Get Ready for 2012- Edinburgh's Olympian Summer
The London Olympic Games is a festival of sporting prowess, a celebration of world-conquering athleticism. By definition, it can't be beat. So what is there left for you to do after you have experienced the thrill of seeing the most agile athletes on the planet? What experience could compare to watching the elite of the elite? Only another world-conquering event could possibly fit the bill. Fortunately there is one – and it’s right here in Britain.
To be accurate, it is not one event but several. Taking place in August, Edinburgh's summer festivals are the Olympics of the arts world. No one with an eye for exceptional accomplishment will want to miss this remarkable explosion of comedy, theatre, dance, literature and music.
We're talking about six festivals, any one of which would justify a trip to the Scottish capital. First, there is the Edinburgh International Festival, with its line-up of the world's best orchestras, opera companies, theatre ensembles and dance troupes. Next, there is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on its own the largest arts festival in the world, with up to 2500 shows in three weeks. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is one of Scotland's most iconic shows, with crowds from around the world viewing a visual extravaganza on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.
Complementing them both is the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with its all-day parade of Booker-winners, Nobel laureates and best-selling authors. Then there is the Edinburgh Art Festival, a feast of visual accomplishment, old and new, as well as the Edinburgh Mela, a multi-cultural weekend of global colour. Together they make an irresistible package.
From London by train, Edinburgh is a four-hour journey through the lush British countryside. The festivals are in full swing as the Olympics draws to a close. You can be there in a morning and arrive in time to throw yourself headlong into the round-the-clock life of the city. In a single weekend, you will experience an astonishing array of world-class entertainment in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. From first thing in the morning to well past midnight, the city buzzes with creative energy.
Among the most prominent spectacles in 2012 is Speed of Light, a collaboration between the Edinburgh International Festival and the public art company NVA. Celebrating the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it takes place on Arthur's Seat, the dramatic 832-foot peak close to the heart of the city. For three weeks thousands of runners will run choreographed routes of the hill, activating specially designed light suits. A ticketed audience will generate their own light through the movement of bespoke walking staffs as they ascend to the summit to witness the breathtaking moving tableaux below.
In combining spectacle, athleticism and accessibility, Speed of Light symbolises all that is great about the Edinburgh festivals.
This is the place where you might first have seen Stomp! and Jerry Springer: The Opera; where you could hear readings by Peter Carey, Yann Martel and DBC Pierre before they won the Booker Prize; where Sir Charles Mackerras conducted, Pina Bausch's company danced and the mighty Bamberg Symphony Orchestra has played. And yet, for all this exceptional talent, it is a tremendously democratic event. The bulk of performances cost around £10 (roughly €11 or $16 US), even the top seat in the grandest opera should not exceed £75 (€85 or $123 US) and you can enjoy street theatre and many major exhibitions without paying a penny.
All this fuels the sense of excitement and discovery, helping making the Edinburgh festivals the greatest show on Earth.