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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
The arts go on show in Edinburgh
By Charles Pamment
BBC News

Each August the population of Edinburgh swells as thousands of visitors take in a wealth of theatre, comedy, music, art and film in the Scottish capital.

Commonly referred to as "the Edinburgh festival", the annual celebration of the arts incorporates several different festivals.

Six of the key figures preview their programmes for this summer, and explain how their festivals have evolved.

Tessa Jackson, chair of the Edinburgh Art Festival

Catherine Lockerbie, director of the Edinburgh Book Festival

Paul Gudgin, director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Shane Danielsen, artistic director of the Edinburgh Film Festival

Brian McMaster, director and chief executive of the Edinburgh International Festival

Mike Hart, artistic director of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival


In 2003 the idea to create a standalone visual art festival was taken on board by the Edinburgh arts community.

The aim of the festival is to put the visual arts on the same footing as the other Edinburgh festivals and to celebrate the quality and diversity of work being exhibited around the city.

A scene from Matt Stokes' art film Long After Tonight
The work of Becks' Futures winner Matt Stokes is on show in Edinburgh
It officially opens at the end of July, giving local residents a chance to see the exhibitions in advance of all the international visitors arriving in August.

The festival's profile is growing year-on-year, thanks to the support of funding bodies and the ambitious curatorial vision of Edinburgh's thriving visual arts community.

There are major blockbuster shows - Mueck, Van Gogh and Canaletto to name a few - showing alongside work by Matt Stokes and off-site pieces by Scottish artists David Batchelor and Scott Laverie.


In 2005, a total of 220,000 people came to our festival, of all ages and from all over.

It is the largest public celebration of books in the world and it genuinely is for everyone: we have sessions for babies, the biggest children's programme of its kind, special events for teenagers and a huge array of readings, debates and discussions for adults.

The book festival was created in 1983, specifically to add a proper showcase for words and ideas to all the other arts which are celebrated in Edinburgh in August.

The aims are to bring the world's leading thinkers and writers together with the public and each other, along with new and little-known voices.

PD James
The book festival is offering an audience with crime writer PD James
In 1983 there were around 30 "meet the author" events, today there are over 650.

Edinburgh is now the world's first Unesco City of Literature. This year, we have three Nobel prize-winners: Harold Pinter, Seamus Heaney and economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is a brilliant thinker on globalisation.

The different Edinburgh festivals now work together more closely than ever before - each of us passionate about our own artistic area, and together offer visitors an array of cultural experiences unrivalled anywhere else in the world.


Back in 1947, the first year of the International Festival, eight companies turned up uninvited and performed in unusual spaces, and the Fringe was born.

Bill Bailey
The fringe festival offers stand-up comedy, theatre and music shows
These days obviously the biggest change is in its size.

We're celebrating the 60th Fringe this year, which presents 1,867 shows, quite an increase from the original eight - but that spirit of adventure seen in the first Fringe is still strong.

We're an open-access festival so anyone can come - and still perform in non-traditional spaces. This year we've got shows in a swimming pool, tree, a bus and a toilet.

It's always hard to pick the highlights. The Fringe attracts many big-name performers but also a lot of new talent.

The exciting thing about the Fringe is waiting to see what the most talked-about shows will be in August.

The recent Thundering Hooves report confirmed that Edinburgh is the pre-eminent festival city in the world, so if we want to maintain that position, we need to be working collaboratively and pooling our strengths and resources.


Our festival appeals to everyone, from dyed-in-the-wool cinephiles to those who might see only one or two films a year. Conscious that film is a broad church, we try hard to make a programme that speaks to as many people as possible.

The festival was originally the creation of members of Films of Scotland and the Edinburgh Film Guild, one of the oldest film clubs in the world, which started in the 1930s and aimed to bring non-mainstream films to audiences.

Richard E Grant
Richard E Grant's Wah-Wah had its world premiere in Edinburgh in 2005
Over the years, it changed slightly, to champion foreign-language and independent film-making, while simultaneously becoming the definitive festival for quality British cinema, through the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film.

The highlights of the festival this year include a large Rosebud section. It is dedicated to new film makers, on either their first and second feature, and attests to our support of new talent.

There is also a superb, near-definitive 1970s New American Cinema retrospective, which showcases the kind of film-makers and work the festival has always championed.


The Edinburgh International Festival's audience is an astonishing mix of people. People who have attended every year for 30 years rub shoulders with newcomers discovering the festival for the first time; locals with people who have travelled halfway across the world to be here.

One of the very best things about Edinburgh is the way people talk to each other, comparing notes about what they've seen and enjoying being part of such an international gathering.

Madhavi Mudgal and Alarmel Valli
Each festival attracts visitors and performers from around the world
One of the great urban myths of the festival is that the locals all flee the city, but in fact the opposite is true - 42% of our audience is local.

The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947, a great post-war initiative aimed at uniting the people and artists of Europe in a "celebration of the human spirit".

It was a huge success right from the start, and its founding principles - inviting the very best artists and companies from around the world to present music, theatre, opera and dance - are just as valid today.

Another great joy of Edinburgh is that it's never the same, and the combination of events, with the Fringe, book, film and jazz festivals, makes it unique in the world.

I first came to the festival as a teenager in 1962 and fell in love with it. This year will be my last as director. It's very hard for me to pick out highlights - I genuinely want to see it all, and that's how I'd like the audience to feel too.


I created the festival in 1979. There were no events like it in the UK, unlike in the US. The aim was, and still is, to stimulate interest in jazz across the board.

The whole atmosphere is electric and must be experienced at least once.
CP, Nottingham

Initially sponsored by breweries, the festival featured bands playing free to the public in pubs and concert halls, in the traditional jazz style. The music has since moved into contemporary areas without losing its traditional roots.

We now feature international artists of all styles, some of whom have never appeared in the UK, together with top quality British artists.

This year's highlights include Manhattan Transfer, Chick Corea and Humphrey Lyttleton at 85, with guests.

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra play Rhapsody in Blue and the Spirit of New Orleans, and the festival will be supporting fundraising for the New Orleans Disaster Fund.

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