Edinburgh excels at putting on a great festival. Come August and the city’s cobbled streets are abuzz with visitors and street performers attending the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival, both of which have garnered international acclaim since they were founded in 1947. But the capital hasn’t earned the moniker of ‘The Festival City’ for only two, albeit highly-distinguished, festivals. There are 12 major festivals annually, plus a scattering of lesser-known events across the year. Indeed, it is very rare for a month to pass in Edinburgh without there being a celebration of some kind, making it easy for visitors to coincide their trip to the capital with an event.
Conference Call guides you through some of the city’s less familiar festivals that also play their part in making Edinburgh a fantastic festival destination all year round.
TradFest - 27 April to 8 May
Twelve days of toe-tapping, rollicking ceilidh music alongside compelling stories makes Edinburgh’s springtime anything but dull. Hosted by the Scottish Storytelling Centre, TradFest is a vibrant feast of traditional folk culture, with a multi-arts programme of music, dance and storytelling showcasing the very best in local and international talent. Inspired by the customs of May Day and Beltane, TradFest is a festival rooted in the past but with a thoroughly modern feel. Performers for 2016 include the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, a collective of three young musicians from Norway, Sweden and Shetland, as well as ‘Gaelic Supergroup’ Dàimh, who hail from the West Highlands of Scotland. Complementary events include film screenings, talks and workshops. www.tracscotland.org
Beltane Fire Festival – 30 April
Revellers can expect a blaze of colour and sound at the annual Beltane Fire Festival, an ancient Iron Age Celtic ritual first revived and reinterpreted by the Beltane Fire Society in 1988. Since then, April 30th has become a highlight in Edinburgh’s celebratory calendar. Comprising an array of quirky, colourful characters, the festival’s procession opens at the National Monument and continues around Calton Hill, all the while backed by incessant drumming and music. With the audience watching on, the performers then mark the beginning of summer by lighting a huge bonfire. Fervent and unique, Beltane promises to be a festival experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry. www.beltane.org
Hidden Door Festival – 27 May to 4 June
Edinburgh’s disused environs become the backdrop for the Hidden Door Festival in May. A dilapidated building at King’s Stables Road, which has 40 rooms grouped together around a cobbled courtyard, will be transformed into a hub of activity for the second year running. Last year, enchanting art installations by emerging Scottish talent were concealed behind unassuming doors, while live acts took to a custom-built stage. Organised and run by a team of 20 volunteers, the 2016 festival will feature 40 upcoming artists, six nights of live music and 12 theatre companies, not to mention film screenings, live poetry readings and a series of talks. www.hiddendoorblog.org
Imaginate Festival – 28 May to 5 June
Imaginate is an ebullient international festival especially dedicated to children and young people. It endeavours to stage the most stimulating and exciting theatre from Scotland and across the world, which children and adults alike will enjoy. The 2016 festival boasts performing arts companies from New Zealand, Spain, Norway and Germany to name but a few. Highlights include Down to Earth, an interactive, multi-sensory production inspired by the Land Army Girls of World War II; The Great Illusionist, which tells the story of a young boy who dreams of becoming a magician; and Constellations, a blend of surreal animation, puppetry and music produced by the award-winning company Aracaladanza.www.imaginate.org.uk
The Edinburgh Festival of Cycling – 9 to 19 June
For those looking for something more active, this relatively new festival embraces a thriving cycling scene in Edinburgh. The capital was one of the first cities in the UK to sign up to the Charter of Brussels, which commits cities in Europe to investing in cycling policy. Named by the Guardian as one of the UK’s best cycling festivals in 2014 and 2015, the festival has grown exponentially since it was founded three years ago. There were 64 events last year across 34 venues with an estimated 5,000 participants. This year, the festival will offer an eclectic mix of events including rides, family activities and cultural events which will challenge people’s perceptions of what cycling involves and put Edinburgh firmly on the map as a great cycling city. www.edfoc.org.uk