The festivals that make Edinburgh the centre of the arts world every summer

Capitals Gains

Sir Ian McKellen

Throughout summer Edinburgh is a global hub of arts and culture, we preview what's coming in 2019 and reveal a new initiative to boost the festival scene even further

Edinburgh in August is home to the greatest show on earth. For three inspiring weeks, the city opens its doors and presents the largest number of live performances to be found anywhere in the world. The celebrations embrace all aspects of arts and entertainment from circus to opera, comedy to tragedy, and feature every type of performer from experimental amateurs to internationally acclaimed stars.

All of this was born from the Edinburgh International Festival (2–26 Aug), which was established in 1947 to revive the cultural life of Europe after the horrors of WWII. It selects and presents a core body of world-class work with a focus on music, opera, dance, and theatre. This year there will be another spectacular outdoor show to mark the opening, building on the success of recent years, with groundbreaking light projections combined with contemporary music. The full programme is announced in March but one big name has been confirmed on the EIF bill so far: Sir Ian McKellen (pictured above), who will regale audiences at Assembly Hall with performances of his On Stage touring show, featuring extracts from a selection of his most beloved roles.

This year also features the launch of PLACE (or Platforms for Creative Excellence), a new year-round programme to facilitate a range of creative and community projects that seeks to boost ambition and purpose across the Edinburgh Festivals. With extra investment provided by the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Festivals, plus support and administration from Creative Scotland, PLACE will enable the different festivals to be more innovative and ambitious.

'The Festivals' success has always rested on a combination of the local, national and international, resulting in inspirational programming which is authentically rooted in Scotland and creatively engaged with the world,' says Sorcha Carey, chair of Festivals Edinburgh. 'The PLACE programme will support us to sustain and enhance our unique programming, nurturing our creatives, stimulating our economy and energising our communities.'

Capitals Gains

The boisterous excitement of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2–26 Aug) is heightened with around 3000 shows at venues across the city and beyond. The Fringe is the original and much emulated open festival in which anyone can participate, whether amateur or professional. Performances occur all day, every day and late into the night. There are many established acts who return year after year, but it's always worth trying out new work. The Fringe is where many great careers are launched, with performers taking to the stage for the first time.

Elsewhere, the Edinburgh International Book Festival (10–26 Aug) is based in the delightful Charlotte Square Gardens. Each summer the tents go up and, in an oasis of calm, they play host to a wide variety of authors drawn from around the world. The festival includes a star-studded array of writers for children, with crowds of young readers captivated by the magic of books. This year it will be exploring new ways of presenting books and ideas through a programme of cross-artform commissions. It will also set up a biennial project to bring Scottish and international writers together.

Earlier during this period of festivities is the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival (12–21 Jul), with many renowned musicians flying in to the city. Among the projects being funded by PLACE are a community music engagement programme for the city, plus a rehearsal and performance centre.

The Edinburgh Art Festival (25 Jul–25 Aug) stages a wide range of contemporary work in galleries and other spaces across the city. This year it's enhanced by ambitious international commissions and a dedicated programme for developing new artistic and curatorial talent.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (19–30 Jun) is the world's oldest continually running celebration of film, hosting a comprehensive programme of screenings, talks and events featuring prestigious industry leaders. There are usually a few high-profile premieres championing British talent. At the top of the Royal Mile, a nightly explosion of sights and sounds entertains locals and visitors alike at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (2–24 Aug). The pipes and drums set the scene and attract audiences from around the world who flock to see an exhilarating combination of military action, regimental traditions and global culture.

Find out more about PLACE at

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