July was Glasgow’s time to shine - and what a golden shine it was - but August is well underway now, which means it’s all about Edinburgh.
Comedy, drama, music, dance, art, marching, bagpipes and street theatre - August means Festival Season hits its high. There’s a nightly alarm clock in the form of fireworks signalling the end of the Tattoo at ten thirty sharp, posters on every available bit of space and literally nothing (absolutely nothing) is considered too weird or wacky to be part of a show.
Ridiculousness is a fact of life and there are boundless possibilities of what you can see, but for those of us who live here there is work to be done and lives to be lead. The show, as they say, must go on.
You’ve probably heard many people here moan about the inconveniences, crowds and prices, but in reality surviving August is as much about your attitude as anything else. Sure, it sounds a little cheesy to say, but it’s totally true. Deciding to go to an 11pm show and being in work for 9am is totally possible. It’s all attitude. This is Edinburgh Editor’s guide to a happy, fun and entertaining August, whilst ‘normal’ life goes on in the background.
1. Avoid the Royal Mile
Whatever you do, just don't go anywhere near the Royal Mile unless you really, really, really have to (like, you know, an appearance at the High Court). Box offices at Udderbelly, George Square, Pleasance and Assembly do tickets for all the major venues, so there’s no need to go near the Royal Mile - unless you want 100 flyers, of course...
2. Smile and say no thanks
You don't have to take all those flyers, but don't be a dick about it. I know people who claim to have perfected the 'I LIVE HERE, DON'T EVEN BOTHER' face or a snarky ‘I live here’ response, but really what's the need? I imagine that flyering for 8 hours a day is a pretty grim job, so whilst I don't want a flyer just say 'no thanks' – you don't get a flyer and you’re not a miserable human being.
3. Eat and run
No, not like that (not paying for your dinner is still frowned upon). Your body’s pretty resilient, but if you don’t normally eat pizza for dinner five times a week then probably try to stay clear of it here. Same goes with substituting meals with beer (tempting as it can be). It’s great for a while, but if you want to get to the end of the month with a semi-functional liver, then keeping an eye on what you eat, drink and the exercise you’re doing - it will make all the difference.
4. Find a new bar
It's true that many places in the very centre of town (especially round George IV Bridge and the Grassmarket) put their prices up a bit, but do you blame them? Also they are going to be super busy, so unless you like being packed in like a sardine and waiting ages to get served just avoid them, even if they are your favourite haunts. Teviot (the Edinburgh Uni student union) is a good festival option, it’s designed to be busy so won't unbearable. If you want to have a nicer drink though, go somewhere decent – we did a round-up of gin bars which you can find here - or find a bar in Marchmont or Newington where it’s slightly less crowded.
5. Tickets aren't always expensive
There's always a lot of chat in August that the Fringe is too expensive and prices people out. Well, if you want to see big name comics that you know from TV or some of the big centrepiece shows then yes, it really will be expensive (although interestingly, even the big names are usually cheaper in Edinburgh than the rest of their top tours); but there are loads of free shows and ways to get 2-for-1 tickets if you look them out. I won't lie and say it is cheap to go to lots of shows, but you can see great comedy and not have to sell an organ on the black market.
5. Leave 15 minutes early
If you need to get through town to get to work/friends' houses don't stress yourself out, leave a bit earlier. Passing through through the centre of town will be tricky and there will be a bajillion tourists stopping to take photos or marvel at the 'quaint' architecture, so just expect it. It's frustrating, but it's part of life. Leave that bit earlier or take a different route.
6. Enjoy it!
I'm sure you don't need to be reminded, but THE largest arts festival in the entire world is on your doorstep. Sure it's a pain, but it's totally worth it if you just take full advantage of it. Go see shows, go laugh at some comedy, go to something a little out with your comfort zone, get together with friends and make some new ones. The nightly fireworks, the fly overs, the ridiculous number of people and all those flyers are annoying, but the fun well outweighs any inconvenience. August in Edinburgh is really what you make of it; smile, leave slightly earlier, politely decline flyers but most of all take full advantage of what's on. Remember, there's plenty of time to sleep in September!