Copyright © 2007 by"Jim McCulloch"
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Edinburgh International Festival (EIF)
The first Edinburgh International Festival was held in 1947 and was the brainchild of two notable men, Rudolph Bing and Henry Wood, of British Proms Fame, two famous names in the world of entertainment. However there are schools of thought who say that Edinburgh has always been a festival city going back to the 19th century and earlier.  In 1825 concerts were held in a venue named Corri’s Rooms as well as the Parliament House in the Old City close to the Royal Mile. Subsequent events moved from Corri’s Rooms to the Theatre Royal  in Shakespeare Square. This original theatre was demolished in 1860 and a new Post Office built in its place.
In post war years the vision of the two founders was to enliven the European culture and “ to promote the flowering of the human spirit”. Of course it was also recognised that there would be a major increase in tourism and revenue if it was to succeed.

They were not far wrong either. The 2010 festival attracted over
1,955,913 visitors from all over the world to the city. This is a huge boost to the economic wealth of Scotland’s Capital city.

The original 1947 festival also attracted some “gate crashers” when eight entertainment groups turned up uninvited and played in various venues in the city. The following year a Scottish journalist named Robert Kemp was to coin the name “Fringe” when he said ‘Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before … I am afraid some of us are not going to be at home during the evenings!”

The fringe is now a huge part of the Edinburgh International Festival and has become official. In 2011 the fringe was to hold 40,000 performances in 2,500 different shows.
1999 saw the EIF move to its new headquarters named “The Hub”  and located in the
old Tollbooth Building  at the top of the Royal Mile. This building has one of Edinburgh’s
most prominent spires, the tip of which is the highest point in Central Edinburgh. It can
be seen from miles away. The Hub also houses a restaurant,
libraries and a beautiful Main Hall which sees many plays and concerts throughout the

Edinburgh is the World’s Festival city with twelve different festivals taking place throughout the year.

The Edinburgh International Festival.
The Edinburgh Film Festival.
The Edinburgh Arts Festival.
The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Edinburgh Mela Festival.
The Edinburgh International Books Festival.
The Edinburgh International Story Telling Festival.
The Bank of Scotland Imaginative Festival.
The Edinburgh International Science Festival.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

For me the highlight of the Festival is the Military Tattoo which takes place for four weeks in August. The venue for this is of course Edinburgh Castle, during July the castle esplanade is transformed from a plain piece of ancient concrete and walls to a huge amphitheatre holding an audience of 8500 people. Over its four week run there will also be an international television audience in excess of 100 Million viewers.

The word tattoo come from the phrase “Doe den tap toe” which is Dutch for close the Beer Taps. Now you might wonder how that comes to represent a Military Spectacle.

The British Army stationed in Flanders during the Austrian War adopted the practice of playing the  Pipes and Drums in mid evening, which was a signal to local beer halls to turn of the taps and call a halt to the drinking for the evening. This ensured that the soldiers were back in their quarters at a decent hour. The practice went on to become, not only the last call of orders for the day, but also as a call to an evening’s ceremonial entertainment.

The Tattoo attracts Military entertainers from around the world and is ranked as the biggest military musical event in the world. The traditional opening to this mighty Tattoo is the gathering of Pipe Bands from around the globe, this is named the Mass Pipes and Drums There can be up to thirteen bands performing on the esplanade at any one time.
After this spectacle comes the dazzling show of colour, daredevil stunts, music and dance performed by entertainers (mostly military) taken from countries as varied as Scotland, Canada, China, Fiji, Nepal and too many more to mention here.

Over the countless decades of the Tattoo more than 40 countries have partaken in this exciting, breathtaking and colourful extravaganza.
The audience is made up from around about one third Scots, one third from the rest of Britain and the rest from overseas. Many people return year after year and it is a great tribute to the organizers that no two years are the same so it is a new show every time people return.

The 2012 Tattoo is going to be the 62nd extravaganza and will feature over 1000 performers including Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps known to be the world’s most sensational percussion band. There will be a display by the Norwegian Armed Forces -Kings Band and Drill Team.
Keeping the international theme alive there will be Pipe Bands from as far afield as Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

As always the Tattoo will come to a close with the Lone Piper who plays a poignant lament high up on the Castle Battlements.
If you ever wish to visit Scotland’s beautiful Capital city do so in August and plan to walk miles as you climb the Royal Mile numerous times, explore the many narrow closes between towering ancient buildings and discover beautiful walks in the varied gardens.
Please do not miss an evening browsing the many gift stores on the Royal Mile as you take in the impromptu street entertainments which range from stunning flame throwers to music bands to street players to the many lone Bagpipers who will thrill you with rousing Scottish tunes and laments.

Walk into one of the many bars on the Mile and soak up an atmosphere that is centuries old while you partake of some great Scottish foods and ales and listen to the tales of the old Scots men gathered around bars that go back to the days before the Bonnie Prince Charlie.

For my research apart from my own personal memories of Edinburgh and the Festival my thanks go to :


The Edinburgh International Festival

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The Edinburghfestivalpunter.

Some Images thanks to Wikipedia Commons Licence agreement

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