Edinburgh Festival: Now's the time to get behind this precious event – Joanna Mowat

One week to go until ‘Festival Eve’. Next Friday I’ll be at Macro, the free Edinburgh International Festival opening event at Murrayfield, and I’m equal parts excited and nervous for all those organising the first “full fat” event since 2019.

By Joanna Mowat
Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 4:45 pm
Performers from at least 13 countries paraded along Princes Street during the Edinburgh Festival Carnival (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)
Performers from at least 13 countries paraded along Princes Street during the Edinburgh Festival Carnival (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

That year was marked by concern about the size and scale of the festivals and the number of visitors. Some residents in the heart of the city centre are nervous about the return of the festivals at scale.

Some performers have forcefully expressed their concerns about changes that the Fringe have made and there have been reports that ticket scales are not at 2019 levels yet.

Even if sales are more like 2018 than 2019, that will still mark a sizeable return of the festivals to Edinburgh and the excitement is building.

There are new venues, with the St James Quarter becoming the BBC hub, and a brand new walking trail from the High Street via the Mound, St Andrew Square to St James to relieve pressure on North Bridge.

The Jazz and Blues Festival has come back with a bang. The return of the Mardi Gras and the Carnival parade on Princes Street brought international sights, sounds and colour back into the heart of the city.

This is the 75th year of the Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals which were started as a response to heal the divisions created by the Second World War, which in turn came out of the fracturing of Europe created by the First World War.

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Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra: fighting a war with music

War is once again being fought in Europe with the Russian incursion into Ukraine. A sharp reminder of this is the decision to ask the UK to host the Eurovision Song Contest next year in place of Ukraine who won this year.

The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra will play on the first weekend of the International Festival and so important is their playing across the world to “give Ukraine a voice” that some have been released from military service.

In the 75th anniversary year, we should remember the founding principles and welcome those who can make it to Edinburgh – performers and audiences alike.

The future is always uncertain and there seems to be more to worry about than ever before but theatre, dance, music, comedy, literature and poetry can help us to face that future, to find laughter and solace and examine our fears.

For three weeks, we welcome the world to explore, entertain and bring audiences together to laugh, cry, question and find new perspectives and answers to some of the challenges ahead of us.

This is a precious gift, so set aside any scepticism and head over to the Fringe, EIF, Book and Film Festival websites to access the free tickets or, if you can afford it, buy lots of tickets and embrace the wonder of the world on your doorstep. It’s less stressful than trying to get anywhere else at the moment.

Once the crowds have departed at the end of next month, we can get back to considering how we address the impacts but in the meantime – jump in and bathe in the cultural delights.

Joanna Mowat is a Scottish Conservative councillor for the City Centre ward