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Festival Folk
Amy Dworkin gets ready for the Edinburgh Festival

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 organised Festival goer.
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.

The 'I 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'.

The Festival Junkie
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?

Web links
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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