Steve Cardownie: Roll out the welcome mat, the world’s here

Talia Wallis, left, Neal Roxburgh and Mary Walsh celebrate the launch of the 70th anniversary Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Talia Wallis, left, Neal Roxburgh and Mary Walsh celebrate the launch of the 70th anniversary Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Edinburgh once more is set to be the cultural capital of the world with the festival season really taking off this Friday. Although Edinburgh hosts festivals throughout the year (see edinburghfestivalcity.com) it is with the onset of the Fringe, International Festival, Book Festival and Tattoo that the city truly comes alive.

Space prohibits me from singing the praises of all the festivals so I will just have to be selective.

Transport for Edinburgh should be able to run trams every three minutes. Picture: Lesley Martin

Transport for Edinburgh should be able to run trams every three minutes. Picture: Lesley Martin

Back in 1947 the Edinburgh International Festival was formed with the aim of healing division in Europe after the Second World War through the medium of culture.

A select few companies were invited to perform but some, who were not invited, decided to showcase their companies in Edinburgh at the same time. They did not let a simple matter of not being invited thwart their ambitions, and from those eight companies the Fringe was born.

Now 70 years later the 2017 programme boasts over 53,000 performances of more than 3000 shows. It seems that every suitable and sometimes unsuitable space is taken up to stage performances and if no such space is available artists and performers take to the streets. The High Street (from North Bridge to The Mound) showcases numerous Fringe groups throughout the day, and all for free!

The city has a tremendous variety of venues and there is always something that appeals.

One performance which is certainly of the moment is called Borders by Henry Naylor. Set in an old fishing boat in the Mediterranean in 2017 it features a young Syrian woman who is starting to fear for her life and her unborn baby as the boat is sinking due to the combined weight of the refugees. To make matters worse she cannot swim. Another is set on an overnight train somewhere in Europe. They play is called The Sleeper and re-tells the true testimony of refugees from Syria.

There will of course be many performances which will capture the imagination of visitors and citizens alike and thought-provoking, as well as just entertaining, experiences await festival-goers.

Another major event is the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert on Monday, August 28 at 9.30pm. In excess of 400,000 fireworks choregraphed to live orchestral music by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra will provide an audio and visual extravaganza second to none. It can be viewed from Inverleith Park, Calton Hill, Salisbury Crags, Bruntsfield Links and any vantage point from where you can see the Castle. Broadcast simultaneously on Forth Radio, it promises to be a fantastic night.

This is the month where the world comes to Edinburgh – bring it on!

Three-minute warning for tram bosses

According to the Edinburgh Trams website “additional services and rising passenger numbers have helped Edinburgh Trams return an operating profit well ahead of schedule”.

In a posting dated Monday, January 23, 2017 at 11am it states that “in order to meet customer demand a new and enhanced service pattern was introduced at the start of the year with trams now running every seven minutes throughout the day, including weekends.”

The general manager (described earlier in the post as managing director), Lea Harrison, was reported as saying: “Our customers want more services, more often, so we’re now running extra trams. It is further evidence of the rapid progress the system has made since its launch at the end of May 2014.”

Edinburgh Trams boasts a fleet of 27 trams built by CAF of Beasain in the Basque country, with seven articulated cars per tram. With only 17 trams in use at any one time there is obviously spare capacity. Although tram frequency times vary throughout the UK and mainland Europe, surely the case has been made for Edinburgh to improve the current times.

If it is technically possible It should not be beyond the wit of Transport for Edinburgh (who run the trams) to introduce a frequency time of a tram to one every three minutes.

Given that the line is relatively short and ten trams lie idle every day, a three-minute schedule should be readily achievable.

Coalition means working together

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines coalition as “a union of two or more political parties that allows them to form a government”.

The SNP and the Labour Party have entered into such a coalition in order to form the administration of the City of Edinburgh Council.

It would appear however, that at least one Labour Group member is having difficulty in embracing the principle of this agreement.

Councillor Scott Arthur, (who voted in the Labour Group against forming a coalition with the SNP) met with Councillor Maureen Child, the Labour Group Whip (who is responsible for Group discipline), last week due to his recent letter-writing exploits to the media, The Edinburgh Evening News included.

The contents of his letters leave readers in no doubt about his antipathy towards the SNP and in particular the Scottish Government, which is raising some hackles in the City Chambers. As both parties are supposed to be working together for the benefit of Edinburgh his correspondence is causing what some would deem to be unnecessary friction, which I would suggest is just what it is designed to do.