What’s on in Edinburgh: August

Infographic produced using Easel.ly (www.easel.ly)

Spotlight on: Edinburgh International Magic Festival

Who? A host of magicians, some friendly staff, and punters (including me; and how about you?).

What? Edinburgh International Magic Festival, which brings performers and audiences together to explore the art of amazement and astonishment.

When? Until this Saturday, fourth July.

Where? Various venues; primarily Summerhall, made over as Magic Village.

The obligatory why? Because magic!

Last weekend, I attended the Opening Night Party of Edinburgh International Magic Festival as a guest blogger. This was a well-devised event offering a preview of the magicians who stage full-fledged shows over the duration of the wider festival.

Arriving at Summerhall, a mainstay of Edinburgh’s arts scene, you’ll find the venue enchantingly decorated as the festival’s Magic Village. Summerhall’s school conception is apparent as you navigate its stairs and corridors, but the affable festival staff are always on hand to point you in the direction of a show and to manage the queues.

The venue’s courtyard is the locus at which to relax between shows, as well as indulge in some La Favorita pizza or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The courtyard also has an interactive installation, “Sweet Dreams”, a flower bed which changes colour as you circle it. Additionally, Tam Shepherd’s Magic Shop offers tools of the trade to those inspired to practice magic themselves.

The Opening Night Party’s shows were diverse in style, but all the magicians had a comedic touch and were adept at establishing camaraderie with their audiences. Ali Cook set an impressive precedent in “The Art of Astonishment”, making his assistants vanish and reappear in the blink of an eye before seemingly impaling one with flaming rods, only to have her emerge from entrapment unharmed, and with company to boot.

Dr Houstoun’s “Conjuring” was a more understated affair, but no less impressive for that. Houstoun brought Summerhall back to its academic roots when he interspersed lecturing on his Victorian heroes, the forefathers of modern magic, with the spellbinding multiplication and disappearance of coins, demonstrating why he’s Magic Circle’s current Close-up Magician of the Year.

Colin Cloud’s “Kills” was much more congenial than the title suggests (although he did say his preview wasn’t representative of his full shows, so don’t hold me to that). It was the most interactive performance of the evening (involving the entire audience at times) in which Cloud displayed feats of interpretation to deduce the characteristics of selected guests. I must admit that I’m a skeptic and remain one still, although Cloud’s wit and engaging personality kept me entertained throughout.

Mark Elsdon adopted a uniquely intimate format for his show, dubbed “10”, in which he performs 10 tricks for an audience of 10 in 10 minutes, saying only 10 words per trick. It augments the power of close-up magic, and his was another display of prestidigitation, involving coins, elastic bands, and a spoon which became a fork in his mouth. For his finale, Elsdon requested a ten-pound note from our group. He proceeded to sign and puncture it through the middle with a pen, to the dismay of its owner. But Elsdon fulfilled his mantra, ‘astonishment is real’, when he drew the pen right through the note…leaving it intact.

Luke Eaton’s “The Late Night Horror Magic Show” was another which didn’t quite tally with its title; if like me you’d expect blood and gore, you will be surprised (or relieved) that the premise was for Eaton to have a nail hammered up his nose courtesy of an audience member (he admitted a tendency to target attractive young women, so the squeamish among you had better duck). Eaton described his show’s appeal as akin to picking a scab; repellent and yet satisfying. If you like watching people victimize themselves, then this will be right up your alley, and if not, then you can revel in schadenfreude at the poor person who has to force that intimidating length of nail up his nostril.

There were several shows I didn’t manage to see at the party, but before leaving, I also got a glimpse of Trendy Wendy’s DJ set, sensibly positioned in the upstairs Dissection Room so as not to disrupt the sedate (though by no means sensible) proceedings below.

The Opening Night Party got the festival off to a promising start and if you’re interested in seeing some live magic, check EIMF’s website for the full package from some of the skilled illusionists mentioned above.


Thanks for reading!

Calum : )

What’s on in Edinburgh: May 2015

Imaginate Festival 2015 (Monday 11th – Sunday 17th)

Now in its 26th year, Scotland’s annual international festival of performing arts for children and young people is again to be held in venues throughout Edinburgh.

A free Imaginate Festival Family Fringe is billed to take place during the festival’s closing weekend, featuring arts and crafts in addition to shows and performances. The full festival programme, comprising 14 shows, can be found here, and you can also download the festival brochure. Bookings can be made with the Traverse Theatre, with individual tickets costing £12 (£8 concessionary rate) and only available in person (10 Cambridge Street) or over the telephone (0131 228 1404). Family tickets are in increments of £8 per family member, with a minimum number of children to qualify.


Summerhall’s Beer FestivALE! (Friday 15th and Saturday 16th)

Hosted in the emblematic Summerhall venue, this beer and spirit festival returns for its spring iteration, offering stalls, street food, music, brewery and distillery tours (during the daytime sessions), and DJs (during the night-time sessions). Tickets cost £8 per session, and also include drinks tokens to the value of £4.


Festival of Museums (Friday 15th – Sunday 17th)

This festival comprises a wide range of activities for all audiences from museums and galleries across the country. Ticket prices and booking procedures vary by venue; listings are updated daily, and those for Edinburgh and the Lothians can be found here.



Yotties’ Week at The Royal Yacht Britannia (Monday 18th – Thursday 21st) [pictured]

Between 18th to 21st May, Britannia will welcome back some former Royal Yachtsmen (‘Yotties’) to share their stories. The yachtsmen will don their historic uniforms and regale visitors with their accounts of what life was like for the 240-strong crew who manned the royal residence while it was in service. Adult tickets cost £14 (with a concessionary rate of £12.50 available to students and over-60’s) plus a £1 booking fee, and can be purchased here.


Edinburgh International Tango Festival (Friday 22nd – Monday 25th)

The highlight of this not-for-profit event, run by the Edinburgh Tango Society, is its Summer Ball, boasting live music from the up-and-coming Sexteto Visceral young orchestra. A series of afternoon matinées, evening shows and milongas (an Argentinian ballroom dance, predecessor to the tango), dancing workshops (beginner to expert), and DJ sets will run over the course of the weekend.

Tickets range from £4 per day for the Tango Café to £25 for the Summer Ball, while a range of discounted packages are available for multiple ticket purchases until Friday 8th May. Bookings can be made using the booking form or by emailing bookings@eitf.org.uk.


Hidden Door (Friday 22nd – Saturday 30th)

Hidden Door is a volunteer-run not for profit arts festival, this year comprising nine days of music, visual art, cinema, and theatre between its Secret Courtyard on Kings Stables Road and Edinburgh’s Bongo Club. Some of its arts programmes are now up on the website, as are details of the launch party (entry only £3) and opening night line-up.

Entry price varies by date, with tickets generally costing upwards of £10, including a small service fee. Tickets for just the Secret Courtyard, or for the Secret Courtyard and the Bongo Club, can be purchased here, while those for only the Bongo Club must be purchased from their website.


The Edinburgh Whisky Stramash (Saturday 23rd – Sunday 24th)

This event will procure over 200 whiskies from around the world for visitors to sample, as well as a series of whisky-related experiences to partake in. All samplings and experiences are included in the ticket price, while food and souvenirs will be available to purchase separately. Tickets for each weekend slot cost around £30, while an additional secret subsidiary event (scheduled for the Friday evening) costs around £10.


Gardening Scotland (Friday 29th – Sunday 31st)

The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh is to host Scotland’s biggest gardening and outdoor living fair, spanning three days and featuring a plethora of horticultural paraphernalia and expert gardeners, on hand to inform and advise visitors.

Garden Avenue will also be displaying the work of garden designers tasked with inspiring visitors with what can be achieved in typical home gardens. A Food Theatre, Food Fayre, and Craft Marquee are also billed for the event, as are kids’ educational and play activities.

Advance tickets for the Friday cost £15, while those for the Saturday or Sunday come in at £13. All tickets are subject to an additional 50p processing fee.


As usual, we’ll provide reminders and ongoing coverage of several of these events on our Facebook and Twitter channels, so follow our accounts to stay up to date. Let us know what you’re planning to do in Edinburgh this May using the comments function, and stay tuned to this blog for future entries in the series and more besides.

What’s on in Edinburgh: April 2015

Events beginning in April [including Beltane Fire Festival, pictured]


Dinosaurs Return! at Edinburgh Zoo (Friday 3rd – Sunday 1st November)

Edinburgh Zoo is going Jurassic with a range of impressive animatronic dinosaurs, in an exhibition intended to raise awareness about the threat of extinction faced by many modern-day species. No need to book!


Edinburgh International Science Festival (Saturday 4th – Sunday 19th)

EISF was founded in 1989 as an educational charity with the aim of inspiring everyone to engage with the surrounding world, which they fulfil through work on an international scale. Within Edinburgh, however, their name is more often recognized as their eponymous festival, a long-time mainstay of the city’s April calendar, but which can in fact claim its pedigree as the world’s first science festival, and today sees a variety of informative events spanning two weeks. The Festival caters for both children and adults, with a more educational and interactive focus for a younger audience, and a series of intellectual discussions, screenings, and more for adults. There are also family-oriented events, including science shows, workshops, and exhibitions, so the programme is all-inclusive.

This year’s Festival, dubbed The Ideas Factory, will see the halls, galleries, theatres, and gardens of Edinburgh play host to scientific innovation. Tickets for most events are in the surprisingly affordable £2.50-£5 price bracket (some are free), and a range of concessions are available, including for group bookings.

Tickets; FAQ 1: About the Festival; FAQ 2: Visitor Information



Cowgate Pop-up Market (Saturday 4th)

This event will run from 1pm-5pm across a dozen Cowgate venues. A range of art, craft, fashion, music, and food stalls will be erected at Movement, Opium, Sneaky Pete’s, Dropkick Murphy’s, The Three Sisters, Brewdog, The Mash House, La Belle Angele, City Café, Cabaret Voltaire, Pilgrim, and The Bongo Club.


The Old Town Street Food Festival (Easter Sunday, 5th)

Fairs at The Three Sisters pub (139 Cowgate) will resume on Easter Sunday, featuring some of Scotland’s best pop-up food vendors and live music acts. Visitors will be granted free admission to the venue, which will host four music stages with over 25 live acts, including several DJs. In addition to the seven customary bars, including a specialized Real Ale Bar, the catering provision will extend to the eight food vendors who have already been confirmed; a list of these exhibitors can be found on the event’s Facebook page.


Edinburgh International Harp Festival (Friday 10th – Wednesday 15th)

Another festival dating from the 1980s (82 to be exact, when it went under a different name and premises), this one sees an annual gathering of international harpists at Merchiston Castle School, where they can share their talents with the wider world. The festival is organized by The Clarsach Society as part of its wider outreach programme of events, courses and classes, and with sufficient demand will be followed by additional beginners’ classes, also planned to take place in Edinburgh (details to be confirmed during the festival).

Again, a range of discounts and concessionary rates are available, including for group bookings (eight and above). As they are hosting different categories of events, prices vary widely, so check the programme overview here.

Tickets; FAQ


Edinburgh Comic Con (Saturday 11th – Sunday 12th)

Returning for its second year at Potterrow, this convention capitalizes on its line-up of special guests with an insightful programme of events, including cosplay competitions (with both adults’ and kids’ editions; registration required for both), prop displays, a charity auction in aid of Midlothian Foodbank, and of course a raft of industry talent and traders.

Ticket prices are £10 for single day adult admission and £18.50 for weekend admission. Child tickets cost £7.50 per day and £15.00 for the weekend; two under-10’s can be admitted free per paying adult, and the child ticket rate also applies to concessionary visitors.


Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run (Sunday 19th)

First run (sorry) in 2005, the Morrisons Great Edinburgh Run now attracts in excess of 5000 people for a 10 mile run through central Edinburgh, with Greyfriars Bobby, the Royal Mile, the Scott Monument, and Edinburgh Castle as esteemed checkpoints. The event caters for a range of abilities with Junior (2.5k) and Mini (1.5k) Great Edinburgh Runs at Holyrood Park also featuring, as well as the advent of team relays for the main run, which see the 10 mile distance covered by two runners. Charity running places and business entries are also available.

Entry costs £27 for adults, £12 for Juniors (nine-15-year-olds) and £11 for three–eight-year-olds (“Minis”); business entrants can claim back VAT at £4.50 per entry.


Dead by Dawn (Thursday 23rd – Sunday 26th)

Yet another Edinburgh-born festival on this month’s roster, Dead by Dawn is also the UK’s longest-running horror film festival, returning to the Filmhouse for its 22nd edition with a new curation of independent previews, renowned classics, and shorts. The programme also features special guests and asides, most notably “Spawn of Dawn”, which runs concurrently with, and showcases a selection of films from, the mother festival. Spawn of Dawn is for the owls among filmgoers, running from midnight on Saturday 25th until 11am on Sunday 26th.

Tickets for Dead by Dawn cost £75 and those for Spawn of Dawn cost £25 (not interchangeable); alternatively, individual tickets for all screenings are available, news on which is posted on the festival’s Facebook page. All tickets can be purchased from the Filmhouse by over-18’s only.


TradFest  – Dùn Èideann (Wednesday 29th – Sunday 10th May) [including the Beltane Fire Festival, pictured]

TradFest celebrates traditional Scottish culture around Scotland’s May festivals (Beltane and Mayday) which mark the beginning of summer, bringing the city to life to reflect Mother Nature’s resurgence. This inclusive festival encompasses both national and local arts institutions with events featuring an international body of performers. The Pleasance will be the festival’s music hub; the Edinburgh Filmhouse is to stage the world’s first festival of Folk Cinema; the Scottish Storytelling Centre, site of TradFest’s box office, is naturally the hotspot for song, story, music, dance, and crafts, as well as workshops and walking tours; book events are billed for the National Library of Scotland and Blackwell’s Bookshop; and a TradFest Trail incorporates a number of smaller venues boasting strong associations with Scottish folk culture.

Perhaps the most prevalent TradFest event is the Beltane Fire Festival, claiming its origin from the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane, held on the evening of 30th April in celebration of the commencement of summer. This tradition is preserved by the modern iteration, which takes the format of a procession and is situated on the scenic Calton Hill, beginning at the National Monument and enacting a ritualistic drama in an anti-clockwise circuit. This year’s festival promises to be the most spectacular to date, with hundreds of costumed performers wielding a plethora of instruments, torches, and sculptures, as well as the symbolic lighting of a bonfire by the dramatic leads, the May Queen and Green Man. For the first time, the festival will incorporate sound and light performance and a garden of giant mushrooms made from wax found in the city’s underground caves. It will also see the reinstatement of the Incorporation of Candlemakers of Edinburgh, who partook in the Beltane celebrations of medieval times.

Tickets for 12’s-and-over begin at £8 and become incrementally more expensive closer to the festival date (children under 12 are admitted free of charge).




As usual, we’ll provide reminders and ongoing coverage of several of these events on our Facebook and Twitter channels, so follow our accounts to stay up to date. Finally, let us know what you’re planning to do in Edinburgh this April using the comments function, and stay tuned to this blog for future entries in the series and more besides.

What’s on in Edinburgh: March 2015

Events beginning in March


Wee Dub Festival (Friday 6th – Sunday 8th March)

The country’s biggest celebration of dub, reggae and soundsystem culture returns to Edinburgh for its fifth iteration. From modest roots as a one-night one-venue event in 2011, the Wee Dub programme has expanded to span 3 days in March across 7 central Old Town venues.

Tickets are available for either the whole weekend at £37 including the booking fee (over-18’s only), or for individual sessions; see the festival programme for prices. They can be purchased online or at one of several venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow; for details, click here.


The Carol Nash MCN Scottish Motorcycle Show (Saturday 7th – Sunday 8th March)

MCN celebrates its 60th anniversary with Scotland’s biggest motorcycle show, to be staged at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre over a weekend in March. In addition to sporting the latest models from household names, for which MCN are able to procure exclusive offers, there will be live action stunt showpieces, and a raft of goods available in the Bike Jumble sale and Retail Village. The show will also host the country’s most comprehensive range of classic motorcycles, spanning over 8 decades, in its dedicated Classics Pavilion. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 will be able to partake in a supervised bike ride along a purpose-built street scene courtesy of Honda.

Advance tickets are available until 9pm on Friday 6th March and cost £12 per day for adults and £10 for seniors (over-65’s), while children (under-15’s) are admitted for free. Tickets will also be available on the day at a cost of £16 for adults and £14 for seniors. Additional parking charges of £6 per car apply (there is no charge for motorcycles) – see the FAQ.


Edinburgh Fashion Week (Saturday 7th – Sunday 15th March)

This celebration of Edinburgh’s fashion scene encapsulates shows and catwalks, shopping evenings, styling sessions, and offers and giveaways. Reserved seating for the runway shows held in the fashion hub on The Mound over the opening weekend has been completely booked out, but unreserved seats in the back rows will be available each day. G&V Hotel will provide samples of their afternoon tea selection to attendees, and a range of beverages, including the Italian imports of Prosecco and Menabrea, and the locally-brewed Pickering’s Pea-cocktails and Gin and Tonic, is to be served as refreshments between perusing the pop-up shops. The itinerary for the opening weekend can be viewed here; see also the events and offers held over the week.


Meadows Marathon (Sunday 8th March) [pictured]

This student-organized charity fundraiser comprises a 5k Fun Run, 10k Run, Half Marathon and Full Marathon, with entry costing £15, £22.50, £27.50 and £40 respectively, and open to ages 11+ (with an adult companion, either spectator or runner), 16+, 17+, and 18+ respectively. A range of offers, discounts, and promotions are detailed here, with qualification criteria including the number registering to run, the amount raised, and the best team and individual costumes. You will be able to register on the day, but the prices of all runs except the Full Marathon will increase. All proceeds from the event go to charity, and if you are fundraising you can choose the beneficiary. All runs consist of differing numbers of laps of the Meadows; the only requirement beyond age is that entrants be confident of their ability to complete their chosen course. Race time restrictions, which are 6 hours for the Full Marathon and 3 hours for the Half Marathon, will be in effect; runners can continue after this but roads will reopen and the organizers’ auspices will be withdrawn. The course route (subject to minor alterations) can be found here.


Edinburgh Yarn Festival (Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th March)

Encompassing yarn, knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving, and felting, this event will unite teachers, designers, and over 100 vendors at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange. Visitors of all capabilities are welcome, and catering will be available in the festival’s yarn café. This year’s programme will also see the advent of a podcast lounge set, where visitors can meet podcasters from the knitting industry.

Advance booking of tickets will confer access to a fast-track queue on the day, but tickets will also be available to purchase at the event. They can be purchased via this page at a cost of £8 for entry each day and £12 for the weekend.  Classes must be booked separately at £47 each, and include admission on their respective day (or £53 for a class and admission on both days). The one exception is the Quotidian Colourwork class, which comes to £54 and £60 respectively, because of the volume of yarn used. There is disabled access to all 3 venues, and children aren’t admitted to any classes. There is also an evening party, ‘Ca-BAA-ret’, from 7pm until 11pm on the Saturday, including a talk on the publishing of the KNITSONIC Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, and a knitting-themed quiz with prizes. Party tickets cost £17 and include a drink of your choice; visitors on the Saturday will be able to stay in the yarn café after the closure of the marketplace for the hour until the doors to the party open at 6.30pm.


Edinburgh’s Festival of Ireland (TBC; current listings from Thursday 12th – Sunday 15th March)

Edinburgh’s Irish community will be celebrated on and around St Patrick’s Day (Tuesday 17th March). The lineup for this year includes a series of talks on various Irish topics at Word Power Books, a free traditional concert held in Princes Street Gardens, a performance from an acclaimed Irish dance troupe at The Jam House, a community pageant with pipe and jazz bands along Portobello Promenade, and an exhibition in Central Library (details still to be confirmed).


The Scottish Tattoo Convention (Saturday 28th – Sunday 29th March)

Another festival which originated in Edinburgh in 2011, like Wee Dub, the Scottish Tattoo Convention has returned each year since, and is now the most anticipated event of its kind in the country. It is to be held in Edinburgh Corn Exchange, and will draw from an international pool of tattooing talent. A predominantly adult-themed programme of entertainment, from professional wrestling to burlesque, has been lined up for the event, in keeping with the age 18 restriction for tattoos in Scotland, although children under 16 can be admitted to the convention if they are accompanied by a paying adult. Tickets cost £23 per day, including the processing fee and collection either in-store or at the event, and £24.60 if you opt for them to be posted out to you (recorded delivery). A weekend ticket costs £34 to collect and £35.60 to be posted.


Puppet Animation Festival (Saturday 28th March – Saturday 18th April)

Yet a third festival in this month’s roundup with its inception in Edinburgh, having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, Puppet Animation has expanded countrywide to become the UK’s largest performing arts event for children. The programme encompasses family-friendly performances, workshops, and films, and incorporates over 150 events for 2015. Listings can be found here; there appears to be a problem with the advanced search so at present visitors have to navigate through the pages and manually find those that meet their preferred criteria.


As usual, we’ll provide reminders and ongoing coverage of several of these events on our Facebook and Twitter channels, so follow our accounts to stay up to date. Finally, let us know what you’re planning to do in Edinburgh this March using the comments function, and stay tuned to this blog for future entries in the series and more besides.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Highlights 2014/15

This post documents my experience as an official local blogger for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2014/15. Most people associate Edinburgh’s Hogmanay with the party on New Year’s Eve, but the #blogmanay programme spanned a week, with many local businesses extending a Scottish welcome to bloggers from across the globe.


1: The Welcome (Monday 29th December)

What more iconic way to kick things off than a tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience on Castlehill? Here we were taken into a purpose-built vault to see the world’s largest collection of whiskies, numbering 3384 bottles amassed by Brazilian aficionado, Claive Vidiz, over 35 years.

Two vintages singled out during our tour were The Taghta and Black Bowmore. The former is Scottish Gaelic for ‘The Chosen’, as befits a completely crowdsourced whisky, from the cask in which it was matured to its name, bottle and packaging design, promotional photography, and launch event. We were even treated to a dram; I’m no whisky connoisseur, but it certainly tasted different (better) than any I’d had before! Black Bowmore, its name referencing its ebony colour and the first recorded distillery on Islay, was deemed the most valuable bottle in the collection, estimated at around £35,000 (asking for a taste might have been pushing it).


2. The Procession (Tuesday 30th December)

On New Year’s Eve, we bloggers joined the rest of the city to partake in the Torchlight Procession, an annual tradition whereby pipers and drummers, tailed by Up Helly Aa Vikings, lead a torchbearing parade down The Mound, across Princes Street, and up Calton Hill. The turnout for the event was a spectacle in itself, the route lined with spectators, some of whom joined the glowing throng as it passed. Amidst the torchbearers myself, I found it most striking when rounding the bends, especially from The Mound toward Princes Street, where a ‘sea of fire’ snaked ahead as far as the eye could see.

At the top of Calton Hill, I was treated to a bonfire, followed by a ravishing fireworks display set to music and cleverly commencing within the majestic National Monument. Met with universal applause from the crowd, the show set a high precedent for the eagerly anticipated display billed for the big night.


3. The Party (Wednesday 31st December)

And what a night it was. To begin my circuit of the festivities, I returned to the top of The Mound, where a Hot Dub Time Machine DJ set took revellers through the decades to the variegated sounds of each year’s biggest hits. At 9pm, ABBA parody band Bjorn Again kicked off the celebrations in the party’s centrepiece, The Concert in the Gardens, while its localized counterpart, The Scottish Stage on Frederick Street, was graced by Eddie Reader following a brief fireworks display signalling the end of the hour. Reader’s proficiency with the local dialect reminded me that I was home after all.

I then negotiated my way along Princes Street, innumerable partygoers captivated by a line of screens synced to the Hot Dub DJ set. On The Mound Precinct, Hugh MacDiarmid’s Haircut played for the keilidh, jovial dancers forming a sprawling mass underneath the multicoloured spotlights and against the august backdrop of The Royal Scottish Academy.

Our national presence extended to The Waverley Stage, with Scottish punk rock band The Twilight Sad prevailing over the leftmost strand of the fête.

After more tantalizing fireworks, I completed my circuit in rejoining The Concert for 11.30pm, where zesty headline act Lily Allen was received with aplomb, her psychedelic set of LED pacifiers – and the world’s swaggiest drum kit – complemented by her assured, soothing vocals and glitzy getup (provocatively pared down, and then up again because of the cold).

Allen took a brief hiatus for the world-renowned midnight fireworks, another sensory delight set to pop music, the night sky incandescent with its closing barrage. The camaraderie pervading the enclosure manifested in friends and strangers joining hands for Auld Lang Syne, a special moment that personalized the afore-intimidating crowd, which in all numbered around 75,000.

Allen returned to begin 2015 in style, and beckoned a spirited fan on stage to duet for her closing number. Having grown up in the secluded Scottish highlands, this was my first concert, and although she was the only act I saw in entirety, I left satisfied – even as others in the enclosure were calling for one more song!


4. The After-party (Thursday 1st January and Sunday 4th January)

New Year’s Day saw Scot:Lands, a series of Scottish showcases held in enviable venues throughout Edinburgh’s Old Town. Neu:Land was hosted in The Hub (aka Edinburgh Festival Centre), and presented by Neu:Reekie, a local arts collective. Edinburgh- and Glasgow-based 4-piece Teen Canteen performed before a showing of Kenny McAskill’s riveting daredevil short “The Ridge” (if you’re sorry for having missed out on the public screening, don’t forget the upcoming mountain film festivals!).

Next, it was across to the splendid St Giles’ Cathedral for an interpretation of Hugh MacDiarmid’s poem ‘Scotland’, courtesy of Dance Base.

Finally, Hebcelt Festival created Hebcelt:Land in Edinburgh University’s McEwan Hall, where Rura regaled us and Malin played for the climactic ceilidh, the audience eventually (!) getting to their feet to fill the grand central hall.

Our send-off show on the 4th of January was performed in the St Andrew Square spiegeltent, erected for Edinburgh’s Christmas. Billed as a raucous burlesque, this was another first for me, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of ‘Briefs: The Second Coming’. Given it was staged at a late hour I only anticipated that it would be risqué; and that it was, moreover in the way that delights, which is to say, self-consciously, brazenly, and therefore hilariously. Ample light relief came in the banter of our witty and warming transvestite host, Shivannah, as well as in the prevalence of bananas, with which several audience members were victimized (fortunately I wasn’t among them!). Most memorable for me, however, was the skilfulness undergirding the show: the acrobatics were awesome, Shivannah’s magic breathtaking, and the ensemble elements captivating. Sadly, for prudent health and safety reasons photos are prohibited, which does them a disservice with all the spectacle involved. Briefs was a revelation and I’ll be catching them again if they’re back for the Fringe this year.



I thoroughly enjoyed my experience blogging for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. It had a high novelty factor with my first concert, my first burlesque, and my first venture as an official blogger. The atmosphere throughout was upbeat, the shows were exciting and often surprising, and overall it left me with many memorable experiences to close one year and begin another on a high. A big thank you is due to the parties mentioned in the disclaimer below, and to Charlotte Gosling, our handler from organizers Unique Events, in particular.

#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAGEventScotlandVisitScotlandHomecoming Scotland and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely our own.


Additional sources




What’s on in Edinburgh: November

Bonfire Night (Wednesday 5th; fireworks displays also on Sunday 2nd)

This annual commemoration of the foiled 1605 Gunpowder Plot, whereby a group of Catholics, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to assassinate the Protestant King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament in London, involves the burning of effigies representing Fawkes on bonfires, as well as fireworks displays (aptly reflecting Fawkes’s role in keeping charge of the explosives). The Plot was uncovered when the authorities were tipped off by an anonymous letter and searched the undercroft beneath the House of Lords in the early morning of 5th November, where they discovered Fawkes safeguarding a stockpile of gunpowder – hence the traditional recitation of ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November’, which has endured from the ditties of the time. Under a torturous interrogation, Fawkes revealed the names of his co-conspirators, and was sentenced to death by being hung, drawn, and quartered (although he managed to break his neck on the noose, thereby avoiding most of this ordeal). Fawkes has therefore come to be principally associated with the Plot, and so Bonfire Night is alternatively known as Guy Fawkes Night.

There are a number of organized fireworks displays planned around the event. The Scottish Love in Action’s (SLA) Fireworks Extravaganza has 2 showings on 2nd November at George Watson’s Rugby Ground on Myreside Road; gates open for the Blue Show at 4.10pm, with the Show running from 4.30pm-5.15pm, while admission to the Red Show is from 6.40pm for a 7pm start, culminating at 7.45pm. The programme of entertainment includes Edinburgh Rock Choir, the Delighters Fire Circus Theatre, and either the George Watson’s College Pipe Band (Blue Show) or the Edinburgh Academy Pipe Band (Red Show). Tickets for both shows cost £26 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children – under 2’s are admitted free) and £7.50 for a single ticket. Tickets for the Blue Show can be bought online here and the Red Show here.

The Meadowbank Annual Firework Display is scheduled for 5th November at the Meadowbank Sports Centre, and this year has a superhero theme. Doors open at 6pm, with the show getting underway at 6.30pm, and the fireworks display commencing at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £6.50 plus a minimum booking fee of 50p (dependent on value of tickets purchased) and can be ordered online here, or by calling the Box Office on 0131 661 5351.


Additional sources




Edinburgh Corn Exchange Wedding Fair (Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th)

Visitors to this Fair will be able to view the mainstays of any wedding showcased by over 130 exhibitors. From its beginnings in 2003, the Fair has procured wedding products and services for attendees to peruse, from bridalwear, groomswear, flowers, stationery, wedding cakes, and favours, to vintage cars, venues, photography, entertainment, and room arrangements. Wedding coordinators will be on hand to discuss your requirements, and drinks will be available at the Concourse Bar. A Fashion Show will also feature, adding hair, makeup, and jewellery to the spectacle. Discounts are offered by many suppliers, including 20% off wedding receptions at the Corn Exchange booked during the Fair.

Tickets can be purchased for £5 online here, or for £7 at the door, with under 16’s admitted free of charge.


‘Previously…’ Scotland’s History Festival (Wednesday 12th – Sunday 30th)

Through collaboration with Scotland’s various historical institutions, this festival aims to highlight national history through talks, exhibitions, readings, guided tours, and more. The extensive programme, which includes both free and paid events, spans a range of Edinburgh venues (and even other cities!) and can be found online here.


Edinburgh Art Fair (Thursday 13th – Sunday 16th)

From its beginnings as the Contemporary Art Fair Edinburgh in 2005, this art show was rebranded as the Edinburgh Art Fair the following year, and has gone from strength to strength, having now attained the accolade of being Scotland’s largest annual art show as it celebrates its 10th year. Organizers Arte in Europa spotlight both eminent and emerging talent from across Europe at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, and this year’s Fair will have a marked cosmopolitan emphasis, with representation from Ireland, India, and inaugural showings of artists from Poland and Australia. Street art will also feature, with Edinburgh’s own ‘The Too Much Fun Club’ creating a 7-metre long mural during the Fair.

Thursday night will be a preview evening running from 6.30pm-9.30pm, during which visitors can also bid on a charity art auction in support of Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Tickets for the Fair can be bought at the door or from one of its sponsored charities, specifically the East Lothian Special Needs Playscheme, St Columba’s Hospice, and Art in Healthcare (you can specify your preferred beneficiary when you purchase your ticket at the Fair). Preview evening tickets cost £10, and tickets purchased on any day are effectively weekend passes, conferring unlimited access to the Fair, which runs from 11am to 6pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 5pm on Sunday. Tickets purchased on these days cost £5 (£3 concessionary rate, applicable to senior citizens, full-time students, and people in receipt of jobseekers allowance or income support – proof of concessionary status must be shown at the Fair).

Artist demonstrations and painting, print- and jewellery-making workshops will also run alongside the exhibitions; they are covered under the cost of admission, but places in some must be booked, so if you’re interested, see this page.


Wicked (Wednesday 19th – Saturday 10th January)

Drawing on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and its forerunner, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published 5 years earlier, Wicked explores the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba when they first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University. The story follows the very different paths they take after encountering The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; ones which establish the dichotomy between Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Shows run at Edinburgh’s Playhouse Theatre (18-22 Greenside Place) at 7.30pm Monday to Saturday, with matinees, or afternoon shows, on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. Each performance lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, with a 20-minute break. Additional matinees will figure on December 18th, 23rd, 28th (special in being a Sunday), 29th, and 30th, as well as the 2nd and 8th of January. There will be no matinees on the 19th of November or Hogmanay, and no performances on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Hogmanay, or New Year’s Day. Prices range from £20 to £75 per ticket depending on the date, the category of seat selected, and the number of tickets purchased. School groups also receive a special rate on certain days. A £4 transaction fee applies to tickets purchased online and over the telephone, although the fee is waived for group bookings and theatre card members. Don’t forget that we can offer a discount of around £5 off tickets purchased through us, so drop us a line via info[at]greatbase.co.uk to save yourself some money.

Wicked has accrued a spate of international awards and is recommended for an audience aged 7 and above (infants under 3 years of age are not admitted). Performances feature loud noises, flashing lights, smoke effects, and strobe lighting.


Additional sources



Edinburgh’s Christmas (Friday 21st – Sunday 4th January [including St Andrew’s Day, 30th November])

Edinburgh’s Christmas is a diverse range of events spanning 6 weeks of the Christmas season, and located in St Andrew Square and East Princes Street Gardens. It comprises shows in the famous Spiegeltent, ice skating, markets, and rides, including the landmark Big Wheel and the 60-metre-high Star Flyer, both of which offer vistas over the city. For full details on all that’s happening, see here.

Edinburgh’s Christmas activities also encompass some of those for St Andrew’s Day on 30th November, which has been a Bank Holiday in Scotland since 2006 (although it’s left to employers’ discretion whether to give their staff time off). To present them with the opportunity, the Bank Holiday falls on the first Monday of December if the 30th of November lies over a weekend (so this year, the Bank Holiday will be on Monday 1st December). Celebrations on the 30th include free admission into Edinburgh Castle and entertainment in the Spiegeltent in St Andrew Square, as well as free skating sessions on the ice rink. Some of the Edinburgh’s Christmas activities arranged for the day, including the skating, is ticketed and must be booked in advance. You can review the full programme of activities in the Square and book tickets here.


Book Week Scotland (Monday 24th – Sunday 30th)

This annual literary celebration sees a raft of book-themed events across Scotland over a week in November. The programme unites authors and illustrators with their readerships in libraries, schools, workplaces, community centres, and arts venues for a variety of events.

As well as the Edinburgh events programme, a series of auxiliary promotions are planned for the occasion: Stockbridge library has been selected to host 1 of 5 specially-commissioned artworks from creative studio Pidgin Perfect, inspired by the poem ‘Dear Library’ by Jackie Kay; organizers The Scottish Book Trust have created a series of Scotland-centric reading lists for those who want to explore our national backdrop across a range of genres (there’s also one for books set in Edinburgh), and they’re seeking our favourite Scottish literary character – you can vote for, or nominate, yours here any time before 5pm on Wednesday 26th. They’re also soliciting reading pledges for the week, with the chance of winning a Nexus tablet.


As usual, we’ll provide reminders and ongoing coverage of several of these events on our Facebook and Twitter channels, so follow our accounts to stay up to date. Finally, let us know what you’re planning to do in Edinburgh this November using the comments function, and stay tuned to this blog for future entries in the series and more besides.

What’s on in Edinburgh: October


Oktoberfest (1-5 and 8-12)

A German funfair modelled on that traditionally held in Munich, Oktoberfest is to be hosted over 10 days in a tent with a capacity for 1500, erected at the Red Square in West Princes Street Gardens. The festival celebrates Bavarian food, beer, and music, and is open from 4pm-11pm Wednesday to Friday each week, 12pm-5pm and 6pm-11pm both Saturdays, and 12.30pm-7.30pm each Sunday.

Admission is free each Wednesday, with a £5 entry fee on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, and £10 on a Saturday. Entry on any day is included with a £34 (£39 for Saturdays) package for food, beer, and a seat reservation. Children are only admitted for the Sunday lunch. Early arrival is advised to avoid disappointment, as the venue is expected to reach capacity. Details on the different packages and extras available can be found here. You can also view video footage of the festivities and order Bavarian beer using the header links on the website.




Edinburgh Restaurant Festival (8 – 23 October)

This festival proffers a fortnight of food offers and events throughout Edinburgh’s great selection of restaurants, delis, markets, and cafes. It opens on the 8th of October at 7pm with ‘The Chef’s Table’, a gourmet evening at the Ghillie Dhu hosted by a quartet of Edinburgh’s best chefs, each of whom will prepare one of the 5 exquisite courses served to attendees (after an opening round of canapes; the full menu can be found here). The event costs £100 and includes matched beverages for each course; tickets can be purchased from the Ghillie Dhu (tel: 0131 247 4701; email: ghillieevents@g1group.com). This is Edinburgh are also running a prize draw for a meal for 2 and a bottle of Prosecco at the Gusto Restaurant and Bar in George Street – you can enter their competition here.

Other highlights include the producer taster parties to be thrown by our nearby friends, Cranachan & Crowdie; they’ll be showcasing Edinburgh Gin on the 9th, NB Gin and Trotter’s Independent Condiments on the 16th, and Pickering’s Gin and Dunkeld Smoked Salmon on the 23rd (5pm-7pm each day). The 18th of October will see a Great Gin Treasure Hunt, where participants will follow riddles and clues through city centre bars in search of a prize gin cocktail, leading finally to The Edinburgh Gin Distillery where one lucky ticket-holder will win the opportunity to make their own small batch of gin. The West End Beer Festival is to feature from 12pm the following day, where attendees can meet brewers and sample beers across different bars (full event information is still to be made available).

Details on all the offers that will feature for the festival are available by using the filters on this page.





Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest (19 October)

Similar in concept to Tough Mudder (profiled in our early June entry), Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest is Britain’s most popular adventure running series, challenging contenders to run a minimum of 10km through an urban assault course established in the host city. The series is open to both teams and individual competitors, and once you’ve braved the obstacle zones devised by organizers Rat Race, you’ll be rewarded with a beer tent at the end of the course. This Scottish Survival event will be followed by 2 finales in London and Manchester on 2nd November.

The base, or Event Village, is to be located at West Princes Street Gardens; an outline of the rolling route and obstacles you’ll encounter is available to view on the event’s webpage. Friends and family are welcome to come and support you in this test of speed, endurance, and courage.

In keeping with the prior 2 years’ precedent of completely selling out, standard tickets have gone already, but Last Chance tickets are still available at the time of writing this blog. Ticket prices can be found here, while the FAQ is available here.


Independent and Radical Book Fair (22-26 October)

This annual alternative book fair is organized by Word Power Books, and will be hosted at Out of the Blue Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street from 6pm on the opening night. The fair has a niche emphasis and will see over 70 publishers promoting their books and events, as well as author talks, book launches, creative writing and school workshops, and film screenings. Admission to the festival is free, but donations are encouraged. Catering will be available at the on-site cafe and bar. A photographic exhibition, entitled ‘Shooting the Occupation: The Palestinian Villages of Popular Resistance’, will run alongside the main fair. The lineup of events is available to view here.





Scottish International Storytelling Festival (24 October – 2 November)

This year’s festival, entitled ‘Once Upon a Place’, celebrates how our past has been encapsulated in stories with a series of storytelling ceilidhs, talks, exhibitions, tours, and performances over 10 days. Topics for inclusion include Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, visual imagination and landscapes, fantasy stories (including dreams and prophecies), national stories, and tales of World War I.

The focus on place will be manifest in exploring the ways in which people perceive stories in rural and urban landscapes across Scotland, Europe, and the Pacific, while the cosmopolitan Open Hearth sessions will invite stories from around the world. The festival’s closing weekend will mark Samhainn/Hallowe’en. Events will be held during daytimes and evenings in various venues throughout Edinburgh, and the festival will also cater for a younger audience, with one weekend assigned to nurturing the next generation of storytellers. Furthermore, anniversary celebrations for Edinburgh’s UNESCO City of Literature status (10th), and Sir Walter Scott’s debut novel, Waverley (200th), are to feature.

Tickets for events held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Gladstone’s Land, and the National Library of Scotland can be obtained from the Scottish Storytelling Centre Box Office. Other venues have distinct booking outlets, details for which can be found on the back cover of the programme.

Festival Supporter Passes are available for £25, and include access to exclusive events and deals, including the launch party and discounts on events held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. More information on the benefits can be found in the festival programme, or by emailing reception@scottishstorytellingcentre.com.


Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s ‘Botanic Lights – Night in the Garden’ (30 October – 23 November)

Edinburgh’s renowned Botanic Garden is to open its doors to visitors for night-time light shows from the end of October. The advent of this experience from the Garden, co-devised by Edinburgh firm Unique Events (organizers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay), has arisen from collaboration with Scottish light artists Malcom Innes and Euan Winton, who’ll be transforming a kilometre-long trail through the venue and (literally) highlighting its prevailing features, such as the Victorian Palm House and Pond. There will also be some interactive installations which visitors can adjust to create their own spectacles. The combination of light and nature, including the stirrings of the Garden at night, is held to make for some impressive effects during the hour-long, family-friendly tour.

For further practical information and to secure an available timeslot, see the booking site, or call 0844 573 8455 from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. Tickets are also available to purchase in person from the Festival Fringe Shop, 180 High Street, which is open from 10.30am-5.30pm Monday to Friday.




Samhuinn Fire Festival (31 October)

This event takes place on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, the site of ancient markets, All Hallows fairs, and street performances, including the Galoshans play (based on the English folk legend, ‘St George and the Dragon’), from which this festival takes its structure. Last year’s had a spectatorship in excess of 6000, and the narrative illustrates the transmogrification of summer to winter through conflict between their respective kings.

Tickets aren’t needed for attendance, although donations will be expected. Full event information is to be uploaded to the festival’s webpage shortly.





Halloween (31 October) [events run before and after]

Halloween is a very popular occasion in Edinburgh, and as such, there are a wide and varied range of events planned, from walks and themed tours to parties, dances, and ceilidhs. Edinburgh Tourist have compiled a selection here, as well as a handy list of some Halloween customs for those less familiar with this festival. It’s worth noting that some of these events run long before and after the 31st; for example, ‘Halloween at The Dungeons’ begins on 10th October and ends on 2nd November, while ‘Close Fest at The Real Mary Kings Close’ begins on 31st October and continues until 6th November.


As usual, we’ll provide reminders and ongoing coverage of several of these events on our Facebook and Twitter channels, so follow our accounts to stay up to date. Finally, let us know what you’re planning to do in Edinburgh this October using the comments function, and stay tuned to this blog for future entries in the series and more besides.