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August 8, 2006 10:12 AM   Subscribe

The Edinburgh festival is the largest arts festival in the world. Some 1,867 shows will be perfomed during the month of August, ranging from well known names and faces that many of us Brits will know from the telly, through to puppet shows and people reading the phone book live on stage. Hundreds of other lesser-known shows are on in the smaller and weirder venues. Some performers are blogging, and of course there are other bloggers telling us what's what.
posted by handee (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh aye , anyone seen anything interesting ? I'm too lazy to go outside and have a look - i've always been too mean/skint to see enough shows to do it justice - having said that it's a lot of fun actually being in one of these show thingumys - if you cant afford to see anything - i recommend going to the pub called 'the sheeps heid' in duddingston village where the director of the company performing 'the tempest' nearby will be drunkenly scolding his entire cast in the beer garden around 10-11pm every night of the run : )
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:29 AM on August 8, 2006


As luck would have it, i'm hoping to make a quick stop in Edinburgh next week while vacationing in Ireland. Now I know why hotel rooms are like four bajillion dollars.

Any thoughts on where to stay/what to see whilst we're there?
posted by underdog at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2006


You should change the post so it says "Edinburgh Fringe Festival" since there is another Edinburgh International Festival. In particular the fringe festival grew out of the international festival, since it was all the gorups that couldn't make it in there, and started their own, and has now superceded the original.
posted by destro at 10:44 AM on August 8, 2006


Stay? No idea. See? Well, I just put this metafilter post together... (I wouldn't mind going to see any of the acts I've linked to although they range from the established to the down-right bizarre).
posted by handee at 10:45 AM on August 8, 2006


There's also the Edinburgh International FILM Festival, the longest (continuously) running film festival in the world, which overlaps the other festivals and is totally great.

All of these combine to create a truly incredible wonderland of creative, vibrant performance, art, and general awesomeness. The only thing I can really compare it to is Burningman, and that really does an injustice to both in many regards. There's a wide range - from "highbrow" opera and dance, on through hilarious slapstick and into awful pretentious amateur glory.

Literally, the entire (beautiful, great) city is spilling over into the streets and running down the gutters with art and fun.
posted by freebird at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2006


If we want to get really technical, it's the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

What to see: I think it's worth seeing Midnight Cowboy (exceptional director and cast, tough adaptation). I saw Spaghetti Western Orchestra yesterday and it was brilliant. Other shows on my list based on the scuttlebutt: Pumpgirl (Bush Theatre, supposed to have echoes of Howie the Rookie, which is one of the finest pieces of theater I've ever seen), I Am Noboby's Lunch (by the Civilians, friendly NYCers who make fun plays), whatever the hell Derevo is doing this year, Black Watch, Food, Jim Henson's Puppet Improv, Into the Hoods, and, yeah, I could go on for a while. And Baghdad Burning, just cuz I love ol' Riverbend.

For housing, look here, under Accommodation Available. If you're really in a jam, email's in the profile.

This will be my eighth year at this damn festival. Hopefully my liver will last a few more.
posted by milquetoast at 11:23 AM on August 8, 2006


Thanks much for the info all!
posted by underdog at 11:29 AM on August 8, 2006


The only thing I can really compare it to is Burningman, and that really does an injustice to both in many regards.

Er, I've not been to Burning Man, admittedly, but I'm willing to hazard a guess that that's a completely bizarre comparison. Bunch of hippies in a desert != six seven, er, several internationally important arts festivals all running at the same time.

Anyway, I'm having a nice time this year - only writing about the Edinburgh Art Festival, Annuale (an artist-run fringe to the EAF showcasing local artists - v. cool) and maybe a wee bit of the EIFF (which looks to be even better than than the last couple of years). To be honest, the Fringe is 99.9% shite, so this makes me happy.

Good stuff at the EAF: David Shrigley (prints, not cartoons), Everybody Comes to Hollyrood (group show, emerging/younger artists mostly, from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, UK), Matt Stokes (fucking great stuff from the last Beck's Futures winner, collecting ephemera from Lake District illegal cave rave scene, and his wonderful film of Northern Soul dancers), Moyna Flannegan (good painter, paintings of creepy fairytale scenes), Robert Ryman (retrospective, hung by the artist), Robert Mapplethorpe (slightly questionable attempt to reframe his reputation, but chock full of work), Thread (group show with big names, including a lovely Carl Andre piece and an Alexander Calder film), Adam Elsheimer (fucking mind-blowing show of tiny paintings by overlooked 17th century master - Ruebens was his biggest fan), Harry Benson (great retrospective of photojournalism work - best stuff includes MLK in full flow and Bobby Kennedy dead on the floor).

Good stuff at the Annuale: ridiculous amount of stuff, some galleries are hanging new shows daily. The Embassy gallery, and Total Kunst probably the best starting points, plus the aforementioned Matt Stokes' work for the Collective gallery offsite project: recitals of happy hardcore, Northern Soul and black metal songs on the organ at St. Giles' Cathedral (on 24th August).
posted by jack_mo at 12:47 PM on August 8, 2006


And I wonder who's doing the 'festbitch' weblog. They're not exactly up on the gossip, for folk who appear to be working at the festivals.
posted by jack_mo at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2006


What to see: I think it's worth seeing Midnight Cowboy (exceptional director and cast, tough adaptation). I saw Spaghetti Western Orchestra yesterday and it was brilliant.

Thanks for the tips, Milquetoast and jack_mo. We're there
for the week beginning the 19th, and my daughter was just
telling me last night that she'd like to see Midnight Cowboy.

I'll be sure to check it out.

Last year was our first year, but I anticipate that we'll be going
next year as well. Hotels *are* completely outrageous though.
Last year, we rented a cottage a few miles out of town. This
year, we've got an apartment in Leith.

Keep the tips coming, folks.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:12 PM on August 8, 2006


Harry Shearer will be there!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:30 PM on August 8, 2006


I've not been to Burning Man, admittedly, but I'm willing to hazard a guess that that's a completely bizarre comparison.

Having been to both a few times, I'll politely disagree that the comparison is wrong, though I suppose it is bizzare.

It has something to do with temporary autonomous zones, and the creation of an all-encompassing cityspace dedicated to art and creative fun. It has something to do with a continuum of artistic merit and approach, ranging from carefully planned and executed creations comprising huge sums of money and time and people to bizzarre and silly attempts to be little more than wacky. It has something to do with an entire worldlet of people hanging out for days with the sole intent to have a great time and see and do neat and unusual things. And it certainly has something to do with a fair dose of bullshit.

Most people who haven't been - and many who have - forget that Burningman at its best is one of the world's best art festivals. Similarly, not everyone may know that the Edinburgh Festival is a rocking great party.
posted by freebird at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2006


It has something to do with temporary autonomous zones, and the creation of an all-encompassing cityspace dedicated to art and creative fun.

Oh, in that sense I don't doubt that they have much in common. But I'm honestly surprised that anyone would say that Burning Man would qualify as 'one of the world's best art festivals'. The press coverage of it certainly doesn't suggest that, and since I can only really speak about visual art and film festivals, I would never have thought to include it in a list with, say, the Venice Biennale, Art Basel, Frieze, &c. - it isn't even a blip on the radar in that context, and I bet you'd have a hard time finding anyone who'd even heard of Burning Man at those festivals. (I mean, I've only heard of it via MetaFilter and other US-based weblogs, and it's my job to know about art festivals.)
posted by jack_mo at 2:28 AM on August 9, 2006


I agree with jack_mo -- about a great many things. The current Assembly Rooms smoking kerfuffle aptly illustrates just one major difference between Edinburgh and Burning Man: at the end of the day, we're still in Edinburgh, the old-money sleepytime village fastidiously regulated by an iron-fisted Caba...er, Council. While it's true there's an awful lot of art afoot, every venue is licensed and scrutinized -- and violations of Health and Safety mean imminent closure. And did I mention the insane amount of money changing hands? I don't think you'd find heavy sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland in any TAZ. (Unless Hakim Bey is secretly a venture capitalist.)

Another major difference: Edinburgh is an elegant world capital, and not a desert full of filthy electro-hippies. (I kid.)

And, yes indeed, a lot of work on the Fringe is crap, but if you stick to seeing shows based on word-of-mouth alone, you'll probably have a decent time. Ignore all publicity, don't read the papers, and just ask people what they've seen.
posted by milquetoast at 3:41 AM on August 9, 2006


I've been doing those four-word reviews for the Times that they ask you about when you buy tickets - they send out a text after the show and you text back your review. Here are the ones I sent over the weekend, with ratings from 1-5...

The Goodies Still Rule OK: 2 - Nostalgic but erratic
Wil Anderson: 4 - Aussie on top form
Jason Byrne: 5 - Amazingly funny
Justin Edwards: 3 - Clever and genial songs
Tim Minchin: 5 - So rock it's unbelievable!
Gamarjobat: 3 - Good but flagged halfway
Danny Bhoy: 4 - Got better and better

For some reason they didn't ask for reviews for Robin Ince's Book Club (variable but mostly good, 3) or Mark Watson (non-stop infectious energy, 4).

My top pick so far is Tim Minchin, who's absolutely brilliant and deserving of all the praise. Looking forward to Dylan Moran tonight, Bill Bailey, Demetri Martin and Paul Merton. Yes, all the daring choices festbitch mocked in one of his entries; I'll feel considerable guilt in between the involuntary spasms of laughter while he's off frowning at some exquisitely bad five-quid matinee.

Oh, and just picked up tickets for Penny Spubb, Dutch Elm Conservatoire, and Josie Long - the last on the strength of her 5-minute Book Club appearance.

(If you're after other suggestions, my August archives for the past five years have lots of reviews.)
posted by rory at 3:48 AM on August 9, 2006


Huh. My "smoking kerfuffle" link should have gone here. No idea how that happened.
posted by milquetoast at 6:18 AM on August 9, 2006


Re: the smoking kerfuffle, I saw Mel Smith yesterday, leaning against the wall in the entranceway to his hotel, pointedly smoking a cigar with a flourish - you could tell he was desperately waiting for someone to bound over and congratulate him on his worthy battle with the powers that be for the right to give other people cancer with second hand smoke. What a publicity hungry wanker.
posted by jack_mo at 7:30 AM on August 9, 2006


The No Fit State Circus is perhaps the best thing I have seen in many years of fringe shows - stunning and exhilarating. It is like an alternate gravity-defying universe. If you can see it - do!

Am also looking forward to Adam Hills tonight, and I have heard great things about the Harry Benson photography @ the Portrait Gallery.
posted by Shave at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2006


But I'm honestly surprised that anyone would say that Burning Man would qualify as 'one of the world's best art festivals'. The press coverage of it certainly doesn't suggest that, and since I can only really speak about visual art and film festivals, I would never have thought to include it in a list with, say, the Venice Biennale, Art Basel, Frieze, &c.

Well, I won't argue about the press coverage; and if that's the definition of the Best Art Festivals I won't argue with someone who works in that field; and I won't argue that Edinburgh is the same as the Black Rock Desert though I love both places. My point is not that they are the same, nor that Burningman serves the same role as the Biennale - just that some of my favorite aspects of each have no real parallel other than with the other. So to speak.

That feeling of a vast realm of creative endeavor with no guide or rating system other than your curiosity and word-of-mouth; the idea that anyone can create or perform anything they want is not absolutely true anymore at either, but is still something of a guiding principle; the discovery of some tiny opera being performed for anyone who happens to be passing by, with the passion of a master if not the skill.

Having been to at least some of the World Class Art Festivals and Venues, I'd have to insist that I've seen art at Burningman that equaled them in some regards. I'm not the goofy fan I may sound - Burningman is less than the "blip" you mention in many important fields of art, and I don't discount those at all. But vast fields of masterclass ironwork and electronic sculpture interacting with passersby; huge creatures hauling themselves out of the desert powered by sun and bicycle; hydrogen filled glowing bubbles erupting in fire and roving theater groups that pull you in, leaving no audience to gape - to me, these have rivaled the best art I've seen in the world for effect, skill, and lasting inspiration.

Again - lots and lots of bullshit, too: Stupid electro-hippies, aging bankers clinging desperately to frat-boy dreams, loud loud loud bad music: all these things you've heard are true too. But there's something amazing to me about any event that can fulfill, transcend, and create so many stereotypes and arechetypes simultaneously.

But I'm not making it to either one this year, so who am I to rant so? I'm glad you're enjoying the Festival, savor the view from Arthur's Seat for me, and be glad the philosophical basis for the Edinburgh Festival doesn't require burning everything to the ground at the end!
posted by freebird at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2006


Wow - this is really funny. I'm generally annoyed and disdainful of the Cult O' Burningman. The "why can't the whole world run without money this way" drives me batty from people I know have spent thousands of dollars to get to their "cashless society". The relentless display of wacky edginess, the institutionalized faux-anarchy, the FUCKING bullhorns - these things set my teeth on edge.

And here I am ranting about how great it is. Well, it is lame, and it is great, so there.

posted by freebird at 9:51 AM on August 9, 2006


Meta
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:45 AM on August 10, 2006


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