Edinburgh’s festival buzz is on the verge of returning at last - Brian Ferguson

Less than three months since Edinburgh’s summer festivals packed up and left the stage, it’s almost time for their winter reincarnations to take over.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 4:55 am

It feels a long time ago since the tentative run-up to those events back in August.

For the vast majority of those organising, performing or attending, it was their first experience of being back at any kind of indoor or outdoor event, being within a crowd of any size, or watching live entertainment for nearly a year and a half.

Despite months of scenario planning, the summer season felt like a huge step into the unknown when it began.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Edinburgh's Christmas festival will return later this month. Picture: Tim Edgeler

The sense of the surreal never abated, as events were staged in newly-created spaces, the streets were a lot quieter than normal, and long-running venues were either missing completely or staged much-smaller programmes.

But what did go ahead was crucial in maintaining the city’s global profile, attracting visitors from across the UK and getting thousands of people back to work.

There are some similarities with the return of Edinburgh’s winter festivals, which have had to be planned amid ongoing uncertainty over the possible reintroduction of restrictions.

If all goes according go plan, the iconic street party will be back, with a capacity roughly half of what it was in 2019.

But with up to 30,000 expected on Princes Street, Basement Jazz confirmed to headline an open-air show and the torchlight procession opening the festival, there is little doubt images will be broadcast around the world.

Closer to home, businesses across the city centre will be banking on capitalising on the return of markets to Princes Street Gardens and the revival of an ice rink for the first time in three years, in a new home in George Street.

You don't have to look for long on social media to find critics of the transformation of historic streets and the gardens for the festivities.

Yet it would be a huge surprise if they are not as popular as ever, especially given outdoor events are seen as low-risk by public health experts.

With work on attractions well underway, and theatres and concert venues gearing up for busy festive seasons, it is tempting to think the city’s familiar festival buzz is about to return.