Amy Dworkin gets ready for the Edinburgh
Edinburgh during the Festivals (Jazz, Book, Fringe, International, Film)
is fantastic. It offers different things to different people at different
stages in their life. Having enjoyed them for over ten years now it would
be easy to grow cynical but I don't. I love them. Edinburgh really comes
to life and there is a amazing atmosphere during August. Admittedly, it
can be annoying if you want to get somewhere in a hurry and you get accosted
by numerous leaflet thrusters and huge crowds but if youíve got
the time and money to enjoy it then nothing compares. How often do you
get such a concentration of talent, energy and excitement in one place
for a whole month?
The Festivals are so huge now that it is now almost impossible to get
your head round them. There are staggering statistics about the number
of productions being put on, the number of people taking part and the
number of visitors there will be. I say, forget the statistics and just
soak up the atmosphere. Here is a short guide to the types of people you
will meet during the Festivals.
The book programmes and websites lend themselves to the inordinately organised.
You can bet that any big thing that has been heavily promoted or is a
bit of a coup, such as getting Gore Vidal to the Book Festival, will be
sold out to everyone except this group. Some people treat the Festival
like the winter season at their local rep. They buy far in advance using
the postal service and they buy in bulk. They have usually decided what
they want to see before the rest of us even open the programme. These
people will normally be visiting the International and the Book Festivals
with occasional selections from the Fringe and Film Festivals.
The 'wish I was organised' Festival goer
This category is jealous of the ones above. They really mean to buy tickets
early, make lists of what it is they really want to see, guess who they
think the big shows are going to be and decide to make some bookings.
But they never get round to actually picking up the phone or filling in
the forms and so never get the tickets much in advance and therefore miss
out on a lot of what they wanted to see. Actually that's a bit of a cost
effective manner of doing it because the initial list would have had about
a hundred things on it and only about twenty have tickets left. Therefore
your decision is made for you. This person will end up going to many Fringe
shows and maybe discovering a gem or two.
can't make up my own mind' Festival goer.
Then there are the paper perusers. These people may make a few purchases
before the festivals begin but actually they are waiting for the papers
to tell them what is actually worth going to see. They would rather rely
on the word of another person - although they do not know that other person's
tastes, like or dislikes - than on themselves. They don't realise that
this other person could be a Shakespearean fanatic who thinks that nothing
worthwhile has been written since the 16th century or, more likely, an
18 year old who has never even heard of Shakespeare. Paper perusers will
quote extensively from reviews but will pretend to have made it all up
themselves. If challenged, they will say that they know the reviewers
and told them what to say. These people will go to everything labelled
'good' whether it is the sort of thing they like or not. The was there
a Festival on? Festival goer Then there are those who come to Edinburgh
for the Festivals but never actually go to anything. That's not the plan
when they initially get on the train / bus / scooter / whatever, but that
is what they end up doing. There is so much else going on, namely, long
licensing hours and street entertainment, usually provided by themselves.
These people will go to the Pleasance and the Spiegeltent but not for
actual productions. They will have a fantastic time and will go home telling
everyone to go to Edinburgh in August because 'it's wicked'.
These people will be recognised by bloodshot eyes and inane babbling (similar
to the group above), except that their inane babbling will be about having
seen another celebrity or how may freebies they can score. They also like
to boast about the number of productions they have seen and the number
of select parties they have attended. They will quote extensively from
famous people and say didn't you know that's where all the performers
hang out, forgetting that the performers actually outnumber the population
of Edinburgh by this point and therefore seeing one is not unusual.
NB: There are no select parties during the Festival. Media types just
like to pretend there are. Natives of the City And then you have the good
people of Edinburgh who just want to walk along their streets without
being accosted by student productions thrusting leaflets into their faces
to come and see ëour truly amazing take on Cabaret. It's all done
with tortoises, trust me. Or more importantly, make it to their local
sandwich shop and find that there actually are some sandwiches left. Walking
quickly anywhere becomes an impossibility. This is fine so long as you
accept that it will take double your normal time to get anywhere. Many
also get depressed because they can't actually afford to go to anything.
The two favourite parts of the Festival for city-livers are just before
it starts and just after it's finished. The 'official guide' to the Edinburgh
Festivals every paper insists that it is producing the 'official guide'.
The Guardian and The Scotsman are particularly emphatic about this. They
are both wrong. The official guides are the free things that you order
from each of the Festivals or pick up for free in most shops and galleries.
What's good? Well, I'm not going to tell you because I don't know what
kind of things you like. The whole point of the Festivals are their range.
Having read some whats 'good' things in the papers in the last few days
has annoyed me because I know that quite a lot of the things they have
recommended are already sold out. So what's the point of recommending
them? My advice is to look for yourself. The papers are useful but take
some chances. Don't just go and see the big names. They tour anyway and
you can see them at other times of the year. How often do you get to see
a production of Cabaret with tortoises?
International Festival (EIF) August 12 - September 1
Fringe Festival (EFF) August 5 - 27
International Film Festival (FF) August 12 - 26
International Book Festival August 12 - 26
International Jazz and Blues Festival July 27 - August 5
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