2016 Edinburgh Festival picks

Our visit to the 2016 festival has ended. We managed 29 shows and 3 art exhibitions. My favourite shows were:

  • Us / Them .. beautifully crafted piece on the Beslan siege from Belgian company BRONKS
  • Once .. zany, off the wall physical theatre from Derevo
  • Teatro Delusio .. funny mime with masks set backstage at a theatre
  • My Eyes Went Dark .. well-written and well-acted drama
  • Ada / Ava .. shadow puppetry from Manual Cinema
  • Tank .. NASA project in the 1960s, trying to get dolphins to speak English.
  • Erik Satie’s Faction .. one man show on the composer by Alistair McGowan.

Re the art exhibitions, I enjoyed Facing the World – Self Portraits, Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Inspiring Impressionism at the Scottish National Gallery.

Edinburgh Festival News – September 2015 to August 2016


BECTU is mounting a campaign to ensure that all workers on the Edinburgh Fringe receive a living wage. The media and entertainment union says that this follows on from the many complaints that it has received over low (or non-existent) pay, long hours and poor working conditions.
Posted 4th October, 2015.

BP has ended its sponsorship of the Edinburgh International Festival after 34 years.
Posted 7th April, 2016.

Lastminute.com is the new sponsor of the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Awards. Fosters had been the sponsor since 2010. Perrier were the original sponsors, from the event’s inception in 1981 up to 2005.
Posted 2nd June, 2016.

The announcement earlier this year that Assembly would be running the Assembly Rooms as a digital entertainment venue was a bit unclear at the time, at least to me. All is now revealed on the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival website.
Posted 20th July, 2016.


Playwright David Greig will take over as artistic director at the Royal Lyceum when Mark Thomson departs in June 2016.
Posted 10th September, 2015.

Julia Amour, who currently works for the British Council, has been appointed as the new director of Festivals Edinburgh. She will take over from Faith Liddell in December 2015.
Posted 17th September, 2015.

Kath Mainland, the Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since May 2009, is to step down. She will take up the role of Executive Director of the Melbourne Festival in February 2016.
Posted 9th November 2015.

Shona McCarthy has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, taking over from Kath Mainland. She will take up her post in March 2016.
Posted 13th January, 2016.

Laurie Ransom, the National Theatre of Scotland’s artistic director, has resigned. He will leave the post in June at the end of his initial three year contract.
Posted 16th April, 2016.


The Riverside Trust has won a two year contract to run the Assembly Rooms as a “digital venue” during the Fringe. The Riverside Trust is headed by William Burdett-Coutts who was also artistic director at the Assembly Rooms for close on 30 years until its refurbishment in 2011. Quite what a digital venue is, I am not sure. Time will tell, no doubt. See the article in The Stage.
Posted 26th November, 2015.

The Counting House, a free venue for the last nine years, is to operate under the Gilded Balloon banner at this year’s Fringe. Advocates of free venues bemoan the loss, while the Gilded Balloon talks of it as being some sort of hybrid model of venue – “pay what you want”. See the articles in Chortle and The Scotsman.
Posted 3rd March, 2016.

C Venues will also adopt the “pay what you want” model at its C Soco venue. See the article in EdinburghGuide.com.
Posted 17th March 2016.

The Circus Hub at the Meadows will return for a second year on the 2106 Edinburgh Fringe. Read the article in The List.
Posted 22nd April, 2016.

The 200-seater auditorium at the National Museum of Scotland will be used as a Fringe venue under The Gilded Balloon banner. The deal covers three years. See the article in The Scotsman.
Posted 23rd April, 2016.



Festival Summaries

Media coverage of the festival in the weeks before it started declined yet again in 2015. This is particularly noticeable in the mainstream media.

The 2015 festival was largely enjoyable, helped by the fact that the weather was much better than it was in 2014.

The Summerhall venue (a relative newcomer to the festival) continues its meteoric rise in popularity.

We managed to see 30 shows and visited 4 art exhibitions. Here is a quick list of our most enjoyable shows:

  • plays .. Swallow and Tomorrow
  • one man performances .. Wilde Without the Boy, Man to Man, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and Crash
  • entertaining .. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, How to Keep an Alien, Little Thing Big Thing and The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster
  • physical theatre .. The Institute and Blind Man’s Song.
  • art exhibition .. Bailey’s Stardust.

Edinburgh Festival News – May 2015 to August 2015


The launches of the various summer festivals can be found on the pre-festival stuff page.

The Edinburgh Art Festival announced details of its 2015 commissions programme in mid-May.

A study was commissioned in August 2014 to investigate the perceived dangers to Edinburgh’s pre-eminent position as the world leader in the area of festivals. Thundering Hooves 2.0 was subsequently published in May 2015. I will cover this subject in more detail in this post.

Seven year old John Imray is the winner of the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Schools Poster Competition.

The British Council’s biennial Edinburgh showcase takes place this year. Details were announced a month ago. It has introduced a new website specifically for the showcase .. at least I think that it is new, or perhaps it just passed me by previously?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society announced on Tuesday 23rd June 2015 that nominations are now open to stand for election to both the Board of Directors and to the Participants’ Council. Only members of the society may stand for election, and only members may vote in those elections. The closing date for nominations will be noon on Wednesday 22nd July 2015. Any individual who wishes to become a member of the society must do so by August 10th 2015 if he/she wishes to vote in these elections. Voting will commence on or around Wednesday 29th July 2015 and will continue until the AGM on Tuesday 25th August 2015. The results will be published on Wednesday 26th August 2015 .. and indeed they were, and can be found here.

This year’s Edinburgh Festival Carnival Parade will take place on July 19th, starting at 2pm.

Closing press releases at the end of the festival, which include statistics on tickets issued, were made available by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Summaries of the closing press release from the Edinburgh International Festival can be found in various newspapers, including The Scotsman.


Northern Stage will put on its 2015 festival productions at Summerhall. It had previously resided at St. Stephen’s for several years and at King’s Hall last year.

Paines Plough will be bringing its portable Roundabout theatre back to Edinburgh this year. It will once again be sited at Summerhall. Details of its summer programme, including the Edinburgh Fringe performance, can be found here.

An unseemly war has broken out among the competing Free Festival organisations over the use of the Cowgatehead venues. Articles in the correspondents section of Chortle provide further information. They include … Can we end this brutal Fringe Free-for-allThis mucky affair has damaged the free model.


Mark Thomson, the artistic director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, has announced his resignation. He will leave in May 2016, having been in the role for thirteen years.

Bob Last, the chairman of the Edinburgh Film Festival, has stepped down with immediate effect two weeks before the 2015 festival.

Faith Liddell, the director of Festivals Edinburgh, is to step down in the autumn. Festivals Edinburgh, which was set up in response to the original Thundering Hooves report from 2006, is responsible for marketing the city’s festivals.

Allan Little, former BBC journalist, will take over as chair of the Edinburgh International Book Festival in October. He succeeds Susan Rice who has been chair since 2001.

Neil Murray (Executive Producer) and Graham McLaren (Associate Director) are to leave the National Theatre of Scotland next year to take up positions as directors with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.


Two conferences (under the banner of Desire Lines) took place back in November 2014 and February this year to discuss Edinburgh’s current cultural status, and to make recommendations to the city council on how it can be “improved, continued and secured for the future”. The results of these conferences and the associated public consultations has now been published – it can be downloaded from the Desire Lines website. A further conference will be held at Summerhall on May 19th, 2015 to discuss the findings.

Edinburgh Festival News – January 2015 to April 2015


The Fringe launched its search for the official 2015 Fringe poster back in November. This annual competition is open to all Scottish schools. The closing date for entries is March 6th, 2015.

Ii has been announced that Virgin Money will continue to sponsor the Edinburgh International Festival Fireworks Concert for a further three years, taking it up to 2017. See the article in The Scotsman.

The International Festival announced its concerts and recital programme for the 2015 festival on February 3rd, 2015. The online guides can be accessed here. Artistic Director, Fergus Linehan, took the opportunity to caution against standstill funding of the festival. See this article in The Scotsman.

The International Festival is to branch out into children’s entertainment and family shows for the first time this year.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that its Expo Funding (of Edinburgh’s Festivals) will provide £2.25m in the 2015-16 financial year.

The Stage reports that the arts charity Ideas Tap is to close in June. It has been in existence since 2008. Among its works it included the annual Underbelly award which provided Edinburgh Fringe runs for a number of companies. It will honour current commitments, which includes showcasing four shows on the Fringe this year.

The Stage reports that the proposed festival campsite will be sited near the airport, eight miles from the city centre.

March saw the launches of the full Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Art Festival programmes. Further details can be found here.


Richard Findlay has been appointed chair of Creative Scotland, taking over from Sandy Crombie. Findlay was formerly chair of the Royal Lyceum Theatre.

Rupert Thomson, artistic director of Summerhall, is to leave to take up a post at the Southbank Centre in London. He has been at Summerhall since 2011 when it was first converted from the old Edinburgh Vets school into an arts centre. The venue grew in popularity almost from the date of its inception. See this article in The Scotsman.

Zinnie Harris has been appointed associate director at the Traverse Theatre. See the article in The Stage.


Building work in the Bristo Square area means that the Udderbelly will move to nearby George Square in 2015. It is hoped that this will be a temporary move.

St. Stephen’s Centre (the former church) will operate under the name of Momentum Venues at this year’s Fringe. It will be run by theatre company Sell A Door in partnership with the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. There will be three performance spaces with 450, 200 and 50 seats respectively. See the article in The Stage for further information.

Princes Street Gardens will be used to host three open air concerts during the final week of this year’s Fringe. See the article in the Edinburgh Evening News.

In what appears to have been a controversial tendering process, Underbelly has ousted the Ladyboys of Bangkok from the Meadows site during the Fringe. See the articles in the Edinburgh Evening News and STV Edinburgh.

The Underbelly subsequently announced details of their Circus Hub on the Meadows site which will host 12 shows during the 2015 Fringe. See the article in The Guardian for further details.


The Festival of Ideas will take place at St. Stephens on March 20th and 21st, 2015. Sessions wil include a discussion on festival funding.

Edinburgh Festival News – September 2014 to December 2014


The EIF joins the pre-announcement game .. the Edinburgh International Festival has announced that Antigone, starring Juliette Binoche,will be part of the drama programme at the 2015 festival. Public booking for Antigone commences on November 29th, 2014. This production can also be seen at the Barbican in London during March 2015. In addition, it was initially announced that public booking for concerts and recitals at the Usher Hall and Queen’s Hall would commence on February 14th, 2015. However, EIF subsequently backtracked on this plan after complaints from regular festival-goers. The complete 2015 festival programme will be announced on Wednesday March 18th, 2015 (the usual date).

It may be my imagination but the Fringe’s roadshows for prospective performers seem to be getting earlier. There are two in late November, one in London and the other in Edinburgh. The latest information on all the planned roadshows can be found here on the Fringe website.

Submissions are now open for the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Details can be found here on the EIFF website.


Sir Jonathan Mills’ time as Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Festival came to an end this week. The EIF website has produced this celebration of his tenure. Fergus Linehan officially took over the role with effect from October 1st.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has announced that Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara is stepping down from the role to pursue other activities.

On December 16th, 2014 the Edinburgh International Film Festival announced that Mark Adams has been appointed as the new Artistic Director. He will begin his tenure in March 2015.


Creative Scotland has announced details of its stable 3-year funding for 2015-2018. £100m will be made available. The Festival & King’s theatres will receive funding for the first time under this scheme while the Royal Lyceum and Traverse see reductions in their grants of 17.5% and 11.1% respectively. See the article in The Stage.

Thom Dibdin (alledinburghtheatre.com) reports that St. Stephen’s is up and running as a community centre. A tenant is currently being sought to run the building during the 2015 festival. It had previously been used as a Fringe venue for a number of years by Aurora Nova, and more recently by Northern Stage and The Traverse.

Tommy Sheppard’s Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions has signed a deal to operate the Assembly Rooms in 2015. It was originally awarded a three year contract in 2012 when the venue re-opened after major renovation work. See the article in Chortle.

The Edinburgh Tattoo plans to hire and install two performance stages on the Esplanade each summer, alongside its 8,500-seat arena. They will be made available to concert promoters, event organisers and the city’s arts festivals. See the article in The Scotsman.


Two conferences will take place to discuss Edinburgh’s current cultural status, and to make recommendations to the city council on how it can be “improved, continued and secured for the future”. The venue for the first conference will be Summerhall on December 8th, 2014. The second will take place in February. See articles in The Scotsman and The Herald.


BBC News reports that The List, the Edinburgh-based what’s on guide, is to become a free title. It will move from a monthly issue to every two months with print runs increasing from 18,000 to 25,000. The preview and weekly editions during the Edinburgh Festival season will continue.