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The Edinburgh Festival

It is a good thing that the Edinburgh Festival hits ihe Scottish Capital outside term time. Not so much because the University hostels - and students' digs - are needed to provide accommodation for Festival visitors, but because this most exhilarating occasion allows no time for anything mundane. It gives intelligent diversion for most of the twenty-four hours each weekday in its three weeks (it is not tactful to ask about Sundays - you explore the surrounding terrain then). The programmes always include some of the finest chamber music ensembles and soloists in the world. There are plenty of matinees; evening concerts, opera, drama and ballet performances usually take place at conventional times - but the floodlit Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle obviously doesn't start till after dusk, and late night entertainments and/or the Festival Club can take you into the early hours of the morning.

In recent years, about 90,000 people have flocked into Edinburgh every year during the three weeks at the end of August and early September. The 90,000, of course, does not include the very large numbers of people who discover pressing reasons for visiting their Edinburgh relations about this time, nor the many thousands who come into the city on day trips from all over the country.

They wouldn't all come, year after year, to a city bursting to capacity if they didn't find the journey eminently worthwhile. They find in Edinburgh Festival the great orchestras and soloists of the world, with top-class opera thrown in; famous ballet companies, art exhibitions and leading drama; the Tattoo, whose dramatic colour inspires many a hurried claim to Scottish ancestry.

Since the Festival started in 1947 as a gesture of the Scottish renaissance against post-war austerity, much has blossomed around it. Every hall in the city is occupied by some diversion: and you may find Shakespeare by penetrating an ancient close cff the Royal Mile,* or plain-song in a local church. "Fringe" events** bring performing bodies from all over Britain and beyond, and student groups are always prominent among them, responsible often for interesting experiments in the drama. Then there is the International Film Festival, bringing documentaries from perhaps 30 countries; Highland Games,*** and all sorts of other ploys from puppet to photo shows.

* (an ancient close off the Royal Mile - the precinct of Edinburgh Castle.)

** ("fringe" events - various artistic events not on the official programme of the festival.)

*** (Highland Games - these meetings are held annually in various places in the Scottish Highlands; they are also known as Highland Gatherings. These Gatherings or Games are held in autumn. The features common to all Highland Games are Bagpipe and Highland dancing competitions and the performance of heavy athletic events. All competitors in these events wear Highland dress. The heavy athletic events consist of Throwing the Hammer, Putting the Weight, and Tossing the Caber. (A caber is the lopped trunk of a fir tree, like a telegraph pole. It is placed in an upright position in front of the competitor, who bends down, grasps the heavy end in his hands, and raises it vertically off the ground. He then moves off slowly increasing his pace until the caber begins to lean forward ahead of him. Then he tosses it with all his might so that the thin end hitsthe ground first and the heavy end falls beyond it. The farthest toss wins the contest.))

(The Student Guide to Scotland)

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