History of the festivals

Edinburgh's 12 major Festivals are Scotland's world-leading cultural brands with expertise, vision, impact and international recognition unmatched by any other cultural events on the globe.

Thanks to its festivals, Edinburgh emerged onto the world stage as a 'city of culture' long before the phrase had ever been invented.

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

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Credit   edinburgh international festival listing

1947 International Festival was founded

Founded in 1947, the Festival grew out of the rubble of the
Second World War with the aim of inviting the world’s best artists and companies to perform, whatever their nationality. It was a pioneering format and the first festival of its kind, under the direction of Rudolf Bing.

Edinburgh festival fringe   credit janeanne gilchrist original listing

1947 Edinburgh Festival Fringe started

Eight theatre companies who were not invited to take part turned up in Edinburgh anyway and staged their shows in the periphery of the International: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born.

1947 Red carpet glamour

The flourishing documentary movement of the day gave birth to the Edinburgh International Film Festival. By the 1950s the programme had been extended to include a vast array of international cinema.

Royal edinburgh military tattoo (2) listing

1950 First Military performance

The decade opens with the first edition of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in the glorious surroundings of the Castle Esplanade. These days it has grown into a world-wide phenomenon which has sold out for the past 16 years.

Edinburgh jazz and blues festival listing

1978 Jazz & Blues enters the scene

Edinburgh’s dynamic 1970s music scene culminated in its own dedicated festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, which stages one of the summer’s most spectacular events, the Mardi Gras in the city’s historic Grassmarket area.

1983 Literary greats

The Edinburgh International Book Festival started with 30 authors reading in small tents in Charlotte Square Gardens. It has grown into a festival which hosts over 900 participants and welcomes 220,000 visitors.

Sensory dining1 listing

1989 First public science festival

The Edinburgh International Science Festival was founded in
1989 as the very first public science festival in the world. It was inaugurated in style by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and continues to attract some of the leading scientists in the world in a packed programme of fun and provocative workshops, demonstrations and talks.

Stillmotion presents we dance  wee groove image ian watson listing

1990 Children's theatre

Founded to provide a programme of Scottish and international
children’s theatre, the Imaginate Festival has a full run in Edinburgh and then goes on tour throughout the country.

1990 The art of storytelling

Rooted around the work of the Scottish Storytelling Centre on
Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, and a testament to the thriving
storytelling scene in Scotland, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival stages storytellers from all over the world.

Eh2010   midnight moment credit lloyd smith listing

1994 Ring in the bells

For years Edinburgh’s revellers had been spontaneously gathering for the midnight bells in the historic Trongate to celebrate the arrival of Hogmanay (Scots for New Year). In 1994 the city formalised these get-togethers with the first official Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, now a three-day festival of entertainment and the world’s favourite New Year’s celebration.

Drums and brass cap listing

1995 World music, dance and fashion

Founded by members of the city’s minority ethnic communities, the Edinburgh Mela has grown to become one of the most popular family-friendly festivals in Edinburgh. More than 30,000 people take to Leith Links to enjoy this three-day programme of theatre, dance, fashion shows, music and food stalls.

2004 Edinburgh Art Festival is founded

The city’s galleries, artists and museums come together to start the Edinburgh Art Festival. The event takes over more than 40 museums, galleries and pop-up spaces, showcasing established and emerging Scottish artists, and some of the most interesting names on the world circuit.

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