One of the world's great festivals is set to raise the curtain on its 70th anniversary season. The Edinburgh fringe festival -- properly named Edinburgh Festival Fringe -- has become the world's largest arts festival and takes place annually in Scotland's capital every August.
Last year the festival featured over 50,000 performances encompassing theatre, dance, comedy, musicals, kids shows, and a lot of general weirdness, spread out across nearly 300 venues ranging from street corners to organized performance spaces.
Together with its sister event, the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), which runs concurrently, the two artistic celebrations directly attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. Add in 10 other annual city festivals -- among them Jazz & Blues, Art, Film, Book, Hogmanay and, of course, the famed Royal Military Tattoo -- and city officials have boldly declared Edinburgh to be the world's best festival city.
And few who take in the festivals would argue the point, especially in August when the Fringe helps transform Edinburgh into "veritable cornucopia of colour and comedy" as one visitor last year put it.
While embraced by the city today, it's interesting to note that the Fringe began as an "alliance of defiance" when eight performing groups banded together in 1947 to create their own event after being denied permission to take part in the newly formed EIF. And to this day, that spirit of defiance remains with no performer denied entry, making it, in the words of organizers, "the largest platform on earth for creative freedom."
"It was a real leap of imagination," Festivals Edinburgh director Julia Amour recalled to me of the birth of the Fringe, explaining, "People needed a bit of a lift (after the war). They needed to reconnect with Europe."
Today the spirit of 1947 remains and one is never sure what they'll see at the festival as "the program depends entirely on the entrepreneurship of the participants." At the same time, "anyone with a show to produce and a venue willing to host them can take part; there is no artistic vetting of the shows."
It helps that, as Amour observes, the people of Edinburgh feel "entwined" with the city's festivals, particularly the Fringe.
Indeed, it's a spectacle that should be on everyone's bucket list," says Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. "You could walk down the street in August and see somebody dressed as a post box and you wouldn't think anything of it. Or you could go to some pop-up venue in a tiny basement and see Kenneth Branagh performing."
And everything is world class, she adds, much of it free.
Beyond the festivals, both women point out that Edinburgh is a great city visit at any time, for any reason. It's historic, walkable, boasts two UNESCO world heritage sites plus the commanding hill-top castle, and exudes a great student vibe.
But, Amour suggests, "the festivals give you a purpose to go into all the hidden places" and discover the city in a new way.
And for those that fear the crowds of August, she promises: "Whatever time of year you come, you can find something animating the space!"
Edinburgh's International and Fringe festivals take place Aug. 4 to 28.
This and That
- With the initiation of increased security measures at US airports and pre-clearance facilities, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is recommending passengers arrive three hours before travelling on international flights. New measures include enhanced screening of travellers as well as heightened screening of electronic devices larger than a smart phone.
- Celebrity Cruises is boosting its "all-included" vacation package program significantly in 2018 with Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon gateways set to join Hamilton, London and Ottawa. Passengers can choose either the Celebrity Silhouette or Equinox for a series of seven-night eastern or western Caribbean itineraries on alternate weeks out of south Florida. Included in the price are round-trip flights on its owned branded charter planes (operated by Canadian North or First Air), pre-cruise hotel night (for Alberta and Saskatchewan guests), transfers, gratuities and taxes. The program, including flights into West Palm Beach or Miami, will operate from Feb. 3 to April 1, 2018.
- Sandals Grande Antigua will close temporarily effective Sept. 20 for maintenance. Work is expected to last five months. Affected clients can change their dates or move to another Sandals or Beaches, and will receive extra credits.
- Dominica's profile in Canada has been raised a notch with news that the island's respected Rosalie Bay resort has named Canlink Travel as representatives in this country. Located on the Caribbean island's east coast, the eco-friendly luxury boutique hotel boasts 28 luxury rooms and suites housed in nine cottages that are set in a lush landscape of heliconia, lilies and hibiscus with views of the Atlantic Ocean, Rosalie River or the tropical gardens. Dominica is known for its volcanic peaks, unspoilt waterfalls and rushing streams, and rainforest canopies and as mecca for divers and hikers. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Universal Orlando Resort's Canadian Resident Vacation Package offers a five-night stay at the resort plus passes to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and the recently opened Volcano Bay water park, plus other amenities, when booked by Oct. 17 for travel through May 31, 2018. Prices start at US$99 per night or US$155 for onsite hotels.
- Sunwing will begin flying to Cayo Largo from Toronto starting Dec. 15. Running through to April 13, the stunning beach destination on Cuba's south coast is the tour company's eighth destination on the island.
- Early birds will catch a 10 per cent discount on all Globus Europe, South America and North America product (excluding Globus Escapes) booked by Sept. 12, while Cosmos clients will receive a $50 saving on value-priced Africa and South America guided tours. There's also a 5 per cent discount on all Globus Africa product when booked by May 1, 2018. Also, when the Globus family air desk books the air with LATAM on any South America tour of five nights or longer offered by Globus, Cosmos, Monograms or Avalon Waterways, clients will receive an air credit worth up to $500, or a $200 air credit when using any other carrier.
- Air Transat's new Tel Aviv flights from Canada have proven successful, leading the airline to announce an earlier start date in 2018: May 23. The weekly service expands to twice a week from June 10 to Oct. 29. The airline has also announced that it has agreed to lease 10 new A321 long-range aircraft to replace its A310s starting in 2019.
Words of the Week!
"Data is the new oxygen; without data, there's nothing. Everything is data these days -- data, data, data, data. Growth of data in the world today is exponential. I didn't even know what big data was a few years ago; with big data, you can measure anything!"
- Lousie Gardner, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, at the recent Travel Marketplace in Toronto on the necessity of comprehensive information about clients to aid the selling process
One never knows what to expect at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.