All the world’s a stage – 70 years of Edinburgh festivals

In 1947, Sir John Falconer, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, spoke of his ambition that the International Festival of Music and Drama should provide “a platform of the flowering of the human spirit”.

The first Edinburgh International Festival programme 1947

This year (2017) sees the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. In 1947, eight uninvited theatre groups turned up at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival. With the ‘official’ festival using the city’s major venues, these groups took advantage of the large assembled theatre crowds to showcase their own alternative theatre. Although at the time it was not recognised as such, this was the first Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Map of major venues 1947

The EIF has played host to many international stars over its 70 years. Maria Callas performed in the King’s Theatre in 1957 and Rudolf Nureyev first appeared at the festival in 1984 dancing in a production of ‘Swan Lake’ at the Playhouse Theatre. In 1965 Marlene Dietrich performed, singing a collection of late night cabaret songs at the Lyceum assisted by an orchestra conducted by Burt Bacharach.

Harmonium Project, opening the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival

Many of today’s well known faces have launched their careers at either the Festival or Fringe. Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller appeared in Beyond the Fringe in 1960. Billy Connolly appeared in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in 1972. Rowan Atkinson took a break from his engineering degree in 1976 to perform alongside Richard Curtis for the Oxford Review. In 1981 Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were members of The Cambridge Footlights who won the first Perrier Award (now Edinburgh Comedy Award) and in 2001 Eddie Redmayne appeared as the MC in Cabaret.

Street performer at Parliament Square, 2015

If you want to get a real taste of what’s happening during the festivals, take a stroll – though it may take some time – down the High Street and to The Mound where you will be able to see Fringe groups, buskers and street performers. You might even be “persuaded” to join in!

Street performer on High Street, 2015

The Edinburgh Festivals continue to go from strength to strength. In 2016 the combined ticket sales of both the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival reached 2,915,143.

Find many more great pictures of our festival city on Capital Collections including our collection of Edinburgh International Festival programme covers.

Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival 2017

We’ve very pleased to announce the programme for this year’s Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival, organised in partnership with the Glasgow Women’s Library and the Edinburgh Womens’ Group Bonnie Fechters.

This year the focus is on women and film – Reel Women – and includes many free film screenings. Come along and meet like-minded folk, learn something new or just sit back and enjoy.

Browse the full programme and book your tickets via Eventbrite
www.edinburghreads.eventbrite.co.uk

Seen much of the festival?

Our photographer has been mingling with the tourists and performers on the High Street to capture more fantastic pictures for our Library archive. He also pitched up early and managed to get a ringside seat for the awesome Harmonium Project performance which kicked off the Edinburgh International Festival.

We’ve been at the Church Hill Theatre in Morningside too, documenting the activity of fringe residents, the American High School Theatre Festival. The American High School Theatre Company were wonderful hosts and we were allowed access to their technical rehearsals and a superb swashbucking performance of ‘Zorro – the Musical’ by Chadwick School.

Here’s a couple of our favourite pictures from Zorro which ended with a deserved standing ovation for the cast and crew.

Zorro - the Musical at Church Hill Theatre

Chadwick School perform Zorro – the Musical

Chadwick School perform Zorro - the Musical

Chadwick School perform Zorro – the Musical

The Church Hill Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary as a community theatre venue next month and there’ll be more to come on Capital Collections soon….

Have you seen anything worth talking about? Share your picture memories of festival 2015 on Edinburgh Collected!

Where to find the best collection of Festival memorabilia

Festival time is once again upon us and the streets of Edinburgh are awash with flyers, posters and other promotional material.

Instead of throwing away those leaflets and programmes we’re asking you to hand them into the Central Library so they can be added to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection‘s outstanding collection of theatre and Festival memorabilia.

The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection is the place to find out more about the history of Edinburgh and its festivals.

It’s also the perfect location to come in to for some peaceful contemplation before heading back out into the chaos!

Calling all budding photographers and festival-goers!

This one’s for you if you’ve been out and about town over the festival and captured the colour, energy, diversity and enjoyment of life in the city during August.

The City of Edinburgh Council are asking you to share your best festival photo with them on Pinterest for the chance to win a top-of-the-range tablet! The closing date for entries is 13th September so there’s still time to get out there and record the Mela experience or the end of Festival Fireworks this weekend. Or you can even plunder the past and submit one of your favourites from any of Edinburgh’s 12 festivals from years gone by.

Here’s a typical shot from our archives taken from our Festival City exhibition on Capital Collections:Performer outside National Gallery, the Mound, during the Edinburgh Festival

Full competition details including terms and conditions can be found at the council’s Pinterest festivals photography competition web page.

Good luck!

Bookfest!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… well, at least one of the most wonderful times of the year for book lovers! Once again, there is a cracking line-up with lots of our favourite authors coming to share in the festival spirit.

We are such good buddies with the folk at the book festival that we just couldn’t resist getting involved yet again.  We were delighted to play host the festival’s programme launch, right here in Central Library back in June.

Once more, that beloved dispenser of poetry and prose,  Doctor Book, will be in residence to help little ones with all of their literary diagnostic needs. 

So do yourselves a favour and do not miss out on this amazing bounty of events, happening right here under your nose, many of which are (your favourite price) FREE!

Are you having a laugh?

Some comedy favourites from Fringes past and present – what’s the funniest book you’ve read?

How not to grow up by Richard Herring Fear of hat loss in Las Vegas by Brendon Burns Life and laughing by Michael McIntyre  my life in comedy
Can't stand up for sitting down by Jo Brand My name is Daphne Fairfax by Arthur Smith  the life and deaths of a stand-up comedian by Stewart Lee Something sensational to read in the train by Gyles Brandreth