70th Edinburgh Festival Season Starts

4 August 2017, 08:15 | Updated: 4 August 2017, 08:20

Edinburgh Assembly Fringe

Edinburgh's main festival season officially gets under way on Friday in a landmark year in the cultural life of the city.

The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are both celebrating their 70th anniversaries.

The festivals' annual run over three and half weeks in August sees the Scottish capital play host to the largest arts jamboree in the world every year.

Also adding to the attractions on offer is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is returning for its 68th season and officially kicks off on Friday.

This year's EIF will begin on Friday evening with a large-scale public arts event involving light and music.

The free opening spectacle, entitled Bloom in recognition of the "blooming" of Edinburgh as the world's festival city, takes place at St Andrew Square in the city centre and is put together by the producers of the acclaimed launch events of the last two years.

The outdoor event will use illuminations and projections to celebrate "the explosion of colour, vibrancy and optimism" that came with the arrival of the festival in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, organisers have said.

Overall, this year's international festival will bring more than 2,000 artists from 40 nations together to perform between August 4 and 28.

The line-up features a diverse range of artists across theatre, dance and music, including singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker, Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey, violinist Nicola Benedetti, playwright Alan Ayckbourn and renowned Milan orchestra Filarmonica della Scala.

Nine operas are in the expanded opera programme, with highlights including Puccini's La Boheme, Verdi's Macbeth and Mozart's Don Giovanni.

In dance, the Nederlands Dans Theatre company returns to Edinburgh after an 11-year absence.

The EIF festival was established two years after the Second World War to "provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit" through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange.

The Fringe began in 1947 when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to perform at the inaugural international festival.

The companies were refused entry to the programme but decided to perform on the fringe of the festival anyway, beginning the dawn of the worldwide fringe movement in the process.

To this day, the Fringe adheres to its open access principle that permits anyone with a show and a venue willing to host them to participate.

This year's programme covers theatre, dance, circus, comedy, music, cabaret, exhibitions and spoken word events.

Famous names hitting the Fringe include Ruby Wax, Sue Perkins, Sean Hughes and Dead Ringers star Jan Ravens.

Craig Ferguson, who last performed at the Fringe 24 years ago before leaving Scotland to find fame in the US, returns to the capital.

Other notable events include Hibernian Football Club becoming a venue for the first time.

More unusual locations for Fringe shows this year include a boat and a hotel swimming pool.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: "This is a very special year for the Fringe as we celebrate 70 years of defying the norm, of championing artistic freedom and providing a platform for artists around the world to come and present their work in a truly unique environment that is inclusive, inspiring, and often life-affirming."

EIF director Fergus Linehan said: "We have a very large programme because it's our 70th anniversary, but I think it's also a really interesting year for us because we've really delved into the history of the festival.

"It just brings you back to the fact that this was never really intended purely as a festival of the arts, it was intended as a statement of reconciliation at the end of the Second World War. I think that's very heartening and really explains to a large degree why it's had this capacity to grow."