ED2013 News

Here we go again – the ThreeWeeks mini-guide to the Edinburgh Festival 2013

By | Published on Wednesday 31 July 2013

TW 2013

OK people, here it is, Edinburgh Festival 2013, the biggest cultural event to have ever taken place in the known history of humanity.

It’s actually ‘festivals’
The Edinburgh Festival is actually a number of different festivals all taking place in the city at the same time. The Edinburgh Fringe (2-26 Aug, with previews from 31 Jul) possibly stands out the most, because it’s so darn big – it alone is the world’s biggest cultural event, and it’s where you will find most of the shows and performers recommended in this guide. But don’t forget, technically speaking Edinburgh’s cultural month actually revolves around the International Festival (9 Aug-1 Sep), while you should also check out the Edinburgh International Book Festival (10-26 Aug), the Edinburgh Art Festival (1 Aug–1 Sep), the Festival Of Politics (23-25 Sep), the Military Tattoo (2-24 Aug), and as a big finale at the end of it all, the Mela (31 Aug – 1 Sep).

Biggest Fringe ever
But as we say, it’s the Edinburgh Fringe that has the real scale, and once again this will be the biggest Fringe ever. 2871 shows were registered with the Fringe Society when it published its programme earlier this year, with (approximately) 24,107 performers from 41 countries appearing on stages at 273 venues. Which we checked with a maths expert who confirmed it: that’s a very big festival. As always, almost all the cultural genres you can think of are covered, though the Fringe Programme structures things around the following strands: cabaret, children’s shows, comedy, dance & physical theatre, events, exhibitions, music, musicals & opera, spoken word and theatre. Comedy is the biggest strand, exhibitions the smallest, though all feature some great things to see.

Build it and they will come
The wider Edinburgh Festival takes over most of the city’s theatres, galleries and concert halls, and many of its pubs, cafes and churches too. Though the Fringe also turns many buildings and rooms usually used for other more mundane purposes into pop-up performance spaces. All the big Fringe venue operators return this year, including Assembly, C, Gilded Balloon, Just The Tonic, Space, Pleasance, Underbelly and Zoo, while the team from Edinburgh’s year-round comedy base The Stand will once again also run The Assembly Rooms on George Street (not to be confused with all the other Assembly-branded venues!). Talking of year-round theatres, the Bedlam, Dancebase, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Summerhall and Traverse all have great programmes once again this August.

Alas, The Bongo Club, one of ThreeWeeks’ very favourite venues, isn’t operating this August, having recently moved to a new year-round home in the vaults used by Underbelly over the summer. But at least Edinburgh still has as Bongo Club the rest of the year (which for a time looked uncertain). The space previously occupied by all things Bongo, on Holyrood Road, this Festival becomes Paterson’s Land, presenting work by some of Scotland’s finest theatre groups.

Universal Arts also have great theatre programmes for you at both Hill Street Theatre, which has a solo-show theme this year, and in partnership with Quidem Productions at the New Town Theatre. And the American High School Theatre Festival is back again this summer, with shows at both Churchill Theatre and Pilrig Studio. And finally, please remember you haven’t really DONE the Fringe until you’ve taken in shows at Greenside, Gryphon Venues, the Quaker Meeting House, Spotlites, Sweet, Valvona & Crolla, and Venues 13 and 150. Visit them all and you won’t get a free coffee, but you will have a smug feeling for having experienced the Fringe as God intended.

Many venues have their own pages on the ThreeWeeks website, so why not spend an afternoon at one place and picks some shows based on our recommendations and reviews. Start off at www.threeweeksedinburgh.com/venues

Music without the mud
Edinburgh isn’t much thought of as a music festival, but boy is there a lot of music on offer at the world’s greatest cultural bash. First the International Festival’s music programme is extensive, with a classical bias, though quite a few surprises inside. Meanwhile music is actually the third biggest strand of the Fringe too. In there you’ll discover a plethora of one-off gigs, mini-residencies and other musical treats. The Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides is one of the Fringe’s finest musical hubs, while The Queens Hall hosts concerts for both EIF and the Fringe. Meanwhile Edinburgh-based music festival Haddowfest is hosting a programme of great gigs during this Fringe, boasting the likes of Alabama 3, Broken Records and The Cribs.

Get your tickets now!
Once you’ve read our preview guide, you’ll want to book some tickets. For the Fringe, you can buy these via the Fringe Society, either at edfringe.com or on 0131 226 0000, or at their physical box office at 180 High Street or, if you’re in Glasgow, at the Fringe box office at Queen Street Station.

Most Fringe venues also operate their own box offices, in the venue and, in some cases, by phone and online. For Free Fringe and Free Festival shows, you just show up – it’s first come, first served.

Each of the other summer festivals sell tickets direct from their websites, or in person as follows: for EIF at The Hub at the top of the Royal Mile; for the Book Festival at The Hub until 9 Aug, and then from the festival’s base at Charlotte Square Gardens; and for the Military Tattoo at its box office on Market Street.

Edinburgh on a budget
Everyone’s looking for a bargain, and there are lots of ways to save money at the Festival. There are a plethora of free shows – most notably in PBH’s Free Fringe and the Laughing Horse Free Festival – and while it’s customary to throw some money in the hat if you enjoy a show, you can pay according to your means. Discounted tickets are also available in a variety of places, with the Fringe Society operating a Half Price Hut on The Mound, and the International Festival offering some great discount tickets for the under 26s on the day of performance. And of course, if the sun shines, great entertainment abounds on the streets. ‘Superscrimpers’ Mrs Moneypenny has more tips on doing the Fringe on a budget here.

Where ThreeWeeks fits in
Navigating the world’s biggest festival can be a challenge. That’s why ThreeWeeks exists. We have one of the biggest review teams at the Festival, and review hundreds and hundreds of shows (just under 1600 last year). On top of that, our editors having been doing this for eighteen festivals, so bring nearly two decades of knowledge to the table – informing our show tips, and choice of interviewees and guest columnists.

There are four editions of our free magazine published during August – one a week – of which this is the first; you can pick us up at all the key venues across the city. On top of that look out for our daily reviews sheet in cafes and bars around central Edinburgh; check out www.ThreeWeeks.co.uk daily for the latest news, reviews and features (much more than you’ll see in print); follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/ThreeWeeks) and Twitter (@ThreeWeeks) for regular updates; follow our Twittique service for regular show recommendations (@twittique); and sign up to our email updates for alerts in your inbox (ThreeWeeks.co.uk/subscribe).