Edinburgh's Festivals 2016 roundup

2016 was a remarkable year for many reasons - and for Edinburgh's Festivals it was a time of huge successes, dramatic moments and exciting announcements! Here's our look back at the top festival stories of the last 12 months...


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As the new year got underway, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival announced two great headline acts for their events in July. Not only was boogie-woogie master Jools Holland booked for another great gig, but the legendary Average White Band were also set to return, thrilling fans of their 40 years of music.


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In February, it was time to rekindle a cinematic love affair, as the Edinburgh International Film Festival announced a very special screening of ET: the Extra-Terrestrial, which had held its UK premiere at the festival way back in 1982. Spicing things up in 2016 would be a live accompaniment of the film's score by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

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And as we approached Valentine's Day, overseas fans were falling head over heels for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which took a huge cast of performers to the other side of the world for nine amazing shows in Australia and New Zealand. The reaction Down Under was amazing, with some fantastic first night feedback on social media.


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By March, the numbers were in for the Tattoo's antipodean adventures, and the bottom line was a remarkable success - the crowds in Australia and New Zealand had loved the performances with the total audience for the tour reaching over a quarter of a million!

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Back home, the Edinburgh International Science Festival was preparing for its annual showcase of science for all ages - and as part of the build-up, it was announced that world-renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie would be performing a ground-breaking new piece of music by composer Jill Jarman.

The piece, The Sounds of Science, was to be a 21 minute journey through 10,000 years of scientific endeavour, inspired by the work of author Christopher Lloyd.


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In April, the Edinburgh International Festival launched their full programme for August, with major names such as Cecilia Bartoli, Youssou N’Dour and James Thierrée mixing with more underground stars such as Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Young Fathers in a lineup bursting at the seams wih talent.

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Meanwhile there were also announcements about the opening and closing films of the 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival, with the world premiere of golfing history Tommy's Honour teeing things off, and the new version of classic comedy Whisky Galore also receiving its world premiere, at the festival's closing gala.

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Finally, there was a new face at the head of the Imaginate Festival for younger culture fans, with Noel Jordan revealed as the new Festival Director and the full Imaginate programme announced for May and June.


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In May, we looked in more detail at the Imaginate programme to pick out five shows that were simply not to be missed when the festival got underway later in the month and there was also more news from the Film Festival, which launched its very own tartan to celebrate the festival's 70th edition!


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With summer fast approaching, it was time for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (which had been teasing us with selected shows on sale since January), to show its hand at last, with the launch of the full Fringe programme, promising to defy the norm!

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Shortly afterwards came the full programme launch for the 2016 Edinburgh International Book Festival, with major names like Jonathan Safran Foer, Han Kang, Philippa Gregory and Eimear McBride among over 800 authors, illustrators and thinkers set to appear in August.

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Meanwhile, down in Edinburgh's port area of Leith, Edinburgh Art Festival was hosting a fun family day at its specially commissioned Dazzle Ship, and while the activities for little ones were soon over, the beautifully-coloured ship itself remained on public view right through until the end of the August festival.


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Bright colours were also in evidence over at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival whose hugely popular free opening events were announced in late June and took place a few weeks later. Tens of thousands filled the city streets to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Mardi Gras and Edinburgh Festival Carnival. 

And with the festival's full programme including over 170 concerts ranging from trad jazz to hip hop and just about everything in between, the next ten days were an absolute feast for music fans of all tastes. 

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There were also announcements on the Edinburgh International Book Festival's amazing Childen's Programme and of over 40 exhibitions at Edinburgh Art Festival, plus some great new video portraits of artists taking part in the Edinburgh International Festival. 


And so to August and the busiest time of Edinburgh's festivals calendar. With hundreds of thousands of visitors and locals filling the city, and thousands of productions at hundreds of venues, there were more stories than could ever be told.

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Nonetheless, as festivities got fully underway, it was hard not to hear about the Edinburgh International Festival's incredible Deep Time event, a massively ambitious performance of light and sound which illuminated Edinburgh Castle and its famous rock, with images of Edinburgh's history going back beyond the birth of life itself.

The free-but-ticketed event sold out incredibly quickly - but for those unlucky enough to miss it, there was at least an excellent video of the event to enjoy just a few days later.

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Speaking of the Castle Rock, the Book Festival presented the world premiere performances of a specially adapted live production of Alice Munro's collected short stories, The View from Castle Rock. The show played to huge acclaim in the capital before touring to the areas of the Borders which were home to the main characters based on Munro's own ancestors.

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Meanwhile, the theme of generations was also on the mind of the Military Tattoo, where three performers of wildly differing ages were taking part, including two with 85 years between them! 


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After the all-encompassing intensity of August, September was the time for Edinburgh's festivals to take stock of what had been another incredibly successful summer.

Almost 2.5 million Fringe tickets had been sold, representing a 7.7% increase on the previous year, and there were record sales at both the International Festival and Book Festival - the latter describing 2016 as its "most successful year ever".

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It wasn't just about looking back either, as the Scottish International Storytelling Festival gave an advance look at its tantalising October programme, the Festival of Dreams.

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And also looking ahead, Edinburgh's Hogmanay announced that pop hero, Paolo Nutini would be headlining its main stage at the city's end-of-year celebrations - with tickets for his show selling out within hours of going on sale!


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In October, we had Hallowe'en on our minds, so we took a look at some of the creepy capital's most spooky festival spots while we waited for the start of the Storytelling Festival in the middle of the month.

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And dark tales were still the subject of the day when we published this interview with two of the festival's amazing storytellers, Mara Menzies and Fiona Herbert. The pair discussed their art,  plus the gruesome history of the Scottish capital and why so many people are attracted to tales of terror.


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In November, there was a look back to summer and a chance to enjoy some of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with the release of a wide selection of video and audio recordings from the festival's August events.

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Meanwhile, the Fringe launched their annual schools competition, inviting Scotland's schoolchildren to submit ideas and pictures to help inspire the three planned covers of the 2017 Fringe Programme as part of their 70th anniversary celebrations.


And so we're back to the current month, and as the year winds down, Edinburgh's Festivals continue their year-round work to keep the capital in place as the world's leading festival city.

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Early in the month, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo put tickets on sale for its 2017 extravaganza, themed A Splash of Tartan, and we got into the festive spirit with our Edinburgh Festivals Advent Calendar featuring a fascinating festival fact every day until 24 December.

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Plus, we looked ahead to 2017, a year in which Edinburgh's Festivals will mark the 70th anniversary of their inception - and there was news of how many of the festivals will be playing their own part in Edinburgh's Hogmanay, ushering out the old year, and inviting in one of history and celebration!

It's been an amazing year for Edinburgh's festivals, and we hope you were able to be a part of it. Join us in 2017 for our 70th anniversary celebrations, and become part of the world's leading festival city.

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