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Pre-Festival Stuff for 20112010 | 2009 | 2008

This page is split into two halves. The top section covers the launch of each festival programme when they take place plus any 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
Edinburgh Magic Festival

The second half of this page is called Picks and Previews. It contains links to media views on the individual programme launches plus, from June to early August, a digest of links to the critics' recommendations and useful preview articles.

Edinburgh International Festival

The current spring-like weather reminds us - if festival punters really need reminding - that this is the time of year when the EIF programme is launched. The 2011 programme was dutifully unveiled this morning (Wednesday March 23rd, 2011) by Jonathan Mills, the artistic director, heralding the dawn of another festival year. As pre-announced back in the autumn, this year's theme is Asia although Mills was keen to point out ... “It was very important for me not only to find Asian influences on Europe but European influences on Asia, so there is a reciprocity at the core of this festival.” This idea of reciprocity is picked up by Mark Fisher in his blog in The Guardian.

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. EIF Friends can book tickets now. Tickets will be on sale to the general public from April 2nd, 2011.

Initial media feedback

Initial media feedback was available almost instantly (links below) although these pieces are seldom much more than a regurgitation of the EIF's press release, occasionally spiced with a quote or two from Mills. The Scotsman was first out of the blocks, closely followed by The Stage and The List.

The early headlines have focused on: Dance - The Peony Pavilion by the National Ballet of China and Scottish Ballet with Song of the Earth and a new piece by Jorma Elo; Drama - a new six hour, two part, production of One Thousand and One Nights using actors from the Arab-speaking world and The Tempest by the Mokwha Repertory Company from Korea; Opera - The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan by the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe and Die Frau ohne Schatten; Music - the opening concert this year will be given by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, performing Das Paradies und die Peri; and the Visual Arts with work by Hiroshi Sugomoto. More considered comment from the critics should appear over the next week or two.

Go to Picks and Previews at the bottom of this page where you will find links to media views on the individual programme launches plus, from June to early August, a digest of links to the critics' recommendations and useful preview articles.

Susan's initial thoughts

My friend Susan, from the US, has been kind enough to give me her initial thoughts. She has been coming to the Edinburgh Festival for close on 30 years and is a particular aficionado of music and opera. She also likes dance and theatre and spends ever more time at the Book Festival.

"I was very disappointed that there is no Greyfriar's early music this year, as that definitely had become the highlight of recent festivals. The Sixteen will be performing for one night at Usher Hall but I am not sure how they will sound in that venue---designed to sell lots of tickets. I will greatly miss the Greyfriar performances!!!

As I have said before, I think the Edinburgh Festival can only claim International in its name by the countries being represented in performances, many of them paid for by tourism and cultural promotion offices. The audience is mostly from Scotland  and I regret greatly the loss of an international audience, as I thought the original purpose was to bring peoples together and increase international understanding through culture.

It seems to me at first glance that the tickets have become more expensive, which is sure to keep more adults, especially visitors, away. To make up for any losses in audience numbers because of ticket prices, the Festival is offering half-price tickets to students. That is great for the students and attracting young people who might not otherwise attend but I'm sure traditional audiences will not be able to attend as many performances as they might have in the past.

In fairness, I think we have to be grateful there is still someone like Jonathan Mills willing to work to make the Edinburgh International Festival possible in spite of the substantial funding issues. As performances depend on money from foreign governments and so many individual donors to replace the loss in government funding, it is a miracle that the Festival is still happening. Individual funding has guaranteed a degree of classical singers and musicians and greatly reduced opera. And, as we are always open to new experiences, we are looking forward to the Peking Opera and the Chinese ballet. It would have been nice that since the purpose of the Festival is to introduce us to Eastern cultures, there could have simultaneously have been some Eastern focused art exhibits such as ceramics etc. And since the focus is on Asia, I would have liked more from Japan and the Pacific R im nations---maybe another year. We visited a wonderful museum in Wellington recently that had a lot on Maori and micronesian culture after seeing some wonderful music and dance performances so it would be wonderful to introduce the world to the richness of this part of the world. Of course, the problem would be funding!

We, with great deliberation, did reduce the number of performances we plan to attend because of the cost as well as our commitment to saving enough time to attend more theatre and book events. That being said, I would be happy seeing most of the classical offerings at Queens Hall and Usher Hall---I just wouldn't take a trip to Edinburgh to attend this Festival if it weren't for the theatre and book festivals as well."

This punter's early thoughts

Like Susan my immediate reaction was one of disappointment at the loss of the Greyfriars concerts.

Dance comes out well this year with six productions. The National Ballet of China's production of The Peony Pavilion is arguably the highlight, while the locals will be rooting for the Scottish Ballet's Song of the Earth along with their world premiere of a new piece from Jorma Elo. In addition, Shen Wei's Re-Trilogy and Ea Sola's Drought and Rain are strong possibles.

The highlight in drama is probably the six hour (two part) production of One Thousand and One Nights. The problem here for visiting punters is that such a lengthy production is difficult to fit into a tight schedule - the locals may find it easier to accommodate it. Meanwhile, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle sounds appealing.

At the risk of sounding extremely boring I will trot out once again my view that, given the general funding issues, the EIF should leave the visual arts to the Art Festival. However, having said that, it is highly likely that we will go to Hiroshi Sugimoto's photography exhibition, while Heirlooms is a possible.

Finally, Ravi Shankar makes his first appearance at the EIF in over twenty years.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The programme for the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival was launched on Thursday June 9th, 2011. A pdf version can be downloaded or the programme can be viewed online at this page. If you are not a superman (or woman) - and I definitely am not - then you probably need a printed copy .... it is 350+ pages after all! The Fringe website tells you where you can pick up a copy in Edinburgh and elsewhere around the UK. Alternatively, you can order one here if you have not done so already.

The headlines include ... 2,542 shows in the programme brochure (up 89 on last year); 607 shows will be free (typically under the banners of PBH's Free Fringe and Laughing Horse's Free Festival); the distribution of shows across art forms - comedy 37%, theatre 30%, music 14%, children's shows 4%, dance & physical theatre 3.5%, musicals & opera 3.5%, events 3.5% and exhibitions 2%.

For theatre addicts Dominic Hill, the artistic director of the Traverse, introduces his farewell festival here - he is moving to the Citizen's Theatre in Glasgow in October. The Traverse programme brochure can be downloaded from the same page.

An early article on the launch was available in Whatsonstage.com. This was quickly followed by similar articles in The Stage, The Scotsman and The Guardian.

Better articles - in the sense that they contain a reasonable amount of information on the shows - can be found in the same Whatsonstage.com article (under Theatre Highlights) and in The Scotsman. More may follow in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, The Guardian appears to be the first out of the traps with a set of Fringe picks from its critics. The link to this set of picks, along with links to all useful preview articles and picks across the festivals from now until early August can be found in the picks and previews section at the bottom of this page.

My early thoughts, after an initial browsing of the programme brochure, are that I have not so far been greatly excited by what is on offer. The Traverse programme has too many Scottish productions for my taste. Now I fully understand the reasons - the Scottish Government is currently ploughing money (its Expo funding) into Scottish artists and productions - and I have nothing at all against Scottish productions per se but I would just prefer to see a more balanced international programme at the home of festival drama. The drama programme at Assembly also seems somewhat thin when compared with previous years; the lack of 3 or 4 reliable shows under the Guy Masterson production banner does not help. On the upside, a number of drama successes from previous years are making brief returns, including Lockerbie: Unfinished Business and Roadkill. If you did not see them last year then now is your opportunity although they may well be sold out already.

I like a mixture of well established comedians to complement the long list of wannabes but they seem to be in relatively short supply this year. Jerry Sadowitz is on for a week and he is always good value, particularly if there is a reasonable amount of magic in his show ... although his insistence on flashing his member the last time that we saw him adds absolutely nothing to the proceedings. Doctor Phil Hammond makes a welcome return to the festival and he can no doubt bank on a loyal NHS following. We really enjoyed Tim Vine's Jokeamotive show last year. He is doing a chat show this year (with members of the audience). Not sure that I am convinced about this ... but I may be wrong (as usual!?!).

On the dance front I am still grieving over the loss of the Aurora Nova venue, and the absence this year of any of the major companies who graced its stage in the past makes me wonder about the attractiveness of the programme.

Hopefully, I will get over this early reticence and eventually look forward to the programme.

International Book Festival

The programme launch for the 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival took place on Thursday 16th June 2011. An overview can be found here, while the full programme can be browsed online here. Note that public booking does not commence until Sunday 26th June 2011.

The Guardian, new sponsors of the festival, produced a "heads up" on the morning of the announcement. This was followed by a useful summary of this year's programme.

Launch articles soon appeared elsewhere, including The List, stv.tv, The Scotsman and ThreeWeeks. EdinburghGuide.com arguably has the most comprehensive.

Revolution is the major theme this year. Libyan writer Hisham Matar, shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize In the Country of Men, Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie, Gao Xingjian, China's Nobel laureate of literature, and the Egyptian author and political commentator, Ahdaf Soueif will be scrutinising revolution in the 21st century through a series of events which are being curated by the BBC's Allan Little.

Other writers and celebrities include Michael Ondaatje (launching his latest novel The Cat's Table), AS Byatt, Melvyn Bragg on the King James Bible, Alasdair Gray, the author of Lanark, Julia Donaldson, the new children's laureate and Sarah Brown on life in 10 Downing Street.

Links to useful preview articles will be posted in Picks and Previews at the bottom of this page as they become available up to the time when the festival commences.

International Film Festival

The 2011 Edinburgh International Film Festival programme was launched on May 17th, 2011. The festival will include 47 film premieres and 22 documentary premieres. The opening night film will be The Guard, an Irish comedy-thriller. Other highlights include David Hare's Page Eight, Keith Bearden's Meet Monica Velour and David MacKenzie's Glasgow-set sci-fi thriller Perfect Sense. Tickets will be on sale to the general public from midday on May 20th, 2011. Early media feedback on the launch can be found in The List, stv.tv and Screen Daily.

Go to Picks and Previews at the bottom of this page where you will find links to media views on the individual programme launches plus a digest of links to the critics' recommendations and useful preview articles.

Edinburgh Art Festival

The 2011 programme was announced on Thursday 26th May, 2011. At least, it was announced to the media. At the time of writing there is nothing on their website (it eventually appeared on 14th July, 2011). Initial articles on the programme can be found in The Skinny and in The Scotsman. The 2011 festival will be spread across 42 arts spaces in Edinburgh. The highlights include an Anish Kapoor exhibition at Edinburgh College of Art’s Sculpture Court, David Mach exploring the themes and legacy of the King James Bible which is 400 years old at the City Art Centre and pop-artist Robert Rauschenberg at Inverleith House. Martin Creed's Work 1059 - the cladding of the 104 Scotsman Steps in marble - is due to be unveiled in August. This work was commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery. I will add further information as it becomes available. Links to articles relating to the Art Festival will be added to the Picks and Previews section at the bottom of this page.

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

The programme for the 2011 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival was announced on Friday 27th May, 2011. It can be viewed online here or downloaded from this page where you can also order a printed brochure. The only mentions in the media so far have been in Jazzwisemagazine.com and BBC News. Further links will be added here when any more media feedback becomes available. Links to preview articles relating to the Jazz & Blues Festival will be added to the Picks and Previews section at the bottom of this page.

Please note that the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival will be held a week earlier than usual this year, running from Friday, July 22nd 2011 until Sunday, July 31st.

Forest Fringe

Details of the Forest Fringe programme in Edinburgh this year are now available here on their website. It is taking a slightly different approach this year by choosing a relatively small set of artists to work with. There are no articles in the media so far.

Picks and Previews at the bottom of this page will contain links to any relevant articles or previews as they appear.

Edge Festival

The programme for the 2011 Edge Festival was launched on Thursday, June 9th 2011. Further details can be found shortly on the Edge website. It is a joint member of the "Comedy Festival" - a bit of a misnomer really. It is really a vehicle for marketing the productions at Assembly, Pleasance, Underbelly, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic ... and now the Edge Festival.

Early media feedback on the launch can be found in stv.tv and ThreeWeeks.

Edinburgh Mela Festival

Programme launch due at the end of June 2011.

Edinburgh Magic Festival

The 2011 Edinburgh Magic Festival programme was launched on May 7th, 2011 at the Festival Theatre. Artistic Director and magician Kevin McMahon compered the launch. The second magic festival will be bigger than last year's inaugural event, running from July 1st to July 8th, 2011. The programme brochure can downloaded from here. Tickets are now on sale. See the Magicfest website for details.

Go to Picks and Previews at the bottom of this page where you will find links to media views on the individual programme launches plus a digest of links to the critics' recommendations and useful preview articles.

Picks and Previews for 2011

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

Date posted Item Details
23rd March 2011 Initial tranche of EIF 2011 launch articles - The Stage, Scotsman, List, stv, Guardian and BBC News
24th March 2011 More EIF 2011 launch articles - The Herald and EdinburghGuide.com
11th May 2011 Overview of Magic Festival launch in the Edinburgh Spotlight
17th May 2011 Initial tranche of Film Festival launch articles - The List, stv.tv, Screen Daily, BBC News and The Scotsman
19th May 2011 Sensible blog on Film Festival programme launch by Dylan Matthew in EdinburghGuide.com
24th May 2011 Reaction to EIFF launch from Mark Davidson, a local film fanatic
27th May 2011 Initial articles on details of the 2011 Art Festival programme in The Skinny and The Scotsman.
28th May 2011 5 picks from the List among the Film Festival's outsider strands
28th May 2011 Less than enthusiastic response to EIFF launch from the Sunday Herald
1st June 2011 Interview with EIFF director James Mullighan in The Skinny
9th June 2011 Comedians to watch out for at the Fringe in The List
9th June 2011 The Guardian is first out of the traps with an early set of picks for The Fringe from its critics
30th June 2011 Kate Copstick's 20 comedians to catch in The Scotsman
30th June 2011 Preview of Magic Festival in The Scotsman
1st July 2011 Unbound 2011 - free late night programme at the Book Festival - download supplement in The Skinny
4th July 2011 Interview with photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto in The Herald
8th July 2011 Art Festival picks in The List
8th July 2011 Book Festival picks in The List
8th July 2011 Music highlights at the International Festival in The List
8th July 2011 Theatre, music and dance highlights at the International Festival in The List
8th July 2011 Controversial comedy shows on the Fringe in The List
8th July 2011 Preview of dance Re-Triptiych at the International Festival in The List
8th July 2011 Preview of One Thousand and One Nights at the International Festival in The List
9th July 2011 Highlights at the Jazz Festival in The List
9th July 2011 Profile of Trombone Shorty in The List
9th July 2011 Highlights of Kids' shows at the Fringe in The List
9th July 2011 Highlights of the Military Tattoo in The List
9th July 2011 First Fringe picks from View from the Stalls
9th July 2011 Preview of Mirazozo, a coloured inflatable structure, which is on the Fringe - in The List
13th July 2011 Top 5 acts to see at the Edge Festival in The Scotsman
14th July 2011 Top 5 free Fringe shows to see according to The Scotsman
15th July 2011 Article on Remarkable Arts venues by Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman
18th July 2011 Festival picks in The Guardian
18th July 2011 Festival picks from some performers in The Guardian
21st July 2011 Preview article on Free Run in The List
21st July 2011 Dance highlights at the Fringe in The List
21st July 2011 Music highlights at the Fringe in The List
21st July 2011 Brazilian dance highlights at the Fringe in The List
23rd July 2011 Preview of The Qatsi Trilogy at the International Festival - music meets film - in The FT
27th July 2011 "Punter is part of the action" shows in The List
27th July 2011 Shows using digital media in The List
27th July 2011 British Council Edinburgh Showcase on digital media in artdaily.org
28th July 2011 Article on the Made in Scotland showcase in The Herald
29th July 2011 Festival picks from The Independent
29th July 2011 Festival picks from The New Statesman
29th July 2011 Article on The Greyfriars Beethoven Concert Series in The Scotsman
29th July 2011 Preview of music on the Fringe in The Scotsman
29th July 2011 Preview of classical music on the Fringe in The Scotsman
29th July 2011 Festival picks in Scotland on Sunday
29th July 2011 Cabaret shows on the Fringe in The Telegraph
29th July 2011 Critics' choice: International Festival choice in The Telegraph
29th July 2011 Critics' choice: Magic shows on the Fringe in The Telegraph
29th July 2011 Critics' choice: Comedy shows on the Fringe in The Telegraph
29th July 2011 Critics' choice: Drama on the Fringe in The Telegraph
31st July 2011 "The best of the fest and how to find it" in The Independent on Sunday
2nd August 2011 Brief preview of the Edinburgh Art Festival in The Skinny
2nd August 2011 10 Fringe theatre picks from Whatsonstage.com
2nd August 2011 Preview of the Edge Festival in Edinburghguide.com
2nd August 2011 Local musicians appearing on the Fringe in The Scotsman
2nd August 2011 25 reasons to go to the Edinburgh Festival in The London Evening Standard
3rd August 2011 Preview of Edinburgh Art Festival in Culture24
3rd August 2011 Classical Music in the Fringe 2011 in EdinburghGuide.com
4th August 2011 Slideshow of 10 selected exhibits from the Edinburgh Art Festival on the BBC website
4th August 2011 Pics of 11 selected exhibits from the Edinburgh Art Festival in The Guardian
6th August 2011 Joyce McMillan - "Great Scottish-made shows on the Fringe"
8th August 2011 Preview article on National Ballet of China in The Scotsman