Halfway Highlights: Photo diary of Edinburgh Festivals

By Dan James, Festivals Edinburgh Blogger in Residence, August 2018

Dan headshot 300x300As the age old saying goes, time flies when you're having fun, and given 10-days of my Edinburgh Festivals visit have already flown by I thought it was time to take stock of all the incredible, wacky and wonderful experiences the five festivals in August can deliver


Apart from getting reacquainted with one of my favourite cities in the world, which is the perfect backdrop to such remarkable events, I've managed to fit in plenty of shows, art and even a few down moments to read my new book finds. Here's a little visual journey of what an Edinburgh Festivals visit has in store for you!

Heading #IntoTheUnknown at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The theme of this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe is #IntoTheUnknown, and it's a theme I've been embracing wholeheartedly.


From joining silent disco tours (think a crazy looking bunch of people singing and dancing around the city to music no-one else can hear) to ending up semi-naked onstage thanks to some unexpected audience participation, my unknown has now very much become known.

Discovering the city's hidden gems with Edinburgh Art Festival

Edinburgh Art Festival always includes a vast selection of work, from traditional paintings to music and sculpture and I've enjoyed discovering some of the city's hidden venues along the trail.


From dock-side art installations in Leith to the incredible sculptures of Jupiter Artland outside the city, there is a whole host of unique venues involved in this year's festival.


Converted Victorian baths, home to the Dovecot studio, host textile exhibitions while rebuilt churches down side alleys offer up classical music respite from the buzzing Royal Mile. Grab an Art Festival map and discover some of the forgotten corners of the city. 

Reading between the lines at Edinburgh Book Festival

While you might assume a book festival is all about the books, the creative programme allows for words to be explored in so many ways. From music, comics and graphic novels through to readings and debates, the focus on Freedom at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival has thrown up a lot of conversations at Charlotte Square Gardens.


A special mention has to go to the Unbound events held in the Festival's Spiegeltent where musicians and authors from around the world have come together for performances, readings and discussions about a whole range of topics; it's undoubtedly worth venturing over for one of these evening sessions. 


Being amazed at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh Tattoo is a real spectacle, and I felt so lucky to be able to watch this fantastic show for the second time in my life. Set against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle it is an exciting night with a packed out crowd and cast of over 1000 performers.


With this year celebrating young people, there was also a great chance to see so much young talent on the esplanade which was accompanied by some new faces from further afield such as Mexico and Oman who both brought their traditional dress and performance to wow the crowds. 


Reimagining Circus across the Fringe

As I was listing some of my favourite shows this year to a couple in a beer garden, they stopped me to say they didn't like circus shows. Clowns and captive animals were what they imagined, but there are many shows as part of the Fringe which are reimagining what a modern day circus is.


For instance, at the Circus Hub on the Meadows, both of the tents have a jam-packed listing of shows from around the world, and I loved my evenings in both venues. With comedy, music, dance and acrobatics weaved in amongst traditional circus acts, but with a little something extra it's really worth heading down to see a show here and soak up the colourful atmosphere. This circus might just surprise you!

Looking to Leith as a festivals newcomer

This year I've based myself in Leith, the former separate town that is now part of Edinburgh. The restaurants along the waterways and relaxed vibe down here is a good reason to venture away from the centre, but this year there are also some new Festivals venues down here.


With the Art Festival represented alongside the Royal Yacht Britania and in Meadowlane, the Leith Theatre has also been jazzed up to accommodate an exciting selection of events from the Edinburgh International Festival.


While I was lucky to get a behind the scenes look at the work being done in the theatre, I'm even more excited to see my first gig there this weekend. 

Relaxing with food and drink

A massive part of Edinburgh Festivals is soaking up the atmosphere across the city, and the many pop-up beer gardens and food stalls are an ideal place to do this.

With a lot of the larger venues having taken over public squares and gardens with late-night beers and food available, it's quite easy to lose track of time as you catch up with friends old and new.


For a more intimate experience though, head to one of the many Fringe venues where you can enjoy acts performing while enjoying a drink and discovering the multitude of unique talents on offer throughout the Fringe.


Revelling in the chaos of the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is one of the most hectic parts of the city during August as flyerers, street performers, buskers and other acts showcase their talents to the crowds of people walking past.


While it can seem a bit daunting at first, it's a massive part of the buzz of the festivals, and you should spend at least a few hours hear soaking up the buzz and watching some of the street performers doing their magic, both as part of the Fringe and this year as part of Edinburgh Art Festival's Sympathetic Magick events.


Remember to throw your cash in the hat if you've loved a performer and this year you can even show your appreciation for Fringe performers with a contactless tap on a card machine

Finding quiet spots to take it all in

If you've been packing out your days with back to back shows, you might need some time out to have a rest and digest the sometimes thought-provoking discussions shows bring up. 


This makes for a great excuse to enjoy the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Dean Village is a fantastic spot along the river to take a few moments out. It's not far from the Book Festival, so I'd highly recommend grabbing yourself a new read and venturing down here to get lost in the pages against a historical backdrop.


Even if the city seems like it's got people enjoying the atmosphere all over, there are still plenty of hidden gems and viewpoints to discover like these awesome alleys and staircase that offer impeccable views of the beautiful Tattoo backdrop, Edinburgh Castle.

Phew.... here's to another 10 days of fantastic Festivals!

Check out Dan's Edinburgh Adventures during August 2018, and follow along using #DansFestivalCity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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