For the Children...
August in Edinburgh is a wonderful time for children, with many festivals and venues offering extensive children’s programmes and providing spaces and services for families. Planning a day out couldn’t be easier – the only hard bit is choosing from all that is on offer, but that can be solved by adding a few more days to broaden out the itinerary.
First stop: the Royal Mile. Here, Fringe performers advertise their shows and buskers set up their own performances in a street carnival that keeps its energy high for all of August. The Mile is incredibly crowded, but the bustle is full of wondrously costumed characters, and even the most risqué Fringe shows must make their open-air previews family-friendly. Magicians and acrobats gather crowds in huge circles around them and often invite children and parents to help in daring feats – the gasps can be heard all the way down the street.
A game many Edinburgh children learn early on in life is to see who can collect the most flyers in a five or ten-minute walk down the Royal Mile.The winner might earn an ice-cream or waffle from a street vendor. Parents can pause for a coffee in a street café to read over the collection, and it’s guaranteed you’ll be sitting near a musician or a physical theatre piece, or be visited by passing performers in extraordinary costume. This is a wonderful way to introduce children to all the crazy and beautiful energy of the festival month, in the open-air free-for-all stage.
Next, the Edinburgh Art Festival, and The House of Fairy Tales’ Magnificent Edinburgh Escapade Part 1. This is an interactive guide to Edinburgh, taking families and children on a problem solving tour through the city with the aid of illustrated maps and task sheets. The group also have a home in George Street, where they have created Newsroom, an art installation which teaches young people about mass communication and its problems. Children will have the chance to become trainee reporters and produce news and reviews. Commissioned specially for the Festival, this promises to be a highlight for people of all ages.
Then go to a children’s show. If the Fringe is a testing ground for new and innovative performance, then the children’s programme cannot be ignored. There are 113 shows categorised as for children in the Fringe Guide, amongst which can be found some of the most inventive and ground-breaking children’s theatre in the world.
Sometimes family favourites are retold. Join Theatre Paradok in The Space @ Symposium Hall to travel with the colourful and exciting Jumblies, of Edward Lear’s poem: “Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, and they went to sea in a Seive.”
Sometimes the performances are surprising, strange and educational, like The Amazing Bubble Show in Assembly George Square, where Louis Pearl presents the art and the science of bubbles in 45 minutes of comedy, music and audience participation, and doesn't fail to ask the eternal question: can you put a person inside a bubble?
Some shows offer an adult Fringe experience, but without the rude bits. Baby Loves Disco is in a real club – the Electric Circus on Market St – with real DJs, and dance teachers showing the kids some streetdance moves, with free face painting, a dressing-up corner, chill-out zone and activity sessions. There are healthy snacks and juiceboxes for the kids and a licensed bar for the adults. In the Bongo Club is Comedy Club 4 Kids, where established Fringe comedians perform their sets, with anything inappropriate cut out. With the feel of a real comedy club, this is the show’s eighth year at the Fringe, and it has proven very popular with kids and adults alike.
When it’s time for a rest, try the Pleasance KidZone in the Pleasance Courtyard, where lunch and coffee can be purchased and eaten amongst a collection of toys. This is also the location of the giant igloo – a theatre specifically for children’s entertainment, with a wonderful line-up of all sorts of shows.
Then there’s the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s RBS Children’s Programme. Running throughout the Festival period in Charlotte Square Gardens, and including the RBS Children’s Bookshop on site, this programme features events for all different age groups, as well as parents and carers. At 10am every day is Are You Sitting Comfortably, a free event for all ages featuring different writers each day.
For the very small (ages 0 – 3) there’s Bookbug, a nursery rhyme sing-along hosted by Edinburgh City Libraries. Those a little older (4 – 7) can meet author-illustrator Adam Stower and explore with him the story of a girl called Lily who wants a pet. 7 – 10s might want to try out Philip Ardagh & Alex Scheffler: Ardagh introduces the stories and Scheffler shows his audience how he came up with what they look like.
11 – 15s can hear authors speak about the issues they choose to write about, like first loves and bullying (Secrets and Lies with Lil Chase & Chris Higgins), or hang out with Pirates of the Caribbean actor and children’s author Mackenzie Crook. For the adults, Vivian French is presenting The Gift of Dyslexia, for ages 12+, arguing we need to stop classifying dyslexia as a disability and instead learn to understand the different skills and abilities it brings. There are hundreds of events, offerings kids of all ages the chance to do all sorts of things, so make sure you get down to Charlotte Square Gardens.
If you’re all still awake as darkness begins to descend, then there’s no better way to top off a day in Edinburgh’s festivals than a trip to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This spectacular performance on the Castle Esplanade culminates in fireworks every night, and the music and dancing is sure to impress the entire family.
On the 31st August – 2nd of September, take the kids to the Edinburgh Mela on the Leith Links. The Mela Kidzone will take their audience members Around the World in Eighty Minutes in a series of workshops revealing stories and traditions from the four points of the compass – north is Nothern Europe, east is East Asia, south is Africa, and west is the Americas. To take them on their journey will be the Mela Storytelling Boat, crewed by Vikings and Norsemen. Then grab some delicious food from the Global Food Village and find a stage to share in the showcase of cultural diversity that the Mela is all about.
And when the International Festival wraps up on the 2nd of September, take a picnic into Princes St Gardens to watch the fireworks from the grass, and reflect on a month of inspiration and entertainment.