Terrace grew. As the music started and the castle rock began to light up in a spectacular array of colours, I was dumbfounded by the amazing creations in front of me. History was unfolding in front of everyone’s eyes and the deep, thought provoking music of Mogwai was a perfect hypnotic blend. Between volcanic explosions, comets, space, poems and thought provoking quotes, the journey became a roller-coaster of surprises, whereby the next part being better than the last.
I couldn’t help but look up and feel quite emotional. I felt proud that my city is able to put on such a show but I also had the realisation that I am so lucky to be able to stay in such a historic and beautiful place. As the music came to a dramatic end, everyone gasped as the slogan “Welcome World” was splashed against the imposing rock…and to think this was just the beginning of an amazing month of festivities.
At the end of the festival you mustn’t miss the spectacular Virgin Money Fireworks concert, bringing the festival to a dramatic conclusion. Yet again the castle is used as a fantastic background to this fireworks concert. Reminiscent of the famous Hogmanay street party that takes place in Edinburgh, the show consists of the beautiful sounds of the Scottish chamber orchestra with choreographed fireworks. Watch the crowds faces light up in colour as the fireworks soar above them, it’s the perfect way to enjoy the ending to such a fun filled month.
For more information on shows, tickets and venues visit The Edinburgh International Festival Website.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and performers take to the many stages and venues (313 in 2015) that are scattered all over the city. Unlike the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has no selection process and is therefore open to anyone. Performers can present any type of work and then pay a fee to the Fringe. This makes the Fringe and exciting and unpredictable festival as you never know what to expect and many stars have been born out of the process.
The central area for this festival is located on the Royal Mile. On this charming and historic street you will find an abundance of street performers trying to grab your attention, pop-up stages showcasing some of the acts that are taking part in the festival and copious amount of promoters handing out leaflets enticing you to the many shows available.
For more information on shows, tickets and venues, visit Edinburgh Festival Fringe and see my recommendation below.
As i previously explained at the beginning of this post there are an abundance of venues all over the city. These venues grow and expand with pop up bars and restaurants and unique, quirky areas for relaxing with friends before or after a show. These areas can be enjoyed come rain or shine and are perfect for soaking up the atmosphere of all the festivals.
Check out my recommendations below;
The Pleasance Courtyard
The Pleasance Courtyard is a short walk from the city centre and houses seventeen venues in the one place. As you walk through the archway entrance the atmosphere is electric. Filled with the energetic chatter of festival goers the area is perfect to eat, drink and socialise. With an abundance of shows going on here, you really don’t need to leave all day.
St Andrews Square
St Andrews Square located bang in the centre of Edinburgh, with the towering Melville Monument and surrounding historic buildings, is a perfect little haven for soaking in the festival atmosphere. Sit in the Edinburgh Gin bar and chat with friends, enjoy some culinary delights from a number of small food stalls or catch a show in the famous Spiegeltent.
Enjoy the numerous eating places such as Valvono & Crolla, Henderson’s, Via Napoli, Lov Mexican, Buffalo Farm BBQ, Scottish Ice cream or my personal favourite The Crema Caravan (featured in a previous post) selling a delicious range of gourmet creamy creme brulee.
Enjoy the lovely colourful artwork that is on display in and around St Andrews Square.
Also at St Andrews Square in the grounds of the Royal Bank of Scotland is the Caorunn pop-up gin garden. Not only do they sell amazing Caorunn Gin cocktails but the garden also showcases some artwork from local artists. A number of food places selling a delicious selection of street food is also available. With covered seating, picnic area and occasional live singing, it is perfect come rain or shine.
George Square Gardens
The Assembly venue at George Street Gardens is an impressive contained area with spiegeltents, covered bar , eateries and fun faux grass sculptures. This venue is relaxed and chilled throughout the day but comes alive at night. Hosting lots of shows such as cabaret, circus and music this is not a venue to be missed.
Under the shadows and arches of the old town in Edinburgh, the Underbelly in Cowgate certainly brings this area to life. Containing seven venues, three bars and a cow cafe it is a great venue that has a completely different atmosphere to the others. This is where I experienced my first taxidermy puppet cabaret show called ‘Sing for your life’, the strangest but most hilarious hour of my life.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Show – Jess Robinson : Impressive (The Pleasance)
On Monday 8th August due to rave reviews, I attended singer/impressionist Jess Robinson’s show ‘Impressive’. You can certainly tell why she chose the name because within five minutes she had rattled off 99 impressions without losing a breath
The full house looked on in amazement as the vocal gymnast took you on a whirlwind ride of singing, impressions and comedy. Her energy was so infectious it spilled over into the crowd. With the help from her band she gave amazing impressions of Paloma Faith, Beyonce and Adele. Winding back the years she then transformed into the the soothing voices of Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Billie Holiday. It didn’t stop there, with further impressions of TV personalities such as Mary Berry, Kirsty Allsopp and my personal favourite ‘Sonia’ from Eastenders.
Her voice is spectacular and I especially loved her rendition of ‘Songbird’ sung in the voice of Amy Winehouse. The dark room and the single spotlight provided a dramatic and skin tingling performance.
As if that wasn’t enough, the story also revolved around her recent divorce and the five stages of grief that came along with it. This great mix seemed to blend effortlessly and the end result was a fun, light hearted and energetic show that I didn’t want to end.
I managed to catch up with Jess to ask her a few questions with regards to her ‘Impressive’ show:
Can I ask how you came up with concept of your new fringe show ‘Impressive’?
So much has happened in my life since last year’s Edinburgh festival – such as running away to join the circus following a surprise divorce. There were too many silly adventures to share along with loads of impressions. So I had to include them. Plus, for a while, it was all I could think about. It’s been silly and funny and a bit cathartic.
Your song “I’ve got 99 voices but a bloke ain’t one” was a hilarious and fantastic show opener, is it difficult going between so many impressions in such a short time and has it ever went wrong?
It was very difficult to begin with and the voices come so fast after each other, I always have to be careful to keep them accurate / define them. But after a while of practicing, it was almost like learning a dance routine. After a while muscle memory clicks in.
Your impressions are faultless and without giving too much away I love your Sonia! How did you find out you had this talent and is there any new ones that you are working on?
I’m always working on new impressions, but Sonia from Eastenders is an old favourite. She was one of the first impressions I learned to do to make my school friends laugh . . . (before I even knew you could do voices for a living).
You have an amazing singing voice and my personal favourite of the show was when you sung ‘Songbird’ in the style of Amy Winehouse, where and when did you learn to sing like that?
Amy’s voice is a favourite of mine. It always has been. People used to mock her when she was alive… Actually I voiced a couple of sketches about her a long time ago on ITV’s Headcases. In this year’s show though, I wanted to do a tribute to her.
Your show combines singing, impersonating and comedy. All throughout the show you do a lot of running around the stage and dancing, which looks very energetic. Do you ever get to just wind down in Edinburgh and enjoy the festival yourself?
I do get to wind down a bit. But I’m always a bit wired after my show, so it takes a while (and a couple of drinks!). The last week of the festival is always a little quieter for me, because by that time, I’ve given up trying to do spots in other people’s shows and I’m just enjoying watching them instead.
What’s your favourite thing about the city and the festival?
I LOVE the clash of cultures. You can see all sorts of weird and wonderful acts at the fringe. I also love that I get to stay with my family while I’m here. It’s the best of both worlds: the fun of the festival and good home cooking… And someone to let me in when I’ve inevitably locked myself out after a wild night.
Thank you Jess Robinson for taking the time out to answer my questions. visit the fringe festival website to book your tickets now for this amazing show.
Edinburgh Festivals Magazine Launch Party
I was lucky enough to attend the launch party of the Edinburgh Festivals magazine, held in the speigletent in George Square Gardens. The party sponsored by Edinburgh Gin, showcased some of the up and coming acts that will appear throughout the month in the festival and also introduced everyone to the new Edinburgh Festivals Magazine.
The night was hosted by broadcaster, writer and comedian Mark Dolan. Every five minutes, a new act would appear on stage, ready to give it their all to impress the crowd of media and PR professionals. One act that really stood out and grabbed everyone’s attention were The Magnets, a group of six beatboxing guys creating fantastic music just using their mouths. They were really infectious and soon got the crowd dancing along to their impressive beats. The magnets will be playing all month long at Assembly George Square Gardens and you can book your tickets here.
The magazine is a slick publication and jam packed full of information about all the Edinburgh Festivals and includes exclusive interviews. It is your perfect guide to everything you need to know. For more information head to their website.
Foodies Festival, Inverleith Park
On 6th August I was invited to attend the popular annual event, the Foodies Festival which takes place in the lovely Inverleith Park. The Foodies Festival is the largest celebration of food and drink in the United Kingdom and so I wasn’t surprised to see the long snaking queue waiting to get in to this fantastic event.
As soon as you step through the gates your senses are bombarded with smells of tantalising food, the sound of chatter from the crowds relaxing around the grounds and the sight of hundreds of stalls showcasing every food and drink imaginable.
The grounds were arranged into many areas and my favourite was definitely the Street food avenue where I got to taste a beautiful Sri Lankan cashew nut and pea curry. Another favourite of mine, which also takes place at the Christmas foodies festival is the Artisan Producers section. From an array of chocolates, fudge, sauces and cakes, it was difficult not be tempted by all of them. I especially loved the Pacari chocolate stand. I have previously blogged about this brand , their dark chocolate covered espresso beans were a highlight and also their rose flavoured chocolate; I had to buy some of course!
At the drinks section I was lured in to the ever popular Edinburgh Gin, which I already love. With flavours such as Raspberry, Rhubarb and Ginger how can you resist? I was captivated with their new seaside Gin captured in beautiful blue and white labelled bottle. Flavoured with seaweed, scurvy grass and ground Ivy, giving it a more sweet and delicate taste. Definitely one of my new favourites.
The Foodies Festival is a must if you are visiting Edinburgh next year. Visit their website for more details or follow them on social media.
There are many other festivals happening throughout Edinburgh in August that I haven’t been able to mention. Click on the links below to check them out.
Until next time, hope you have enjoyed this post! Blu Blazer Guy.