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The Edinburgh International Festival

This week the world famous Edinburgh International Festival kicks off, beginning three weeks of the best the arts world has to offer. The Fringe Festival has already begun in earnest with countless alternative, weird, and wacky events happening all over the city. Later in August sees the Edinburgh International Book Festival and there will be several OUP authors giving talks over a fortnight, including David Crystal, Tariq Ramadan, Frank Close, Ian Glynn, and Robin Hanbury-Tenison. To find out more about the Festival, I turned to The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance, edited by Dennis Kennedy.

Edinburgh International Festival One of the world’s leading arts festivals, for three weeks in August Edinburgh hosts a selection of the best international theatre, opera, dance, and orchestral and other music in the city’s major theatres and concert halls and other prestige venues. The festival was founded in 1947 as a symbol of postwar European reconciliation, a parallel to the Avignon Festival of the same year. The first director was Rudolf Bing. It aimed to present a programme of work that would be representative of the highest possible artistic standards, presented by the foremost artists in the world. As with many international events the organizers have to balance the needs of Scottish audiences with those of the significant tourist market drawn to the festival. Significant Scottish companies and artists that have been featured include the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, Scottish Opera, and Traverse Theatre. The Festival is programmed by an artistic director, and artists and companies perform on invitation.

From its beginnings the festival also attracted to the city many more amateur and professional groups than those invited to the official events. It was not long before this peripheral activity was formalized as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, and now many hundreds of shows are presented in its programme. Although there is a director, any company or individual who wants to perform, can locate a venue, pay the appropriate fee, and find a spot on the fringe. The range of work presented in this context is extraordinarily wide, from prestige productions to the eclectic and the bizarre. The Fringe in turn has spawned a series of satellite festivals, including the Military Tattoo, the International Film Festival, the Book Festival, and the Jazz and Blues Festival.

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