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This page is split into two halves. The top section covers the launch of each festival programme and the early critical feedback:

Edinburgh International Festival
Edinburgh Fringe
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Edinburgh International Film Festival
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
Edinburgh Art Festival
Forest Fringe
The Edge Festival
Edinburgh Mela Festival

Once all the programmes have been announced by mid-June newspapers and other print mediums often give a single set of recommendations across all the festivals. For this reason I group all media recommendations and preview articles together in a digest of links called Picks and Previews at the end of the page until the start of the main festival season at the end of July / early August.

Edinburgh International Festival

The launch of the EIF programme in early Spring always heralds the dawn of another festival year. The 2010 programme was unveiled this morning (March 17th, 2010) by Jonathan Mills, the artistic director, and the Scottish Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop. As previously rumoured the theme is the New World, focusing on the Americas and Australasia.

The brochure for this year's festival can be viewed online, downloaded as a PDF file or you can order a printed version. See this page for details. Tickets will be on sale to the public from March 27th, 2010.

Initial media feedback

Initial media feedback was available almost instantly (links below) although these pieces are seldom more than a regurgitation of the EIF's press release. Articles written later in the day which usually appear in the paper the following day make for a slightly more coherent read - I call them day 2 previews. Any more studied feedback will not appear for a day or three.

The early headlines have been reserved for: Caledonia, a new play commissioned by the EIF from Alistair Beaton and performed by the National Theatre of Scotland; Bliss, a new Australian opera based on the novel by Peter Carey; The Gospel at Colonus, set in present day America and driven by Gospel Music, a reworking of Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus; and Porgy and Bess, a multi-media production of George Gershwin's work by Opéra de Lyon and the contemporary dance Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu.

A comprehensive series of articles on various aspects of this year's programme was published in The Scotsman on March 27th, 2010 (links below).

Susan's Views

My friend and fellow punter Susan was first out of the blocks with detailed views, particularly impressive as she lives on the east coast of the USA. Although her tastes are more eclectic Susan is a particular aficionado of music and opera and has been coming to Edinburgh in August for close on 30 years. Although she protests that her thoughts are merely her gut impressions, as she is way ahead of mainstream media, their verbatim reproduction here is fully warranted ...

"My immediate reaction is that the EIF is becoming more like the Fringe and vice-versa that you have to wonder where it all will lead. I also, as last year, find it very frustrating that instead of focusing on bringing the best artists from all over the world, which I believe is what the "international" part of the EIF was always meant to be, Jonathan Mills remains intent to make choices that fit into his "themes." I think that really limits and weakens the overall program. That said, even within his own parameters, the choice of music seems baffling. For instance, since one of the nations highlighted is the good old USA, I am bewildered by his leaving out certain composers, like Samuel Barber, who is having an anniversary celebration this year and many consider one of our best ever. Ditto for Aaron Copeland - there is only one of his pieces. I am also surprised by there being so few Canadian artists given the number of Canadians who attend the Festival.

I noticed in the different presentations a predominance of "modern" music which probably isn't going to make traditional Festival goers happy. As in past years, opera is getting weaker and weaker. Two of the operas, John Adam's El Nino and a premiere Australian opera are very modern. I admire Mill's eagerness to present new and infrequently heard music (ie Montezume-a German opera rarely if ever heard) but this only works if the pieces are worth being heard---and I'm not so sure how often this will be the case. Once again there is a lot of theatre---a lot from South America in Spanish--and one new play, Caledonia, by the Scottish National Theatre and written by Alistair Beaton (about a Scottish speculative scheme to establish a colony in Central America which ultimately failed and so threatened Scotland's solvency that it was considered a major factor in the decision to join the Union). Lots of dance but all modern and innovative. To me the strength of the Festival this year are the Orchestras, especially the Royal Concertgebouw. There are also very good artists and quartets at Queens Hall but they are established. I still greatly miss the former role the EIF played in presenting and discovering new and very talented artists. Instead of Mill's focusing on this important aspect of the EIF, he has chosen to "discover" artists who fit into his annual themes.

Ok, Brian. As I know you like me to name some of what I look forward to and plan to attend, here are my initial thoughts in note form:


El Nino by John Adams- in my opinionated point of view this American composer is overrated but  this is considered one of, if not, his best. Conductor is excellent and the singers seem  promising

Porgy and Bess- I have seen many times but  Opera de Lyon is very good

Bliss-Opera Australia-premiere - We have decided to take the risk as it is based on Peter Carey’s book, great baritone and we need to support new works.

Idameno-concert performance with fantastic American singer, Joyce De Donato, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Charles Mackerras. Should be interesting to compare with EIF much acclaimed production several years ago.

The Indian Queen by Purcell presented by the Sixteen-wish he would have picked another Purcell instead of feeling compelled to stick to his theme but I love Purcell and The Sixteen are fab.


Royal Concertgebouw-THE BEST.

Cleveland Orchestra-among best in US with "controverial" conductor loved in Europe but not always in US.

Finnish Radio Symphony-good conductor and musicians.

Russian National Orchestra--great conductor.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra-very promising young conductor Robin Ticciati.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra-again conductor Donald Runnicles--especially Mahler Symphony 8.

Sydney Symphony-again conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Minnesota Orchestra-fantastic Finnish conductor.

Individual Artists:

Piano: Jonathan Biss.Llyr Williams, Steven Osborne. 

Violin: Midori

Opera: Magdalena Kozena, Christianne Stotjin, Simon Keenlyside, Gerald Finley, Joyce Di Donato, Susan Graham

Choral groups: Ars Nova, The Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, Fiesta Criolla---Sadly much less than past two years which is a shame as this has definitely been one of the highlights. As focus of all is South American folk/liturgical music, one wonders if there is less because it didn't fit into the "theme" but there are excellent American groups and probably true in other countries as well but they don't sing the "theme" music.

Quartets: Skampa Quartet, Pavel Haas, Takacs, Nash Ensemble, Tokyo Quartet, Kronos



Again, the above represent only the artists I know so there may be others worth seeing. They also just reflect my personal tastes....The Spanish plays too may be excellent but since my Spanish isn't good enough to understand and looking at subtitles robs one of the visual experience, these are not my first choice. Given how many productions I like, it kind of makes everything else I said seem petty. However, it is because the EIF has been such a tremendous experience over all the years we have attended, the present one is competing against these and without criticism, there can be no growth."

This Punter's Views

Like Susan, and indeed many others, I remain to be convinced about the use of themes although I accept that they have been used with great success on a couple of occasions over the history of the EIF. Mark Fisher briefly discusses themes in Scotland on Sunday.

I am pleased to see that Mills has omitted the visual arts this year. Given the precarious nature of funding at this time it seems eminently sensible to leave the visual arts to the Edinburgh Art Festival. In the drama programme Caledonia, to be performed by the National Theatre of Scotland, has to be a must see, while Gospel at Colonus and The Sun Also Rises (based on Hemingway's novel) may both be worth a punt. The dance programme looks more interesting than it has done for a number of years. Grupo Corpo definitely appeals while Agua by Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal, Lemi Ponifasio's MAU company and Paco Pena Flamenco Dance Company are possibilities.

Go to Picks and Previews for a digest of links to useful articles and critics' recommendations across all the festivals from now until August.

Edinburgh Fringe

The drip drip of pre-announcements by the major venues over the last month or two has thankfully come to an end with the official launch of the 2010 Fringe programme today (Thursday 10th June 2010).

As is traditional, the Fringe likes to trot out figures to demonstrate just how large it is. So here goes ... it will include 40,254 performances of 2,453 shows involving an estimated 21,148 performers ... the biggest ever!

The breakdown of productions sees comedy lead the way again with some 850 shows (35% of the total) with drama just behind on 700+ shows (29% of the total). 83% are UK-based productions with a quarter being Scottish. C Venues will host 210 shows, Pleasance 206 and Assembly 122. 558 shows (23% of the total) will be free.

Early media feedback on the Fringe launch was available within hours in The Stage, the BBC News website, The Scotsman, WhatsonStage.com and The Guardian. The Scotsman had a slightly more measured piece the following morning.

In depth comments usually take several days to appear as it takes time - even for media organisations - to plough through the bulky 340+ page programme brochure. It usually takes us best part of a week to come to any conclusions. I am glad to say that our brochure arrived on time - just after lunch on the day of the launch.

Re the above, the mainstream media seems loath to let us know their thoughts. It is now July 21st and picks and previews are in short supply. Does this presage a relative lack of interest this year?

The brochure can be viewed online or downloaded in pdf format (70MB). In my opinion its sheer size makes it preferable to get hold of a printed copy if you can.

The revamped Fringe website was launched on Friday 11th June, 2010. Tickets can be purchased online from 8am. The site contains the official unveiling of the programme.

The Traverse Theatre, home of drama at the Edinburgh Festivals, has announced its 2010 festival programme which will consist of 18 productions. The brochure can be downloaded from their website. Other venues either already have details of their own shows on their web sites or will have them shortly. This facility on The Stage web site can be useful to find the link to a venue's web site, as well as other useful information.

Go to Picks and Previews for a digest of links to useful articles and critics' recommendations on the Fringe when they have had time to digest the programme. You will also find links to picks and previews across all the festivals from now until August.

Punters' Initial Fringe Picks

Our Fringe picks are done in three or four iterations from the time that the programme brochure is issued right through to when we are actually in Edinburgh getting the word on the street. The first pass simply concentrates on our experiences in previous years ... although this is not always a guarantee of quality.

Enda Walsh's Walworth Farce is up there among the best plays that we have seen at The Traverse over the years. And so, we are looking forward to seeing his latest play Penelope. We are also fans of Tim Crouch who we have seen several times before in Edinburgh. His current offering, The Author, was on at the Royal Court in London but we avoided seeing it there in the expectation that it would be on this year's programme. Daniel Kitson, in his storytelling guise, is another favourite and we plan to take in his new show It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later. Finally in drama, Guy Masterson productions can usually be relied upon although he may struggle to match last year's great success, Morecambe. I, Elizabeth appeals to us while I, Claudia and The Solitary Choice are possibles.

On the dance front, we will certainly be seeing Derevo's production of Harlekin. We have good memories of Derevo productions at Aurora Nova, a venue which is sorely missed and which we fervently hope will one day be resurrected. In addition, Beautiful Burnout, a Frantic Assembly / National Theatre of Scotland / Byrnony Lavery production, is on our early list of definites.

Our comedy picks tend to be arrived at close to festival time but we are currently thinking about going to see Tim Vine, the arch pun maker, and Tom Wrigglesworth. If you are old enough to remember and appreciate the dry humour of Victor Borge then Rainer Hersh's show is well worth a visit.

Our second iteration has been hampered by the relative lack of information from the professional critics. However, we have added the following to our list of possibles: While You Lie, Emma Thompson presents Fair Trade, The Cage and My Romantic History (drama); plus Continent (dance). Our third pass will follow when the early reviews appear.

International Book Festival

Thursday 17th June, 2010 saw the final programme launch for the 2010 Edinburgh festival season when the Book Festival unveiled its programme. There will be more than 750 authors from 50 countries. The names will include: three Nobel Laureates - Joseph Stiglitz, Jose Saramago and poet Seamus Heaney, Philip Pullman and Vidal Sassoon. The Scotsman was first to provide feedback on the launch, followed by BBC News and later by The Guardian. A more comprehensive article on the launch was available in Edinburghguide.com the following day.

The programme brochure can be browsed on the Book Festival website or it can be downloaded from its website.

Sad to say, the death of Jose Saramago has been announced. As mentioned above, he was due to appear at the festival in August.

International Film Festival

The Edinburgh International Film Festival belatedly announced the 2010 programme on June 1st, 2010, only two weeks before the festival starts. It has come in for a reasonable amount of criticism for this decision. Their defence is that the financial crisis has limited the appearances of film makers at film festivals this year ... and they have been waiting to see if they would be appearing at Cannes before making a decision on Edinburgh.

It had previously been pre-announced at the beginning of April that animated feature film The Illusionist had been chosen for the opening gala which this year will be held in the Festival theatre.

The programme with 133 movies from 34 countries will include: a 90 minute interview with Patrick Stewart; among the films will be Ryan Piers Williams' The Dry Land, Werner Herzog's My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways and Steven Soderbergh's And Everything Is Going Fine; while the festival will close with the British tragi-comedy Third Star.

The full programmme can be viewed on the EIFF website.

Three late additions to the programme have been announced: an interview with Nick Hornby, the British premiere of Lucy Walker's documentary Countdown to Zero on June 18th, 2010 and the presence of Nick Cave at the Irregular event on June 24th, 2010.

Go to Picks and Previews for a digest of links to useful articles and critics' recommendations across all the festivals.

Art Festival

The programme for the 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival was launched on June 2nd, 2010. The festival will run from July 29th to Sepember 5th. 48 galleries will be taking part, 11 for the first time. The press release (Microsoft Word format only) was subsequently made available on the Art Festival website.

The major exhibitions at the National Galleries include: Impressionist Gardens (NG complex on the Mound) and Another World: Dalí, Magritte, Miró and the Surrealists (Dean Gallery).

There are a number of commissions this year which have been possible through the Scottish Government's Expo funding. They comprise three artworks - Richard Wright, Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth plus Martin Creed - and four interventions.

Photography exhibitions include: William Wegman: Family Combinations and Edward Weston's work, both at the City Art Centre.

The most comprehensive articles on the launch can be found in Art Daily and Creative Boom.

Go to Picks and Previews for a digest of links to useful articles and critics' recommendations across all the festivals from now until August.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

The Scotsman provided an initial summary of the 2010 festival on Friday 11th June, 2010. It will feature among others China Moses with pianist Raphael Lemonnier, a salute to the new French jazz, Chris Barber at 80, the Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra and blues from Eric Burdon. In the free events Mardi Gras continues but, as feared, Jazz on a Summer's Day is not possible due to the unavailability of Princes Street Gardens. It is replaced by Clandemonium in Parliament Square.

Full details can be found on the Jazz & Blues website. The programme can be downloaded from the website.

Go to Picks and Previews for a digest of links to useful articles and critics' recommendations across all the festivals from now until August.

Forest Fringe

Their blog, published on June 21st, 2010 outlines their current thoughts for 2010 - 4 festivals in one!

Edge Festival

The Edge Festival (formerly T on the Fringe), which is effectively the rock element of the Fringe, announced its initial lineup of gigs today (Thursday 10th June, 2010).

A summary article on the line-up can be found in The Skinny with information on some of the Scottish acts taking part in The Scotsman.

Edinburgh Mela Festival

The Edinburgh Mela Festival launched its 2010 programme on Tuesday 29th June 2010.

A summary of the launch can be found in Edinburgh Spotlight.

Picks and Previews for 2010

Links to programme launches, preview articles, critics' recommendations and any other relevant info will be posted below until early August.

Date posted Item Details
17th March 2010 Precis of EIF 2010 programme launch press release - The Scotsman, BBC website, The Stage and The Guardian
17th March 2010 Coverage of the EIF 2010 programme launch in The Times
18th March 2010 Day 2 preview of EIF 2010 in The Scotsman, The Times, The Guardian and The Herald
18th March 2010 Top 10 acts at EIF 2010 according to The Scotsman
18th March 2010 Jonathan Mills tells The Guardian's Severin Carrell what is in the EIF 2010 programme
18th March 2010 EIF 2010 opera, dance, drama and music programmes info in EdinburghGuide.com
19th March 2010 EIF 2010 drama programme info in The Stage
27th March 2010 EIF 2010 drama programme info in The Scotsman - Caledonia, Teatro Cinema, Vieux Carré, The Gospel at Colonus, Songs of Ascension, The Sun Also Rises and Diciembre
27th March 2010 EIF 2010 dance programme info in The Scotsman - Grupo Corpo & Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal and Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company
27th March 2010 EIF 2010 opera programme info in The Scotsman - Porgy and Bess, Bliss and Montezuma
27th March 2010 EIF 2010 music programme info in The Scotsman - El Nino (opening concert), Sir Charles Mackerras and Idomeneo, Charles Ives and SNJO
2nd June 2010 Comprehensive coverage of Film Festival launch in EdinburghGuide.com
2nd June 2010 Top 10 must-see films at EIFF 2010 according to The Scotsman
3rd June 2010 Top picks at EIFF 2010 from The Herald
10th June 2010 Top 10 films at EIFF 2010 from The Guardian
17th June 2010 Preview of The Edge Festival in EdinburghGuide.com
23rd June 2010 Preview of Jazz & Blues Festival in EdinburghGuide.com
1st July 2010 Unveiling of Richard Wright's work at the Dean Gallery - commissioned by the Edinburgh Art Festival.
5th July 2010 10 best comedians ... according to The Observer
5th July 2010 Guardian picks across all the festivals
6th July 2010 Brief preview in The Scotsman of Another World - Surrealist exhibition at the Dean Gallery
10th July 2010 Preview in The List of Another World art exhibition at the Dean Gallery
12th July 2010 Useful link for assorted preview articles in Edinburgh Spotlight
14th July 2010 Useful link for assorted preview articles in The Fest (alias The Skinny)
14th July 2010 Assorted preview articles on The Scotsman's Festival website
15th July 2010 First Fringe picks from bloggers View from the Stalls
15th July 2010 Preview of the Edinburgh Art Festival - blog in Caledonian Mercury
16th July 2010 Overview of festivals & their directors in The List
16th July 2010 More on Edinburgh Art Festival in The List
16th July 2010 Gilbert and George at the Art Festival in The List
16th July 2010 Brief EIF previews of Music, Opera, Dance and Theatre in The Fest
16th July 2010 The Rest of The Edge in The Fest
16th July 2010 EIF Dance - The legacy of Pina Bausch in The List
16th July 2010 EIF Opera - preview of Porgy and Bess in The List
16th July 2010 EIF Music - preview of Idomeneo (Joyce DiDonato/David Zobel) in The List
16th July 2010 30 shows to watch ... according to The List
16th July 2010 Festival installation of Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth in The List
16th July 2010 Impressionist Gardens in The List
16th July 2010 Comedy, Theatre, Opera, Music, Dance, Visual Art and Books in The List
18th July 2010 Interview with Martin Creed in The Observer
20th July 2010 Django Reinhardt's gypsy rhythms live on in The Herald
20th July 2010 William Wegman's photography exhibition in The Herald
21st July 2010 Forest Fringe unfolding blog of their 2010 festival
22nd July 2010 Scotsman interview with singer China Moses - Jazz & Blues Festival
24th July 2010 Art Festival preview in pictures in The Telegraph
24th July 2010 fringereview.co.uk recommendations
25th July 2010 14 pics from the Impressionist Gardens exhibition in The Telegraph
26th July 2010 Made in Scotland Fringe showcase in The Herald
27th July 2010 Jazz & Blues Festival preview in The Scotsman
27th July 2010 Telegraph's Edinburgh festival page takes shape - including picks
27th July 2010 Hurrah some picks ... this set from Whatsonstage.com
28th July 2010 Book Festival Primer in The Skinny
29th July 2010 City Art Centre refurb & its photography exhibitions in Edinburghguide.com
29th July 2010 Folk, Jazz and other music on The Fringe in The Scotsman
29th July 2010 Derevo's Harlekin (Dance) in The List
30th July 2010 5 Fringe picks from musicomh.com
30th July 2010 20 things not to miss at the festival in The Independent
1st Aug 2010 Preview of cabaret acts in The Observer
1st Aug 2010 Stewart Lee's five essential Edinburgh shows in The FT
6th Aug 2010 Scottish theatre productions on the Fringe in The Scotsman
7th Aug 2010 Preview of ventriloquist shows in The Independent