With festival season already upon us some of our Arts and Lit writers showcase some festivals that are sure to bring some sunshine to your summer.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival- Sarah Gough
I’ll let you into a secret. The well-known ‘Edinburgh Fringe Festival’, which every August plays host to thousands upon thousands of comedians, actors, dancers, singers, magicians, ventriloquists etc, is actually named the ‘Edinburgh Festival Fringe’. Boring trivia, sorry, but thought I’d put a misconception straight before you got too excited; and the Edinburgh Festival is definitely something to get excited about. The largest arts festival in the world – in 2015 there were 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a month-long entertainment showcase enrapturing audiences with spectacles, stand-up and surprises. With every available space turned into a performance spot, the vibrancy, energy and full-frontal nudity of the Fringe is infectious. Okay, not that much full-frontal nudity, but anything goes, especially after midnight in the Three Sisters pub.
Getting up to Scotland and finding a place to stay can be pricey on a student budget, but one of the best things about the Festival is the ‘Free Fringe’ – hundreds of shows requiring no pennies whatsoever. Of course, only the worst people walk out of them without donating something, but it’s up to you how much you chuck in the struggling artiste’s bucket. Unfortunately, the more drunk you get, the more generous you tend to be. I’ve only ever walked out of a free show without offering any of my hard-earned student loan once: it was a midday gig from an unknown British comedian. Let’s just say he was unknown for a reason: he spent an hour rambling on about Australia, with a shoddy PowerPoint as a visual aid. He was like the annoying Uncle who never edits any detail out of any story. The only person who laughed at his poorly-timed jokes was a New Zealander in the front-row. Painful. Despite the occasional dud however, the Free Fringe has some absolute gems, and half the fun is stumbling upon them by accident.
That’s how I would describe the Fringe actually. A fun stumble. Not in the sense that you’re wildly drunk all the time – although that, of course, is pretty common too – but that you’re seeing whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy. The spontaneous variety of it all is so liberating. When I visited a couple of years ago, my friend and I were enticed into a drag show at 7pm and gave it a standing ovation, somewhat epitomising the delights of this glorious city in August. It’s cultural discovery at its finest. Many acts live in hope of rocketing to popular consciousness through a stellar Guardian review – Sarah Millican, Steve Coogan and Al Murray are just a few famous faces to have done just that. Meanwhile some just wish to break even, and most perform at a loss. But, at the Fringe, money don’t matter when memories are being made and minds are being blown, amirite? I’m right. You must go.
The International Youth Arts Festival- Print Arts and Lit Editor, Emma Bessent
The International Youth Arts Festival sees its seventh birthday in Kingston this year, and it’s not to be missed. Providing an opportunity for 5-26 year old artists to hone their skills through public performance, the festival is run by the charity Creative Youth which “aspires to mentor young individuals, entrepreneurs and organisations by providing artistic business and strategic support, allowing the next generation of artists to flourish”. (IYAF Website) Its participants are primarily the Kingston-based young people that the festival’s parent charity work with, but its audience is made up of visitors from far and wide.
In its few years of experience, the festival has grown exponentially and even claims itself to be an excellent precursor to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with the young artists throwing down the gauntlet for their more diversely aged counterparts. It boasts an array of theatre, dance, music, comedy, visual arts, circus performances and workshops, playing with every genre under the sun. You’re sure to find something for you, and support a thriving young arts community whilst you’re at it.
Theakstons Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Writing Festival – Print Editor, Jeremy Brown
Tucked away in picturesque Harrogate — which must be the most ‘southern’ town in the north (and also, statistically, the happiest place in the country) — is the Old Swan Hotel, home to one of the world’s biggest crime writing festivals. There are all the things you’d expect from a literary festival: captivating talks, book signings and fine food, all washed down with a pint of Theakstons ale, but after the events there’s also the unique opportunity to rub noses with the kings and queens of crime-writing themselves. Last year saw Jack Reacher creator Lee Child return to Yorkshire, and 2016 will include another stellar line-up, including Peter James, Martina Cole, Jeffery Deaver, and festival favourite Val McDermid. Featuring some of the world’s bestselling authors, in a beautiful and friendly environment, this festival truly brings readers and writers together.
Hay Festival- Online Editor, Theo Stone
Tucked away along the Welsh border lies a small town whose love of literature transformed it into a hub for two of the finest literary festivals today. Hay-On-Wye’s picturesque streets and near-limitless range of bookshops have become has become a site of pilgrimage for all bookworms. However, when you consider the quality of its two literary festivals: Hay Festival and HowTheLightGetsIn, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Despite its location, or perhaps because of it, Hay Festival is the world’s largest literary festival; a Welsh Shangri-La boasting a massive range of esteemed authors, politicians and thinkers. It’s safe to say that it’s the only Festival you’ll be able to go to if you want to find Salman Rushdie, Caitlin Moran, Gordon Brown, and David Gilmour all in one place, whilst Russell T. Davies signs book in a nearby enclave. Meanwhile, further on up the road lies the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival – a smaller but no less impressive site packed with up-and-coming folk and indie artists (as well as a few more notorious artists), and an equally star-studded, if more academically orientated, lineup. Philosophy students will likely rejoice at the sight of David Chalmers, whilst physicists will likely embrace John Ellis with open arms, whilst off in the corner Politics students and budding journalists compete to ask Ken Livingstone and George Galloway the most awkward questions possible. Fun for all the family, in other words.