With the 75th Edinburgh Festival Fringe complete, Playbill Goes Fringe correspondent Margaret Hall is looking back on her experience as a first time attendee to the world's largest arts festival.
There is something magical about Edinburgh in the early morning, before the city wakes to greet you. Time is suspended in the early hours, the air hazy with morning dew that brightens the eyes and quickens the lungs. The lavender break of dawn is punctuated by flocks of crows, swooping in formation as scatterings of people tread through the cobblestone streets, taking care to maintain the enchantment. It is in the mornings that the city feels truly ancient, the cornices of the medieval castle in view through the settling mist. Mornings in Edinburgh bring to mind its literary greats; a glance down a twisting alleyway can instantly transport a person to Robert Fergusson's beloved Auld Reekie, or Robert Burns' Edina.
These soft mornings soon give way to an enveloping commotion, however. Once the clock strikes nine, the spell is broken, and the fun begins as artists pour into the streets and squares, plying their trade and their wares. A day of satisfaction can be spent in Edinburgh by simply standing still and observing the masses careening wildly in search of fascination.
Busking, that great bardic tradition, is alive and well in Edinburgh. Music rings throughout her streets as the sound of bagpipes, the melody of folk songs, and the wail of modern rock music collide in a gorgeous cacophony. It is a feast for the senses; at every turn there is a new wealth of experiences waiting for you to welcome them in.
Many of these experiences come in the form of people. The Fringe is a collision of Scots citizens and international artisans, who have all gathered in the capital city with a singular purpose; to uplift the arts and to support those that have dedicated their life to the pursuit. The Fringe is a unique affair where kindness flows as easily as an evening’s tipple; everyone seems to carry a childlike eagerness that results in communal adventures.
The spirit of collaboration seems to be baked into the very stones of the city throughout the Fringe. There seems to be a silent understanding between the city and its citizens in the month of August that, no matter what happens, the collective will move as one. Favors are easily rendered and flights of fancy indulged as passions collide, reimagining the mundane realities of life in spectacular ways.
Evenings in Edinburgh wind late into the night, over cuisine and conversation that are equally delectable. The explosion of art and artists does not end until the early morning hours as one slowly slips toward home, the spell of morning forming in spite of the artists who continue to linger on the cobblestones.
As my first year at Fringe comes to a close, I am leaving Edinburgh with a wealth of memories that I will carry for a lifetime: memories of sleepy mornings peering down ancient alleyways, bustling afternoons filled with swift friendships, and evenings inspired by unending ingenuity. The city left its imprint on my heart, but what I will remember most is the people, be it the ballerina and the busker who came together to make magic in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral, or the man who scaled an ancient wall to deliver me a piece of art before disappearing into the mist. Playbill Goes Fringe restored my belief in the virtue of humanity.
My first year at Fringe was soul stirring, and its crowning glory is that, as new artists and new passions filter through, it will become a once in a lifetime experience I can do every year.
“There’s no leaving Edinburgh, No shifting it around: it stays with you, always.” - Alan Bold