Float through any social event with M’s fast facts. This week Robert Carroll explains the Edinburgh festival
THE BASICS Every August, the Scottish capital of Edinburgh hosts the largest arts festival in the world. The Edinburgh Festival, as it is known, is actually a clutch of concurrent festivals encompassing theatre, comedy, music, dance and books. The volume and variety is breathtaking. This year is no exception – from the pop bossa nova of Nouvelle Vague to the folk-tinged classical of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, comedians such as Bill Bailey, Andrew Lawrence and Daniel Kitson, to experimental theatre and dance.
THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM When it began in 1947, the International Festival was the main event and the Fringe was, as the name suggests, peripheral. Over the years, the Fringe has come to dominate: this year it will feature 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows in 265 venues from more than 60 countries. The format, which shuns selection committees, has spawned a host of imitators, with Fringe festivals taking place from Calgary to Curitiba.
THE DISSENTING OPINION Quality can be patchy. Many shows provoke vitriol in the press. Such grumbles miss much of the point of the festivals: it is better to embrace the randomness, go to shows you know nothing about, and celebrate the sheer exuberance of creative spirit throughout the month.
THE CONVERSATION What did you think of the juggling unicyclist playing Hamlet? Have you been to see the show in the lift? The Fringe is so safe this year: have you checked out the Fringe of the Fringe?