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As an Edinburgh resident I am a massive fan of the Edinburgh Festivals, which bash on all year long in the Festival City. The most famous, of course, are those held in summer when the world’s largest arts festival and its myriad companions explode into life. I’ve just taken my young children in and here are my tips on how to get the most out of your time in Edinburgh as a family.

Dancers on the High Street, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Dancers on the High Street, Edinburgh Festival Fringe (c) Edinburgh_Festival_Fringe)_original

Celebrating 70 Years of the Edinburgh Festivals

This year is very special as the original Edinburgh Festivals – Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Film Festival (held in June) – are celebrating their 70th anniversary. This has created a real buzz in the city, which is evident in everything from the street entertainment to the hyper folk dishing out flyers and the performances themselves. This year’s Fringe will see 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows, with performers from 62 countries entertaining at 300 venues. The International Festival, meanwhile, is celebrating its 70th year with a programme of events called Spirit of ’47 at the Festival Theatre Studio at Potterow.

Our base could not have been better. If you can find a room with a Royal Mile view at the St Giles Apartments this year snare it. Or book now for next year. My girls thought that it was amazing that we could just peer out the window watching three sets of street entertainers from high above! These street entertainers for me are the lifeblood in some ways of the summer festivals. They are there, come rain or shine, making people smile. They are brilliant fun for families too.

Street Theatre in Parliament Square, Edinburgh

Street Theatre in Parliament Square, Edinburgh (c) Robin McKelvie

BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals

Another attraction that is great for families is the BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals. They moved last year from Potterow. I loved it there, but have to admit that the new home at George Heriot’s School works very well too. What’s more all of the entertainment here is free, including a CBBC Arcade – where my girls played a few video games, pretended to be children’s TV presenters and created their own animation. They also met a tenrec, gecko and millipede thanks to the people behind the CBeebies ‘My Pet and Me’ programme.

McKelvie girls making their own animation in the CBBC Arcade

McKelvie girls making their own animation in the CBBC Arcade (c) Robin McKelvie

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

World Our first paid show was just brilliant. Transit is part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and captures the pioneering, innovative nature of this sometimes anarchic festival. When I explained to the kids it would be a ‘modern circus’ they were not sure what to expect. What they got was an adrenaline pumping hour of world class acrobatics that barely allowed a second for the audience let alone the cast to draw breath.

Flip FabriQue have brought their Transit show to the Main Hall at the Assembly Hall, a great venue that the kids thought was ‘very Harry Potter’. The athletic young performers entertain from start to finish with epic juggling, trapeze and mind boggling displays of acrobatic talent. The bouncing dance soundtrack was spot on too.

Performers at the Fringe, photo by David Monteith-Hodge

Performers at the Fringe (c) David Monteith-Hodge

Global Music Inspiration

Next up was Flamenco Global Connect, another part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. They took things down a notch at C Venues in Chambers Street. The star of the show was Edinburgh Festivals veteran Ricardo Garcia with his mercurial Flamenco guitar. He was joined by musicians and dancers from Spain, Japan and Scotland.

I was say took things down a notch, but the slower guitar melodies soon gave way to some fired up Flamenco dancing. The girls loved bashing their feet along and hand clapping to the Flamenco rhythms. This continued long after we left and is continuing still the next day, as I sit writing this blog in our apartment overlooking St Giles Cathedral!

Improvised Comedy Gold

The last paid show we saw during our adventure at the Edinburgh Festivals was Aaaand Now for Something Completely Improvised. This performance was again part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and graced the Pleasance Dome at Potterow.

Racing Minds publicity photo

Racing Minds publicity photo (c) John Cairns

The name left me expecting big things and I was not disappointed as they let the audience run the show. The girls could not believe this element as they have never really seen improvisation live before. Their eyes bulged and their wee minds boggled, before they burst into laughter at the antics of Racing Minds.

Family Fun at the Edinburgh Art Festival

We spent our mornings at the Festivals checking out some of the free arts installations and exhibitions that bring a splash of accessible culture to the capital in summer. The Dragon of Profit and Private Ownership at Trinity Apse is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. I’ll tell you at the heart of this work is a giant inflatable dragon, which should be enough to persuade your wee ones to come along!

Next up on the Edinburgh Art Festival free trail for us was Edinburgh Alphabet: An a-z Of the City’s Collections at the City Art Centre on Market Street. It says so much about the collaborative spirit of the Edinburgh Festivals that this temporary exhibition stretches not just across mediums, but across a number of Edinburgh museums and galleries, with exhibits ranging from comic books to umbrellas so it’s nothing if not eclectic!

Meeting a Gecko at the CBBC Arcade, BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals

Meeting a Gecko at the CBBC Arcade, BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals (c) Robin McKelvie

Festival Fuel

A special mention on this visit goes to Vittoria on George IV Bridge. They squeezed us in to a packed restaurant. Despite being massively busy they were super efficient and great with the girls. The usual high standards at this flagship Italian did not dip either. I feasted on mussels with cream and pancetta, before their daily special – lobster ravioli with mixed seafood. Delicious! A perfect Festivals pit stop.

We left Edinburgh with the cries of street entertainers, jugglers, acrobats and Flamenco dancers ringing in our busy heads. I used to love coming in to the Edinburgh Festivals with my mates, but I have to say it’s even better with the kids. I hope you find these ideas useful and would love to hear about other great shows you discover this year – just pop any tips to us through Twitter or Facebook. Enjoy!


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