Festival fan to mark 70 years in a row at event

Pamela Epps was at the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947  and after attending every one since, will return to the opera which started it all. Picture: Neil Hanna/JP
Pamela Epps was at the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947  and after attending every one since, will return to the opera which started it all. Picture: Neil Hanna/JP
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When Pamela Epps went to a performance of the opera Macbeth 70 years ago, she hardly imagined it would start a habit of a lifetime.

But after experiencing the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947, she has been back every year since,

Now aged 90, the culture-loving former doctor from Barnton, Edinburgh, is preparing to return to the festival in its 70th year.

Her remarkable feat of cultural allegiance over the past seven decades began with the work by Verdi, the very first to be performed at the then newly established festival.

“It made my head explode,” said Dr Epps, a former GP who still remembers the very first sound that hooked her for life.

“I had never been to an opera before and when the actress began to sing it blew me away.

“My mind was blown because of that wonderful woman – she sung so effortlessly, such a pure sound came out as she performed.”

Her first experience sparked a love of not only opera but for championing the arts in her hometown which has endured every year since.

She and her mother continued to buy tickets for “lots of different shows” in the following years. She said: “My mum and I continued going to shows each year. She went every year until she died.”

Over the years the variety of acts on the bill has increased as well as the diversity of performers.

But the festival-lover has had to cut back on the number of acts she sees each year.

“At some stage you have to slow down, and the expense mounts up as well if you go to lots in one year.”

But she is celebrating the 70th anniversary by re-visiting the production which launched her love affair with opera.

“We are going to see the Macbeth opera in the Festival Theatre.”

Dr Epps said although she knows what she loves – opera, theatre and classical productions – she has tried new genres over the years.

“I have never been shocked by a show but I have to admit I can’t get my head around modern music really – I’ve tried but it’s just not for me.”

Dr Epps’ enthusiasm and dedication to the city’s festival season has rubbed off on her children who have also passed the tradition on to their children.

“We saw so much from a young age,” her daughter Viv said. “We saw performances by Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, Shakespeare plays and even Greek tragedy The Bacchae with Alan Cummings in it.”

At her practice on Rankeillor Street in the Newington area of the city, she worked on a strict self-devised system of care for drug addiction lauded by Lothian Police at the time.

“To this day mum’s mind is sharp. If I have half the brain she does at her age I will be delighted,” her daughter added.