George Street to get ‘activated’ for Edinburgh Fringe

George Street during the 2013 festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson
George Street during the 2013 festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Mobile cinemas, a mini-golf course, a whisky tasting experience, pop-up bars, a live music venue and a giant horse sculpture are being brought into the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town for the 70th Edinburgh Festival.

The majority of George Street will be closed to traffic during August for a new month-long pilot project to test out its suitability for outdoor events.

It will coincide with the launch of a digital entertainment festival which will be taking over the Assembly Rooms and also spilling out into the street.

City centre managers hope the changes will help the area better complete with the Royal Mile and Edinburgh University’s main campus during the Fringe. They may also pave the way for George Street to host more one-off events throughout the year.

The temporary attractions have been developed in the wake of a previous 12-month trail to test demand for George Street to become a new continental-style boulevard.

Highlights are expected to include a 100-seater cinema outside the Assembly Rooms, the 18th-century building which will be part of the new Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival. The converted lorry will play host to screenings of classic musicals, science fiction and horror films, while the festival will be joining forces with Edinburgh College of Art to create an outdoor exhibition space.

Elsewhere, a mobile cinema dating to the 1960s, which will have just 22 seats, will host screenings of short films and archive footage of the Edinburgh Festival, and comics introducing heir own favourite films.

The nine-hole golf course will be designed to celebrate traditional building skills and Edinburgh’s historic architecture, jewellers Hamilton & Inches are working with Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott to create a horse-head installation, while whisky giants Diageo will be setting up their own pop-up exhibition.

Glasgow’s West Brewery will be travelling east to create a pop-up bar alongside a Famous Grouse-sponsored live music venue outside the 103-year-old Freemasons Hall.

The plans for the August pilot have emerged weeks after the city council unveiled a long-term vision for George Street which would see more space given over for pavement cafes, pedestrians and cyclists.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “With the work on the redesign going on, we are looking at how George Street is used in future. There actually isn’t that much event space available in the city centre beyond St Andrew Square and Charlotte Square, which are both privately owned.

“There’s no doubt August is the key time where the bars and restaurants want to come out onto the street and when we want to activate that space.

“We’re basically going to have two and a half blocks, out of the four on George Street, shut off completely. The east end outside the George Hotel and Le Monde will remain open, to help traffic flow through the city.”

William Burdett-Coutts, director of the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, said: “Properly activating George Street and ensuring it is part of the Edinburgh Festival and not just full of bars is the key thing. You’ve got to do that in a way that makes it exciting for people to visit.”