Above, The Meadows, one of the city’s largest parks. Below, the National Gallery of Scotland and anyone who pitches up is welcome to a walk-on part. The streets are awash with wide-eyed wannabes and bewildered punters, frantic to be the next big thing, or beg a ticket to see it. Too chaotic to conform to any kind of showbiz hierarchy, the festival is actually an inverted meritocracy, where has-beens are mobbed while world-class talent wanders by unnoticed.
And that’s the way it should be.
As the comedian Arthur Smith once pointed out, the real stars of the Festival are not its famous professionals, but the schoolgirls who put on musicals, the local shopkeeper with an interest in experimental Russian theatre, or the intense undergraduate who wants to write plays and has written a very bad first one.
The best thing about the Festival is that the must-see shows and drinking holes change every year, so no one really knows anything in advance, apart from how much fun it can be. In 1991, when a Russian coup threatened to restart the Cold War, the buzz on the street in Edinburgh was about whether Eddie Izzard would win the Perrier. After a couple of drinks, you’re a bit part actor in this creative jamboree. After a couple more, you’re an important player in the new Scottish Enlightenment. And so you are, for a few hours, until the euphoria and the alcohol wears off and you remember you were due back at work yesterday. O