Edinburgh Festival 2021

The traditional Pile O'Programmes picture for Edinburgh 2021, even though most of them only exist in online form. (The Fringe one isn't even a programme - for the second year running, it's a book full of blank pages sold as a notebook to benefit the Fringe Society at https://shop.edfringe.com/collections/2021-merchandise/products/2021fringe-programme-blank )for Noel, and Diane

It all seemed so cut and dried two years ago. Edinburgh in 2019, Edinburgh in 2020, somewhere else in 2021, back in Edinburgh again 2022. Two years on, one year off, you know how we roll here when it comes to attending the greatest arts festival in the chuffing world.

But let's be honest, we weren't expecting any of the stuff that's happened since then. Least of all that I'd be back in Edinburgh in 2021 with four programmes' worth of events to consider.

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Spank's Not Quite Edinburgh Diary 2020

If they wanted to make this realistic, they should have filled the notebook with that one-micron thin paper they use in the genuine Fringe programmes.In a parallel timeline where a bat and a pangolin didn't conspire to bring down the planet (allegedly), The Belated Birthday Girl and I would have been in Edinburgh between August 22nd and 29th for the Festival, along with a dozen or so of our pals.

But we weren't. Which is why the Fringe Society, desperate to make a bit of cash, was reduced to the stunt you can see illustrated here - printing a replica of the 2020 Fringe programme with entirely blank pages, and selling it as a notebook for eight quid. Tony Cowards was, I think, the first person to make the observation that "the financial impact of cancelling the Edinburgh Fringe due to Coronavirus shouldn't be underestimated: potentially it could mean hundreds of comedians being thousands of pounds better off." But there were an awful lot of people out there who'd suddenly lost a source of income. As a result, during August many Festival regulars moved online in an attempt to fill the gap and raise a few quid for themselves, as I've previously documented here.

As I said back then: "even if you can't make it physically to Edinburgh (and most of us can't), there's still plenty of stuff happening. How many of these The BBG and I are actually going to see this year is another matter entirely, of course." Well, here's your answer to that: 23. We put aside a week at the end of August to catch as many of the online shows as we could across all the major festivals - International, Film and Book. Various scheduling issues (including watching the finale of Kodo's Earth Celebration 2020 online) meant that we couldn't stick to our original dates, so our week ended up being August 24th-31st. But we still covered a fair bit, and you can read about it now. It's only a month late.

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Edinburgh Festival Preview 2020: The Festival That Wasn't There

Photo courtesy of the Guardian: finally, it's possible to walk unimpeded across the Royal Mile in August, and all it took was a global pandemic that's killed three quarters of a million people so far.I'm not going to lie to you: the opening chapter of Spank's Edinburgh Diaries Volume Four: 2020-2029 is going to be a sod to write. (First three volumes still on sale, of course.)

We've known since the beginning of April that this year's Festival wasn't going ahead. It's a particular shame, because after last year's nightmare session of accommodation booking, this year's worked out comparatively painlessly, and I was looking forward to reporting on the slightly non-standard approach we'd taken. Our deposits have been rolled over into 2021, so we'll see if arts festivals and shared accommodation are still both workable concepts by then.

But this year, we're staring at a Festival calendar with an enormous amount of free space on it. Or are we? As I've mentioned several times over the last five months, many artforms have hurriedly made the transition to the digital realm. Couldn't the greatest arts festival in the chuffing world do the same?

Well, it could, but in a ridiculously piecemeal fashion. Which is why I thought a preview post might be in order.

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