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Edinburgh embraces the "transformative power" of its festivals

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  •   11-18-2014  10:33 am

Edinburgh embraces the "transformative power" of its festivals

Last week, the Edinburgh Festival City hosted an event to showcase how the festivals of Edinburgh transform and enhance the destination’s heritage and its adventurous spirit.

“There is magic in the transformative power that a festival can bring to a city,” said Faith Liddell, director, Festivals Edinburgh.

Since 1947, Edinburgh has established itself as the world’s leading festival city, with 12 major festivals uniting artists from Scotland and beyond in this historic setting. Edinburgh’s festivals see audiences of more than four million, Liddell said, and features artists, writers and performers from over 70 countries and every continent.

The Edinburgh Science Festival (April) is Europe’s first and largest science festival with 200 events celebrating science and technology, turning the city into an “ideas factory.” The Imaginate Festival (May) is Scotland’s international festival of performing arts for children and young people, now celebrating its 25th year.

The Edinburgh Film Festival (June) is the oldest continuously running film festival in the world and sports a wide range of new, established and developing talent. Its patron is Sean Connery.

The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (July) presents artists from across all jazz forms and boasts 140 gigs at 13 venues in 10 days. Also in July is the opening of the Edinburgh Art Festival, where more than 40 galleries, museums and pop-up spaces come together to present intriguing and exiting work, with free entry to most exhibitions and featuring performances in intimate gallery settings. 

“We say in Scotland you can sleep in September,” Liddell quipped.

August is a vibrant time for Edinburgh, as it hosts numerous festivals at the same time. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. It features performances in comedy, theatre, dance, physical theatre, musicals, street performances and more. In 2014, this festival staged 3,193 shows with a total of 49,497 performances across 299 venues.

This month also sees the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a unique blend of performance and ceremony, featuring over 1,000 military and civilian performers. As well in August is the Edinburgh International Festival, celebrating peace through the arts, with artists and companies from around the world offering performances.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival in August is where years ago, a then-unknown J.K. Rowling gave a reading in a teepee to 30 children, Liddell said. The festival is the largest public celebration of ideas and the written word in the world, with over 900 participants from 47 different countries. Edinburgh Mela is also happening in August and is one of Scotland’s biggest festivals of world music, dance and food, with South Asian roots and an international spirit.

October sees the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, a 10-day celebration of traditional and contemporary storytelling, oral traditions and cultural diversity. 

Ending off festival season is Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, a celebration for the New Year, which Liddell said is rung in “as only the Scots can - with a big, three-day party.” Its torchlight procession sees 25,000 participants and its street party has seen over 80,000 revelers welcoming the New Year to come with music, dancing and fireworks.

Liddell noted that getting to Edinburgh has never been easier with a direct flight offered from Air Canada rouge. Edinburgh also offers 12,000 hotel beds, ranging from hostels to self-catering apartments to historic hotels.

“Festivals now have more of an economic impact on Scotland than golf culture,” she said.  “What happens here in Edinburgh couldn’t happen anywhere else.”

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