Thursday, July 16, 2009

Other sites to visit

Believe it or not, there are other sites covering the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe...
  • The Official Fringe Website - search for shows, buy tickets, read news, browse the forums. As an added bonus, the ticketing system is working this year...
  • The Fringe Guru - an independent site covering all things Fringey. Fringe Guru is what this site wants to be when it grows up.
  • The Fringe Thing - visit Prof Ed Hegg and read about his ovological experiments (and even suggest new ones for him to try).
  • Fringe Review - covering fringe theatre across the UK, its Edinburgh coverage has just begun.
  • I Love Edinburgh - a blog covering all things Edinburgh - expect many Festival-related entries soon.
  • Project Capture - a unique Festival photo crowdsourcing initiative

Any others you would recommend?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First time in Edinburgh? Read this...

The Edinburgh Festival is a wonderful explosion of culture, colour and crowds over the city during August. You may be forgiven for thinking all you have to do is turn up, tune in and enjoy yourself. Whilst that is true to an extent, if you've never been to Edinburgh before - or have, but not for a few years - here are a few tips and hints from a resident to help ease your experience:

  • Edinburgh is a hilly city. You will walk uphill to get to the venue; and you will walk uphill to get back again. Some of the hills (Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill) provide spectacular views and escapes from the crowds, but most of them (The Mound, Dundas Street, et al) merely provide you with a hill. So either come prepared with sensible footwear, or rely on public transport to get you where you need to be (though see point below).

  • Edinburgh is a coastal city, with a rather unique weather system. You will notice this if you go up one of the nice hills and look to the north, where you'll see the Firth of Forth shimmering its silvery way towards the North Sea. Unless the haar has descended, that fog-like gift from said North Sea so beloved of Edinburgh residents, covering all in a blanket of cold, damp, impenetrable greyness. Cold, damp, impenetrable greyness that only the rain rapidly approaching from the west will disperse. So be warned, whilst I wish for 31 days of unbroken sunshine as much as anyone, come suitably armed or be prepared to pay astronomical prices for plastic tartan pac-a-macs.

  • Edinburgh is in the throes of a massive civic 'improvement' scheme, introducing a modern cutting-edge tram network to the city. Or so we're told. In reality, this has reduced large swathes of our roads into building sites and resulted in traffic congestion and travel delays. Fancy a relaxing stroll along Princes Street, gazing up at the splendour of Edinburgh Castle? Too bad, that side of the street's closed. Traffic always gets a bit challenged during Festival time, and I shudder to think how things will turn out this year.

  • Edinburgh has a fantastic public transport system, and hundreds of reliable and friendly bus and taxi drivers (seriously, I know a few). However, the combination of Festival over-population and the tramworks may strain the patience of even the most saintly, so please be kind to any you encounter. If indeed you manage to catch one at all - taxis in particular do become quite a rare species during Festival time.

  • Not everyone in Edinburgh loves the Festival. Hard to believe, I know, but you will likely come across at least three distinct types of anti-festival groups during your visit:
    1. Firstly, there are those that have to go to work. These souls deserve your sympathy, as most of them would dearly love to be swanning around from show to show and drinking in the open air just like you. The looks of sheer hatred they shoot you may persuade you otherwise, but trust me, it's true: I used to be one of them.
    2. Secondly, there are those dear old Edinburgh ladies, who wish for nothing more than to walk slowly from one end of George Street to the other carrying large bags of shopping, muttering about how things used to be better before "all this festival nonsense" started. Best avoided, or at least carefully overtaken.
    3. Lastly, and this is semi-serious, the young and disaffected. Now, Edinburgh is by and large a safe city, but feral packs of youths have been spotted prowling the streets before. They tend to keep away from the main venues, but if you do find yourself close to any, keep your head down and don't say things like "Felicity, what did you make of that emotionally effervescent theatrical tour-de-force we just had the good fortune to witness?" within their earshot. Parts of Trainspotting are based on fact, you know.

  • Edinburgh is full of pubs. Surely a good thing? Yes, and no. On some streets, every second establishment is a pub (and the ones in between are off-licences). And opening hours are extended so much during the Festival, it is possible to drink 24/7 if you so wish. If you are easiliy tempted, you could easily find yourself drunk by breakfast, hungover by lunchtime and refused entry into a show or two for looking dazed and confused by teatime. Remember - all things in moderation....

That's it. Keep the above in mind and you'll be sure to have a fantastic time. I for one love the whole mad ensemble, and I'm looking forward to welcoming you here. Remember to say hello if you see me...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Highlight # 3 - Capoeira Knights - The Boys From Brazil

The Capoeira Knights were one of the standout acts at The World Festival last year, bringing their mesmerising martial-art inspired acrobatics and infectious samba rhythms to the normally sedate and peaceful St George's West church venue.

Their success has been rewarded this year with a return visit and a bumping up the bill to a later slot than before. Whether this is in recognition of the Boys' glistening muscle-rippling appeal; or as a result of this show's various 5-star reviews, The World Festival are definitely on to a winner by inviting them back.

This is one of those shows that should appeal to most, whether you prefer your heart to be pounding to some great live world music, or in your mouth as you witness jaw-dropping feats of skill.

Or, in the case of most men in the audience, sinking to your feet as you realise your muscles look more like pillowcases full of jelly in comparison.

Photography offer

I spend almost as much time photographing shows and performers as I do watching them. I tend to get some of my best shots at this time of year, thanks to the willing nature and attitude of most acts.

As a way of saying thanks, I always offer a few free slots to performers and acts at this time of year. I've got a rapidly-filling schedule of appointments, but still a few windows available.

So, if you're a performer looking for test shots, after some stage photography for your website or publicity material, or just love having your photo taken, get in touch below:

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Edge Festival

Music has always been a mainstay of the Fringe, and that part of the programme is a fertile ground for world music, classical recitals and other aural treats that are all too easy to miss amongst the more popular comedy & theatrical options.

In 2000, the T on the Fringe breakout festival injected things with a welcome and healthy shot of live rock music, bringing the likes of Radiohead, Snow Patrol, Foo Fighters and Nine Inch Nails in previous years to shake things up a bit (and annoy some of the residents who lived near Meadowbank).

Since the promoters and Tennents (T) have gone their separate ways, this was replaced in 2008 by the Edge Festival. Still with a commitment to bring alternative music to the Fringe, the Edge is back again this year with another strong line-up.

As is the nature of live music gigs, some - such as a rare show from Faith No More - have already sold out, but tickets still remain for some cracking bands and artists. Highlights include indie faves Biffy Clyro, ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, post-punk pioneers Magazine and, my own personal favourite, Amanda Palmer.

The Edge Festival (and its previous T incarnation) has made live rock music a permanent fixture on the Edinburgh festival scene, meaning that I now can't think of a single artistic genre that isn't represented (although the Film festival has since moved dates to June, but one could argue that just got in the way of everything else anyway...!)