UP TO 60,000 people could flood into St Andrew Square tonight and tomorrow for the curtain-raiser to the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Edinburgh Festival.
Although 15,000 tickets have long since been snapped up for the free birthday spectacle, organisers insist entry can still be secured.
Ticketholders, who can gain entry to the square from 9pm, are being urged to wander around the arena during the “immersive” event, which will see three sides of the square turned into vast digital canvases.
Animations and projections celebrating the origins of the Edinburgh International Festival, instigated in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, will be set to a specially-created score by composer Nick Powell. The festival has joined forces for the third time with animation experts 59 Productions to create a free opening event following previous curtain-raisers on the facade of the Usher Hall and Castle Rock.
A 15-minute show will be run on a loop from 10pm until midnight tonight and tomorrow, with the arena opened up to non-ticketholders from 10.30pm, subject to capacity.
EIF director Fergus Linehan said: “The whole point of a free event is reaching new audiences and part of that is about reaching people who decide on the night that they want to come down. With this year being the 70th anniversary, we felt that this year’s event had to be far more inclusive. We know there are tens of thousands of people who want to come along.
“We wanted to run the event for a much longer period of time and thought if we were doing that could it be more of a spatial experience that you walked around. We hope it’s going to feel like a great party and is an event that anyone feels they can come along to.
“We’ve issued 15,000 tickets but that’s just for the very beginning of the event. We will be very comfortable with 7000 or 8000 people on site. We don’t know how many people will come, but theoretically we could have that number multiplied by four over the two nights.
“The event isn’t about the Edinburgh International Festival, it is about the festival city. It is about the founding years, but it is also about the family of festivals that’s grown up around Edinburgh since 1947.”
Leo Warner, founding director of 59 Productions, said: “We wanted to create something that we could put people inside. We felt it was very important it was not just a stand-and-watch experience and that it was something people could inhabit.
“The idea is that people come into the square from George Street and travel around at their will. You will get a completely different experience of wherever you are.
“The driving message is that the idea that was had here in 1947 made Edinburgh the festival city, where all these different influences and art forms now come together from all over the world.”