An Edinburgh Festivals Advent Calendar

As we count down to Christmas, here's a bit of festive(al) fun in the form of 24 fascinating facts about Edinburgh's amazing festivals! We'll reveal a new fact each day until Santa comes - click the thumbnails below to read on...

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Advent 01 full
DID YOU KNOW...?

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is attended by an audience of 220,000 every year... with a further 100 million watching the show on television across the world!

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Advent 02 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

In 1948, an Edinburgh International Festival production of Sir David Lyndsey's The Thrie Estaites was the first in centuries to make use of the 'thrust' or 'apron' stage, putting the audience around the actors rather than simply in front of them.

Tyrone Guthrie's staging innovation transformed the actors' freedom of movement and, soon after, led the director to a position at a specially-built thrust stage theatre in Canada. The new approach inspired many other artists and variations on the thrust stage are now used in theatres, concerts and stadiums all over the world.

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Advent 03 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

In 2013, artist Jason Hackenwerth created the sculpture Pisces to help celebrate the 25th Edinburgh International Science Festival. Pisces was made up of over 10,000 coloured balloons and hung over 40 feet tall from the Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland!

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Advent 04 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The world’s first ever publically demonstrated and commercially available mobile phone app was demonstrated on the streets of Edinburgh in 1999, as a way to buy tickets for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Then, after making use of this ground-breaking new technology, audience members would wait to have their tickets delivered to them directly by someone on a scooter!

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Advent 05 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

Among the major movies to have received premieres at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, are ET: The Extra Terrestrial, The Hurt Locker, Blade Runner, Finding Dory, Moon, Aliens, Let the Right One In, An Inconvenient Truth, Brave, Billy Elliot, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Man on Wire, Ratatouille and many more!

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Advent 06 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest of its kind in the world and hosts around 900 participants from over 50 different countries.

Launched in 1983, it was the UK's third book festival (there are now over 300) and was originally intended to be a one-off event - until the first 2-week run saw 30,000 people cram into Charlotte Square Gardens! The festival then became a biennial celebration until 1997, when it was made an annual fixture in the festivals calendar.

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Advent 07 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

A number of Edinburgh Art Festival commissions are now permanent parts of the city landscape, and are seen and used every day by thousands of visitors and local people.

These include:

• Alison Watt's huge painting, Still (2004) which hangs in Old Saint Paul's Scottish Episcopal Church;
• Richard Wright's dizzying The Stairwell Project (2010) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art;
• Martin Creed's Work no.1059 (2011) more usually known as the Scotsman Steps, a beautifully decorated staircase with 104 different colours of marble, one for every step;
• The Regent Bridge (2012, above) by Callum Innes which adds stunning splashes of colour to the previously dark underside of an iconic Edinburgh arch. 

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Advent 08 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival (as it's now known) was set up in 1978 by Edinburgh banjo-player, guitarist and jazz fan Mike Hart.

The original Edinburgh Jazz Festival included only traditional jazz performances, taking place for free in local pubs, but soon began to include a far wider range of jazz styles to suit all tastes.

A blues weekend was added in the 1980s, eventually expanding enough to warrant a change of name for the festival. And the festival itself grew and grew, expanding to include over 170 different gigs, ranging from the biggest names on the scene to hot new talent, and plenty in between.

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Advent 09 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

Over the last seven years the Imaginate Festival, Scotland’s international festival of the performing arts for children and young people, has attracted over 86,000 children and young people, their families, teachers and carers. Not bad for an event which started in 1990 with a few soggy tents in Edinburgh's Inverleith Park!

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Advent 10 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The first officially-organised Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations took place in 1994, and since then over 3 million partygoers from across the world have enjoyed the annual Street Party.

In fact, in 2015 there were more than 80 countries outside the UK represented, with revellers from as far afield as Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Iceland, Qatar, Malaysia and Chile!

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Advent 11 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

Edinburgh's Festivals are an important part in the city's economy - in 2015, they generated over £280 million (and £313 million for the Scottish economy as a whole) and created the equivalent of over 6000 full time jobs.

Speaking of which, those interested in working at one of the festivals should check out our jobs page for the latest opportunities.

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Advent 12 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The Edinburgh International Science Festival was the world’s first science festival, and was opened in 1982 by the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. This is her on a Hungarian stamp!

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Advent 13 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The stands of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo use 6799 pieces of steel, hold 8800 seats and take 40 days to build. Which sounds a long time until you consider that the old stands, which were used until 2010, took twice as long to construct each year!

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Advent 14 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is legendary for its huge variety of strange and wonderful venues - and 2016 was no different!

Summer's selection of Fringe spots included a garden shed, a wrecked car and even a working hair salon (shown above, with the show Foiled, staged in Edinburgh's Ruby Rouge Hairdressing Salon. Image by David Monteith-Hodge)

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Advent 15 full

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The Scottish International Storytelling Festival has been running since 1989, making 2016 the 27th edition of the festival - and veteran storytellers David Campbell (above) and Seoras Macpherson have performed in every single one of them!

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Advent 16 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947, as a return to culture and art following the horrors of the Second World War.

As well as money from the City Council and Arts Council, part of the festival's funding came from private citizens - including Lady Roseberry, owner of the racehorse Ocean Swell, whose Derby win provided a significant portion of the cash!

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Advent 17 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

Established in 1947, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the longest continuously running film festival in the world.

It was also the first international film festival in the UK, and was initially focused (!) on documentaries, before feature films were added and Hollywood stars like Gene Kelly (above centre, with hands raised) became a regular sight each year in the capital.

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Advent 18 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

To complete Ciara Philips' transformation of the Dazzle Ship for the 2016 Edinburgh Art Festival, 200 litres of paint were used by 15 painters who were involved for a total of over 1400 hours!

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Advent 19 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo toured to Australia and New Zealand in February 2016 - and by May there were no fewer than FOUR Tattoo DVDs in the top 20 of the Australian charts!

And not content with that, while in Melbourne the Tattoo sold a record breaking number of tickets for one act in the city, beating U2, Barbara Streisand, AC/DC... and even One Direction!

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Advent 20 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

This year's Edinburgh's Hogmanay headliner, Paolo Nutini, was also booked to play the festival in 2006/07, in support of the Pet Shop Boys - unfortunately, severe weather intervened and the entire event had to be cancelled.

Thankfully Paolo is back this year, and fingers are well and truly crossed for a repeat of the good conditions the end of year extravaganza usually enjoys!

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Advent 21 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

An audience at the 1995 Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival got a bit of a surprise when they attended a gig by jazz pianist, Dick Hyman and singer, Topsy Chapman.

The reason for their surprise? Introducing the musicians to the stage was none other than former US President, Jimmy Carter, who had seen Hyman perform at his inauguration ceremony in 1977!

(Original image: Chester L Roberts, used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Advent 22 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

A memorable moment for the Scottish International Storytelling Festival came in 2011 when storytellers delivered the complete Odyssey across a mammoth afternoon and evening session – a fantastic spectacle and one-off opportunity for lovers of Homer’s epic poem.

Throughout the Storytelling Festival week 22 storytellers and musicians, taken from Scotland, Crete, Greece, England, Corsica, Cyprus, Ireland, Sardinia and Malta, had recited individual episodes.

The group then concluded the project with a grand finalé of the entire story and its heroic themes of temptation, separation and journey.

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Advent 23 full

DID YOU KNOW...?

Every year our festivals try to come up with beautiful and eye-catching designs for their posters and brochures, and in 1976 the Edinburgh International Film Festival used something particularly special.

That year, to celebrate their 30th edition, they had their artwork designed by renowned Scottish artist and pop art pioneer, Eduardo Paolozzi, who created the gorgeous illustration above.

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Advent 24 full

And so we reach the end of our Edinburgh Festivals Advent Calendar, and hopefullly you'll agree that, as all of the above show, Edinburgh is truly a city of fun, fascinating and fantastic festivals!

So it's easy to see why, in 2015, Edinburgh’s Festivals attracted a total audience of over 4.5 million - putting it on a par with the FIFA World Cup!

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Thanks or reading our Advent Calendar - we hope you enjoyed it, and from all at Edinburgh's Festivals, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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