November 2019 Newsletter

WordPress Version 5.2 was launched back in May 2019. Three minor versions (5.2.1 through to 5.2.3) subsequently followed at intervals, consisting mainly of bug fixes with the occasional enhancement. 5.2.4, a security fix release, appeared a month ago.

The latest major version, 5.3, has just been made available to WordPress.org users on November 12th, 2019. It will follow shortly to WordPress.com users. The main focus of this release is to polish current interactions and to make the user interface more friendly. A new theme, Twenty Twenty, is included in the release.

The Release blog contains an overview of what is included in WordPress 5.3, while more technical information can be found in the WordPress 5.3 Field Guide.

New Features in the Block Editor

Development continues with new versions appearing every fortnight as Gutenberg plugins (Gutenberg being the project name). Gutenberg versions 5.4 through to 6.5 have been incorporated into WordPress 5.3, along with bug fixes and performance enhancements in 6.6 and 6.7  Changes include:

  • Improved handling of large images which have been uploaded via a camera. WordPress will now reduce the size of big images to a default of 2560 pixels.
  • The cover block now supports a greater range of nested blocks. It also has a resizing option and the ability to have a solid colour background, as an alternative to an image.
  • The group block supports the concept of nested blocks.  A group can be saved as a reusable block.
  • The columns block includes various improvements: up to 7 columns in a block; the ability to size individual columns; and support for colour. 
  • Typewriter experience keeps the user’s place on the screen by automatically scrolling down appropriately as he types, thus avoiding the problem of typing right at the bottom of the screen, or even worse beyond the bottom when you cannot see what you are typing.
  • A Social Links block has been introduced
  • Widgets. There are now 9 widget blocks which can be incorporated into the main content area of a page or post: calendar, latest posts, categories, search, shortcode, archives, latest comments, RSS and tag cloud. The idea of legacy widgets in blocks which was being mooted appears to have been dropped.

Other Changes

Site admin email verification. This new screen will be displayed once every 6 months. It has been introduced because of problems where sites do not keep this email address up to date, resulting in important emails not being delivered to the current site admin.

Page templates. I have recently discovered on my WordPress.com account which runs the block editor that “add new page” now produces a display of various possible page templates that can be used. As I am not interested in any of them, I simply select the blank template.

Discouraging search engines. The method employed to keep a site secret, where this was required by the site owner, was only moderately successful. A change has been made to make it more likely that search engines will not display such sites.

Improved date / time component handling.

Site Health Check (WordPress.org users). Further features have been added.

PHP Support (WordPress.org users). PHP 7.4, which is due out shortly, will be supported.

Fixes. WordPress version 5.3 includes a lot of bug fixes and minor changes, generally making the product more reliable, while ironing out some of the idiosyncrasies.

Accessibility improvements for WordPress users. There are 50 updates in this area, including improved media controls, darker field borders and improved button styles.

My experiences with the block editor

I have been using the new block editor on my own website (bkthisandthat.org.uk) and on several other sites since January 2019. I have discovered a couple of minor bugs which I have reported, but I have generally found it to be stable.

My only concern at the present time is with tables. Before the block editor the user had to handcraft HTML tables. There is now a table block. However, HTML tables with empty cells or images will not convert correctly to a table block. The table block itself is somewhat rudimentary. In particular, it does not allow column widths to be specified, nor does it allow an image in a table cell.

I have dabbled with the media and text block and with the columns block. Neither is perfect at the current time. The media and text block does not appear to adhere to the margins that are used in the theme, at least not in my theme. The columns block is just about usable.

What will be next?

Gutenberg development has four phases:

  • the block editor
  • customisation
  • collaboration, allowing multiple users to co-edit content in real time
  • multilingual

Phase two (customisation) is currently in progress which includes headers, footers, menus and sidebars. A proposed design under the umbrella title of “full site editing” was put forward in September where these various elements, as well as the main content section, are each called block areas. The block editor would be able to display all block areas, just as a post or page might appear on the screen, and to work on any of them. Alternatively, a specified block area could be displayed on its own and worked on. At a very rough guess, it is likely to be mid-2020 before such a major change appears, always assuming that the idea is carried forward.

Auto-updating old versions (WordPress.org users). WordPress supplies security fixes back as far back as version 3.7, which was launched in October 2013. However, the effort required to support these old versions is an ever-growing problem. It is now proposed that, unless they deliberately opt out, old WordPress.org sites will be automatically updated (one version at a time) until they are on version 4.7. There has been much animated debate on this subject. It remains to be seen if the proposal will be adopted.

May 2019 Newsletter

WordPress Version 5.2, was made available on May 7, 2019. In summary, the functional enhancements in this release are mainly aimed at WordPress.org users although work has also gone into improving the general block editor experience. The changes will be incorporated into WordPress.com shortly, where appropriate.

WordPress 5.2

The Block Editor (aka Gutenberg)

Changes include:

  • Another wodge of widgets now have block versions. They are: RSS, Amazon Kindle embed, search, calendar and tag cloud
  • In addition, a legacy widget block has been introduced. This will allow you to incorporate widgets that were developed for old WordPress (pre-version 5) into blocks. However, I note that it is described as “experimental” at the moment
  • The cover page block now acts as a container which can contain multiple blocks. For example, it may have three blocks: a title, a paragraph of text, and a button, as well as the cover image itself
  • Disabling / enabling blocks. This is called block management. It is probably aimed at WordPress.org users who have incorporated collection(s) of third-party blocks into their system. For example, they may have installed a collection of blocks that includes a gallery feature. They only want the gallery feature and are not interested in the other blocks. They can disable those unwanted blocks to reduce the memory requirement
  • Performance improvements, particularly reducing the time taken to load large posts / pages.

Site Health Project (WordPress.org users)

This is an ongoing project, principally for WordPress.org users. WordPress version 5.2 includes Improved Fatal Error Protection which aims to catch serious errors before they produce the “white screen of death”, allowing a login to admin to potentially resolve the problem.

In addition, there are two new pages in the admin interface (under tools) that allow you to check out the health of your site via a number of tests.

PHP Support (WordPress.org users)

This subject seems to trundle on and on! 5.6 is now the minimum version of PHP that can run WordPress. However, as I have mentioned before, the PHP people only support version 7.0 and above. Unless there are mitigating circumstances WordPress.org users should be on version 7.0 or above.

WordPress 5.2 will not now be installed on your site if you are not on PHP 5.6 or greater. This minimum version requirement is likely to go up to 7.0 before the end of the year .. famous last words!

Similarly, WordPress will now check that any installed plugin is compatible with the version of PHP that you have installed. If it is not then the plugin will not be activated.

Fixes

WordPress version 5.2 includes a lot of bug fixes and minor changes, generally making the product more reliable, while ironing out some of the idiosyncrasies.

Other Recent Changes in WordPress.com

The following items are not related to the version 5.2 release, per se.

  • If you use the Calypso interface, you may have noticed that they have just changed the layout of the menu system
  • Contact form. I said some months back that there was no facility within Wordpress.com to add a contact form in the new block editor. A form block has now been added (not sure precisely when it appeared)
  • More admin dashboard colour schemes are available .. if you are in to that sort of thing!
  • Fyi it is no longer possible to purchase a custom domain if you are only using the free plan. Individuals who previously did so are not affected by this change.

My experiences with the block editor

I have been using the new block editor on my own website (bkthisandthat.org.uk) and on the Ascot Volunteer Bureau website since January 2019. I have found it to be stable. The current issues for me are:

  • Slideshows are not currently supported in blocks
  • The table block is not particularly satisfactory at the moment (although there are workarounds)
  • The converter (from classic editor format to blocks) annoyingly decouples an image and the adjacent text (where they are side by side), although they can easily be re-coupled.

There is no pressure at this time for users to convert to the block editor. As I said last time, it has been stated that the Classic Editor will be supported until December 2021. Perhaps the end of this year may be a useful time to assess the current state of play and possibly consider converting.

What is coming up?

Sidebars and footers. It is important to realise that the implementation of widget blocks thus far has been limited to their use in the main body of the screen. What has not been mentioned is the use of widgets in sidebars and footers where we have historically used them. WordPress has now issued a Blocks in Widget Areas RFC (Request for Comments). This means that they have a draft design for handling widgets in sidebars and footers, and they are asking for some feedback before continuing. It may be late summer or autumn before any agreed design is actually implemented.

Navigation Menu. Work continues on the Implementation of the navigation menu as a block, but it is unclear to me where they are with this. They were struggling to agree on a design when last I heard.

Block directory. As mentioned earlier, third-party blocks are currently installed as plugins, usually in collections that consist of multiple blocks. I get the impression that this is seen as a short-term solution. There are design discussions on implementing a separate block directory whereby they can be incorporated individually into your site. This facility will be principally aimed at Wordpress.org users.

Wp-admin dashboard. There is a proposal to revamp it, using blocks. It remains to be seen if this gets off the ground, and if so when. WordPress.com users who use the Calypso interface will not be affected by this possible change. See this post if you are unclear about the different WordPress.com dashboards.

Accessibility

Finally, a few words on this subject which deals with improving the experience of individuals with disabilities. Please be aware, if you are not already, that WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) was issued in June 2018. Public Sector bodies, including central and local government, plus some charities and some non-government organisations (not sure precisely what “some” means at the moment), must comply with these guidelines by September 2020. There are two strands that concern us:

  • Using WordPress itself. An accessibility audit on the new block editor has just been carried out. It was commissioned by a 3rd party outfit called WPCampus. The report finds various problems although it has to be said that the study was based on WordPress 5.0.3, and that work has been carried out in the area of accessibility since that release. I expect that further work will be undertaken in the coming months. I will monitor what happens here and report back
  • The website that you create. It is your responsibility to address WCAG 2.1 compliance if it applies to your organisation. I will relay any useful information that I hear. Obviously, I would appreciate any information that you may discover on the subject.

WordPress.com front-ends

I refer to WordPress.com’s front-end dashboards at different times. This short item is simply to explain that WordPress.com has two different front-ends.

The original front-end to WordPress is invoked through the wp-admin dashboard. This is still the case for WordPress.org users and for older WordPress. com users. Here is an example ..

WPBeginner.com

In 2015 Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com, introduced an alternative front-end, called Calypso. They will try to persuade you to use it rather than the wp-admin dashboard. They say that it is faster. I must admit that I have not found it so, and it is also missing some of the features that can be found on the wp-admin dashboard. Anyway, it is there and some of you may be using it. Here is an example of the Calypso dashboard ..

Calypso dashboard

Some users may find that there is an option on the Calypso dashboard (probably at the bottom) to switch to the wp-admin dashboard if you should wish to do this. An alternative method, if this option is not shown, is to change the url by typing wp-admin after the domain name.

Experience with Gutenberg on WordPress.com – Late Sept 2018

From late September 2018, selected WordPress.com users have been given the opportunity to try Gutenberg out. I have been trying it out on this website. My main objective has been to ensure that my existing content will work with Gutenberg. I currently use the Independent Publisher 2 theme which is aimed at people who want a simple theme where the word is king.

Please note that all observations in this post relate to tests that were performed during the last week of September, 2018. If you are reading this some months later it is possible that things may have moved on. Caveat lector (let the reader beware).

You probably know that there are two ways to invoke the editor in WordPress.com, via the original WP Admin dashboard or via Calypso. If you activate Gutenberg at the current time you will find that it only operates through the dashboard where you can decide whether to open a post / page in the Gutenberg editor (the default) or in the Classic editor. Opening a post or page in Calypso is limited to the use of the Classic Editor.

You may not have heard the term Calypso but WordPress.com users should recognise it from this screen capture. Clicking Site Pages or Blog Posts invokes the editor.

I started off with my largest document “A potted history of Association Football in England” which weighed in at 21K words. This is not a straightforward document. It includes: a quotes paragraph; a self-built HTML table of contents with links so that a reader can jump straight to a specific section; standard images from the media library; images from the Getty Images library (which are implemented by using shortcodes); and a number of bordered sections built with HTML which contain information which does not really fit in with the natural flow of the text. A brief explanation of shortcodes. They are essentially macros. One use is to provide the same functionality in the main body of a post or page that is available in some of the popular widgets, e.g. to display a gallery.

Opening the page in the Gutenberg editor for the first time results in the display of a single Classic block. This can be edited in a similar fashion to how you work now. You could in fact keep the document as a single Classic block if you so wished. However, the major drawback at the moment is that you cannot insert an image or a contact form into a Classic block. I have previously mentioned this deficiency. To me, this renders the Classic block practically unusable. I do not know if they are going to rectify this problem.

One of the options is to convert this single Classic block into multiple native Gutenberg blocks. This task took 25 seconds for my large document. While this was not unexpected, there was no indication that anything was happening, leading to the “did I really click on that option? .. should I click it again?” syndrome. Now, it has to be said that the vast majority of posts and pages are relatively small and they should observe no significant delay when performing block conversion.

Observations on how successful the converter was

Standard WordPress facilities were converted without any trouble. This is good news.

However, where a user makes use of HTML to produce effects that the current version of WordPress does not provide “out of the box”, the converter struggles.

My table of contents no longer worked. The section labels (they call them anchors in HTML) had disappeared. It appears that the converter is quite fussy about how they are defined, whereas the current version of WordPress is not. I had to manually alter all my section labels in the original version of the footie document, and then the converter worked OK.

My bordered sections which are enclosed in HTML div and /div statements were also not correctly converted. The borders disappeared and what should have been one block turned into two, and sometimes more, blocks. I was forced to set up a custom HTML block and recreate the bordered section from scratch. This was a bit painful. Fortunately, there are only four of them in this document.

I subsequently extended the testing to various other documents on this site.

The local history of Sunninghill & Ascot is currently the most popular item on the site. It includes several shortcodes to display galleries. They converted without any trouble. It also contains a table of contents. Forewarned by my experience with the footie history, I manually changed the section labels so that the converter would not get upset.

I use HTML-created tables in various places on other pages in my website. The converter recognised the fact that they were tables and created table blocks, albeit not very satisfactorily. Cells that contain images were not displayed in the editor but did appear on the rendered website page, while empty cells just disappeared totally. In addition, a table block, whether an existing table that has been converted or a newly inserted table block, insists on making each column the same width, not something that I want. Somewhat bizarrely, my converted tables appeared with the correct column widths in the editor but not on the website. I have to say that I am not impressed with table blocks at the moment. When I implemented the original HTML tables as custom HTML blocks they worked satisfactorily. I propose to adopt this approach until such time as the table block is improved.

Other Observations

One idiosyncrasy of WordPress is that the display of a post or page may look different in the editor from how it looks on the website, i.e. you do not necessarily get WYSIWYG. The degree of difference can vary from theme to theme. It seemed to me to be more pronounced in Gutenberg, but this may just be the Independent Publisher 2 theme that I am using?

Please note that any existing posts / pages whose content remains unchanged will display satisfactorily on the site, i.e. it is not necessary to convert them.

Re performance, loading the very large footie history page on the website was sluggish on the existing version of WordPress, and it was even slower on the Gutenberg version of the page. I had already decided to split it up into multiple pages .. something which I have now done.

Finally, I tried out a copy and paste from another application. I have been in the habit of penning the initial drafty words of my articles in Microsoft Word, and then at some point copying and pasting them into WordPress. The words in this post were originally part of a larger article in Word. When I pasted this content into a paragraph block it included the Word formatting as well as the text. In WordPress 4.x there is an option to just paste the text, but there appears to be no similar option in the paragraph block. My workaround was to create a Classic block, set the paste as text option, perform the paste, and lastly convert the classic block into Gutenberg blocks.

test post

here is some text ..

and some more rhubarb.

and yet more ..

 

Ascot Durning Library – picture courtesy of Christine Weightmanggggggggggggg

Date of Meeting AgendaMinutes
October 12th, 2019ReadRead

Some barebones text to sit here for no particular reason.

Some footer rhubarb.

Gods of the beautiful game

Who are the Gods of the “Beautiful Game”?

I am letting slip evidence of my misspent youth here, a time when I spent too much time playing, watching, thinking and living football to the detriment of my studies.

Barcelona ’s comprehensive, not to say magisterial, triumph over Manchester United in the recent 2011 UEFA Champions League Final brought with it the inevitable flurry of articles in the media that wanted to know if Barcelona is the best team ever.

As many people have pointed out, it is impossible to compare players and teams across generations. Ever-increasing levels of fitness and the speed of the modern game prevent meaningful comparisons. Players and teams can only be compared with their contemporaries, and just possibly with the generation before and the generation after.

Did the person who coined the phrase “the beautiful game” realise how relatively few occasions there are when this beauty is truly achieved? And who did coin the phrase … does anybody know?

It is much easier to pick out individual players of greatness rather than teams … individuals who demonstrate much greater levels of skill than their opponents, to the extent of making very good players, often so called world class players, look very, very ordinary. I may be showing my age but I still think that Pele sits above all others, particularly in terms of an all-round range of skills … excellent with both feet, good in the air, unsurpassed speed of thought and invention both in terms of what is possible and in terms of execution. Maradona, with his individual virtuoso performances, probably comes second although Messi is knocking hard at the door.

Other players who to my mind join them in this Pantheon of great football players include, in no particular order: Di Stefano, Zidane, Beckanbauer, Cruyf and Moore. Bobby Moore may be a surprise but his performances in both the 1966 and 1970 World Cups personified consummate defensive skill, leadership and authority.

As I have said, the greatness of teams is much more difficult to assess. To my mind a great team needs at least 5, possibly 6, exceptional players and, most importantly, it needs to demonstrate that greatness by not just winning a major tournament but to do so by appearing to take the game to another level and by making other top-class teams look abject in the process.

There are no surprises in my three choices. Here they are in date order.

I am old enough to remember the Real Madrid vs. Eintracht Frankfurt European Cup Final in 1960. The skills of Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, Santamaria etc were breathtaking to behold as the Spanish side won 7-3. I remember that a recording of the whole game was taken round schools afterwards to show the sublime skills of the Spanish side. British sides of the period looked positively pedestrian in comparison.

The Brazilian World Cup winning side of 1970 contained the most skilful set of players that I have ever seen. I can still remember the names of all the outfield players. Despite my cynicism on most topics … part and parcel of growing old I am afraid … I still salivate at the mere mention of their front four: Jairzinho, Pele, Tostao and Rivelino; backed by Gerson and Clodoaldo in midfield. And the icing on the cake? … that was the move and finish for the fourth and last goal in the final against Italy which was scored by their captain, Carlos Alberto. It still gets quite a few plays on TV and rightly so. “That was sheer, delightful football” said Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC commentator … yes it was Kenneth, in spades.

My last team choice has to be Barcelona for their humiliation of Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final. Humiliation is not too strong a word … you only had to look at the total resignation on the faces of the United management team as they sat disconsolately on the sidelines. They were totally non-plussed. The bewitching short passing interplay of Barcelona in the last third of the field, orchestrated by the triumvirate of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta was an absolute joy to watch, as were the individual skills of Messi. All in all it was one of those very rare moments in sport when the performance is simply on a different planet from what is normally produced or expected; moments that you are very grateful to have witnessed. In the world of tennis Roger Federer, in his prime, was another example of a sportsman who seemed to operate on another plane from all other players of his generation.

2nd June, 2011

 

2015festivalarchive

Festivals

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.

People

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.

Venues

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.

Edinburgh

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.

Media

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.

Festivals

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.

People

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.

Venues

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.

Edinburgh

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

Festivals

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.

Venues

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.

People

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.

Edinburgh

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.

Pre-festival Stuff

Information on festival programme launches can be found here. In addition, links to critics’ recommendations are at the bottom of the page.

Edinburgh International Festival

Fergus Linehan announced the full details of his first Edinburgh International Festival on Wednesday 18th March, 2015. The programme brochure can be viewed online or downloaded in pdf format.

Initial articles on the launch were quickly available through various media outlets, including The List, The Guardian, EdinburghGuide.com,  The Edinburgh Reporter and The Stage.

Early feedback from the critics can be found in The Scotsman.

This punter’s view. The drama programme is strong this year. Antigone with Juliette Binoches, Complicite’s The Encounter and Robert Le Page’s 887 are all must-sees. In the dance programme Sylvie Guillem – Life in Progress and Lo Real are likely probabilities.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

HelpinchoosingFringeshows

The British Council Edinburgh Showcase takes place biennially. Details of the 2015 showcase which comprises 30 festival productions were announced in mid-May.

The Made in Scotland 2015 showcase was unveiled on May 20th. Made in Scotland is a curated showcase of Scottish performance on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, supported through the Scottish Government’s  Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. There are twenty one shows in this year’s showcase.

I make use of the information in both the British Council and Made in Scotland showcases to help me when deciding on which shows to see at the Fringe.

The so called “big four” (Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon and Underbelly) announced their 2015 programmes on May 19th. As I have said before .. being old school I will personally wait for the official Fringe launch which will take place June 4th. If you cannot wait you can find information on their joint programme brochure on this Underbelly page.

Summerhall announced its 2015 festival programme on May 19th.

Even the Traverse has given in to the temptation of announcing its programme prior to the official Fringe launch, albeit just by two days. The online brochure (issuu-based) can be viewed hereThom Dibdin in The Stage writes about the programme.

And finally! … it is June 4th, 2015, the date of the official launch of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. My copy of the programme brochure dutifully arrived in the morning post, 435 pages and weighing in at just under 1.5 pounds (or 660 grams if you are metric). Early articles from the mainstream media include Lyn Gardner (The Guardian), The List, The Stage and The Scotsman.

Bella’s Festival Preview (added June 24th).

Edinburgh Art Festival

The 2015 festival programme was launched on Tuesday 24th March, 2015. See the website for full details.

Articles on the 2015 programme launch can be found in The List and The Edinburgh Reporter.

This punter’s view. I am slowly mulling over the programme. Two photography exhibitions appeal to me at the moment: Lee Miller and Picasso at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Bailey’s Stardust at the Scottish National Gallery.

The Edinburgh Art Festival announced details of its 2015 commissions programme in mid-May. An article on the programme can be found in Artlyst.

Edinburgh Magic Festival

The Cinderella of Edinburgh’s various festivals launched its 2015 programme on Wednesday 22nd April, 2015. I say Cinderella because the Festivals Edinburgh organisation does not recognise it, nor does The Scotsman tend to say very much about it even though it is now in its 6th year. All a bit bemusing!

The programme can be downloaded from here. Articles on the the launch can be found in The Edinburgh Reporter and stv.

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

They have joined the “let’s stagger the launch” club. The first part of the programme was announced on Monday 20th April, 2015. The full launch will take place on Thursday 30th April, 2015. Articles on part 1 of the launch can be found in The List and The Edinburgh Reporter.

The full programme was dutifully announced. Details can be found here. A downloadable brochure was available on May 5th, and public booking will commence on the following day.

Forest Fringe

Initial news on Forest Fringe’s 2015 visit to Edinburgh can be found here.

The full programme was eventually announced on Monday 22nd June 2015.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Death by a thousand individual announcements mercifully came to an end on Wednesday May 27th, 2015 when the Edinburgh International Film Festival finally unveiled its full 2015 programme.

Early articles on the launch can be found in Screen InternationalThe Scotsman and BBC News.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The unveiling of the Book Festival’s 2015 programme on Wednesday June 10th, 2015 is the final launch of this year’s summer festivals. The programme can be downloaded from the Book Festival website.

Articles on the launch can be found in The Guardian, The ListThe Scotsman and BBC News.

Recommendations from critics and others

I will add selected links here until early August.

10 comedy acts to watch (Brian Logan in The Guardian)

Bella’s Festival Preview (from theatre people in Scotland in BellaCaledonia).

14 highlights at the Edinburgh Art Festival (from The List).

Natasha Tripney’s Fringe highlights (in The Stage).

Fringe and EIF recommendations (Whatsonstage.com).

Edinburgh Festivals: Top 5 picks (The Skinny).

Edinburgh Fringe 2015 round up: the best of what’s on (Independent).

Fest preview guide (Festmag).

Edinburgh Art Festival 2015 review (Observer).

Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – 15 best shows (Lyn Gardner in The Guardian).

Poetry picks for Edinburgh Festival (The Skinny).