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Edinburgh's 12 festivals - from science to storytelling to the famous Fringe

Festival season lasts nine months a year in Scotland's capital - and kicks off on Saturday with its family-friendly science festival

Published: Thursday, 24th March 2016 at 12:00 pm

Most people have heard of the Edinburgh festival, which takes place every August and is actually five separate festivals: the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival, a book festival, a world music weekender and the Military Tattoo. And did you know the Scottish capital also has the world's biggest children's theatre festival at the end of May, and a jazz festival? Here are all the dates you need as festival season begins.

1. Edinburgh International Science Festival (26th March – 10th April 2016) 

On Saturday, the world’s first and Europe’s largest science festival kicks off. It's a two-week celebration of science and technology for all the family over the Easter break. Younger members can try surgery using real endoscopes in the ER surgery workshop, build a planet using a Lego model of Mars as inspiration and meet a real-life astronaut. Other highlights include sessions on the maths behind football, the science behind Star Wars and an appearance by Lee Towersley – the man behind The Force Awakens robot R2D2. This year's Big Bang Bash will have a Bowie soundtrack and futuristic food can be sampled at Gastrofest.

To view the full programme, buy tickets and register for free sessions, go to:


Street performers at 2015's Edinburgh Fringe Festival

2. Imaginate Festival (28th May – 5th June 2016)

Imaginate showcases the best children’s theatre from the UK and around the world, with performances suitable for children of all ages. This year's programme includes Tales of a Grandson, a re-telling of Scotland's history and time-travelling adventure; and The Story of the Little Gentleman, which is based on the Swedish story.

For more information, go to:

3. Edinburgh International Film Festival (15th -26th June 2016)

2016's edition will be the 70th for the world's longest continually-running film festival. Past premières have included Dr Zhivago, Taxi Driver, Manhattan, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, ET: The Extra Terrestrial, The Motorcycle Diaries, and Oscar triumph The Hurt Locker. This year's programme will be announced in early May.

For more information, go to:

4. The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (15th – 24th July 2016)

Kicking off the summer season is the Jazz and Blues Festival, the biggest festival of its kind in Britain with over 150 gigs at 13 venues over 10 days. The music is matched to some great venues including a 17th century church turned hip jazz club, a Spiegeltent with magic mirrors and the opulent Festival Theatre.

For more information, go to:

5. Edinburgh Art Festival (28th July – 28th August 2016)

The UK’s largest visual arts festival brings together the capital’s leading galleries, museums and artist-run spaces, alongside new public art commissions by established and emerging artists. Best of all, most of the festival is free.

For more information, go to:


The Tattoo


6. Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (5th – 27th August 2016)

It bills itself as the Greatest Show on Earth, and it's certainly one of the most arresting thanks to the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle (pictured above). Massed military bands and massed military pipes and drums from all over the world perform. It's been going since 1950 and there's always a rendition of the national anthem, Auld Lang Syne and Scotland the Brave. This year's will pay tribute to the Queen's 90th birthday.

The Tattoo takes place every evening and twice on Saturdays, and has never been cancelled come rain, wind or snow. It usually sells out so book early.

For more information, go to:

7. Edinburgh Festival Fringe (5th – 29th August 2016)

What most people think of as The Edinburgh Festival is actually the Fringe. It's the world’s largest arts festival, in which a few thousand performers hailing from dozens of countries perform everywhere and anywhere. From big names to unknowns, the Fringe has it all and is open to anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them. Last year's programme included cricketer Freddie Flintoff riffing about the Ashes, two circus tents and a hard-hitting play about a woman's prison.

For more information, go to:

8. Edinburgh International Festival (5th 29th August 2016)

Running alongside the Fringe is the Edinburgh International Festival, which showcases music, theatre, opera and dance from around the globe and takes over the city's six major theatres and concert halls. This year's programme includes an acclaimed production of Bellini's Norma starring mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli and a screening of Mark Cousin's film Atomic with a live soundtrack from Mogwai. The full programme will be revealed on April 6th.

For more information, go to:

9. Edinburgh International Book Festival (13th – 29th August 2016)

In a tented village in Charlotte Square Gardens, the book festival welcomes more than 800 authors, from rising stars of fiction to historians to graphic novelists to Nobel Prize-winners. There is also a great programme for children and young adults. This year's events will be announced on 9th June.

For more information, go to:

10. Edinburgh Mela (27th – 28th August 2016)

Last but not least in August, there's Scotland's biggest festival of world music. From Ghanian drumming to Polish folk, Brazilian capoeira and elegant Argentine tango, to gritty Bangladeshi hip hop, the Mela brings together music, dance and performance from all over the world in one weekend.

11. Scottish International Storytelling Festival (21st – 30th October 2016)

Stories aren't just for children. Inspired by the Scottish ceilidh tradition, this festival is a 10-day celebration of live storytelling, bringing together Scottish and international storytellers and musicians.

For more information, go to:


Hogamanay 2015; Edinburgh Castle lights up blue to support Unicef

12. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (30th December 2016 – 1st January 2017)

Edinburgh's New Year celebrations are world-famous, and the city certainly goes the whole hog. The celebrations kick off on 30th when tens of thousands march through the city with torches. On New Year's Eve, there's a ceilidh in the Old Town, a concert in the Princes Street Garden and a giant street party in the city centre.

January 1st is welcomed with one of the world's biggest fireworks displays, and last year there was an arts festival the following afternoon for those who could stumble out of bed. In 2015, over 145,000 revellers from over 80 countries partied the night away. Hopefully you'll have recovered by March when the next festival comes round.

For more information, go to:


For more information and to sign up for updates about Edinburgh's festivals, go to:


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