Colourful flyers are being thrust at me from all directions. My phone is beeping with a reminder that it is time to see a show (what I have no idea). I have a sandwich in one hand, a bottle of water in the other and frankly, my feet hurt. I am standing – not even walking now – on the Royal Mile and I am going to have to admit that I am lost. This is the Edinburgh Festival and it has completely overwhelmed me.
I am not easily overwhelmed. I deal well with the frenetic, am not afraid of choice and tend to operate at a pace few others can keep up with. But it turns out that the festival is not something to “keep up with”. Grand plans to see everything, stick to a schedule, attend every recommended show, all go out of the window as soon as you step out of your hotel – and don’t even think about picking up that phonebook-thick programme.
There is just so, so much of it. Because this is not just one festival, but a collection of several. My main focus is the Festival Fringe but zoning in on this does not narrow things down – because the Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. There is music, comedy, theatre, cabaret, dance and everything in between. There are hundreds of venues, thousands of performers and what feels like millions of spectators.
Time to calm down. I step off the street into a basement where a comedy show is promising free cake. And suddenly I get it – I need to let the festival take control. So that’s exactly what I do. I stay on for the next show, partly because it is half price as I’m already here, and partly because it sounds fun. I duck into random shows when it starts to rain, choose what to see based on being in the right place at the right time, and start talking to those flyer distributors.
It is fabulous. I discover that the Book Festival on Charlotte Square is an excellent retreat from the melee and has great coffee. I sit knee to knee with strangers to hear Ben Champion’s hilarious Autocorrect song and am challenged to confront society’s prejudice of those with so-called “special needs” at Rai Lina’s Thpethial. I even find a love of Scottish folk music – complete with bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, flute and traditional dance – at Breabach’s fantastic Assembly Rooms show.
No, I didn’t see everything I thought I would. And no, I didn’t end up seeing anything I actually took a flyer for. But I did see a man squeeze himself through a tennis racket – and I did have a fabulous time. I will definitely be back next year.
Tune has small but perfectly formed budget rooms with double beds, power showers and fast wifi. Located opposite Haymarket station it is on a direct line into Waverley station and is just 20 minutes walk from the Royal Mile and Princes Street.