It’s easy to fall in love with Edinburgh during the month of August. As a first-time visitor, it can all be a bit bewildering: the sea of loud posters emblazoned with stars and excitable reviews, confident people in startling costumes shoving flyers in your face, the press of the crowd as you try to navigate your way down the Royal Mile. But there’s no denying that it’s invigorating, exciting and just plain dazzling – well, maybe not to the people who live there. You have my sympathy; I too hate slowly meandering tourists.
There’s no possible way to describe the sheer hectic activity of Edinburgh during the Festival. For the uninitiated, the Festival is actually many festivals operating in tandem: I’m a bit ignorant about most of them, seeing as I’ve only attended the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (although I was gutted to miss Hadley Freeman and Alison Weir, and The Glass Menagerie at the Book Festival and International Festival respectively). The Fringe is itself the largest arts festival in the entire world, with over three thousand shows happening all over the city throughout the entire month of August. Sketch, stand-up, theatre, spoken word, cabaret: the Fringe has it all. For the monetary challenged, there’s the Free Fringe which sees skint visitors flock to tiny crowded rooms (although donations are encouraged); for the connoisseur, there’s the unbeatable chance to scout out new and old talent, literally all day long.
Walk down any busy Edinburgh thoroughfare and you’ll be greeted with posters as far as the eye can see: the scale of the Fringe alone (not to mention the other festivals) is truly mind-boggling. Every year I scribble down acts that strike my fancy, lists that endlessly grow and grow to unwieldly proportions. Apart from the acts I mentioned above, this year I really wish I’d seen the new stage adaptation of Northanger Abbey, Phoebe Éclair-Powell, Gemma Flynn and the oft-reviewed Gobsmacked. But what is really enticing is the enlivening possibility and promise of all the shows out there. Flick through any brochure or accept a flyer, and you’ll be greeted with an astounding array of topics: I accumulated flyers from uni a-cappella groups, improvisation based on classic authors, fierce feminist stand-ups, dystopian re-imaginings and supposedly hilarious hypnotists. Where else can you wander dreamily from show to show, lapping up a uniquely devised mixture of culture, comedy and vibrancy?
Every year I vow to visit more, and every year I feel more lucky that I live so close to this bustling hive of artistic activity. To anyone who has the opportunity to visit, I would encourage them to see as much as possible; to sample as many different varieties of shows as they can. Although bad shows undoubtedly exist, I’ve never seen one yet: a bit of research and you can easily set up a successful day at the Festival. Let yourself be swept up in the crowds, the hype and the general buzz, and I promise you won’t regret it.