Even though I haven’t been able to make it to Edinburgh in August in a couple of years now, I just can’t resist perusing the program listings for the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival and picking out the shows that I would get to if I was going to be in Edinburgh this summer- so, the annual Edinburgh recommendations post is too tempting for me to skip. It being the opening weekend of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I have to say one thing: even if you don’t get to any of the shows on the schedule, get down to Charlotte Square and hang out in the bookstore. Get a cup of coffee, sit at one of the tables and watch the crowds, and just breathe in the atmosphere. It’s magic.
If you can get to the Book Festival, I personally would check out at least one or two of the following:
Christopher Brookmyre, or Chris Brookmyre, Scottish novelist and creator of the Jack Parlabane novels including “Quite Ugly One Morning”, which won Critics’ First Blood Award for Best First Crime Novel of the Year in 1996, will be speaking on the topic “Does Feminism Have a Dark Side?” on August 21st: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/chris-brookmyre-1
Thursday August 25th, Louis de Bernières will be speaking about and reading from his second collection of poetry: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/louis-de-bernieres-2
This Wednesday, August 17th, Daniel Hahn, Charlotte Collins and Deborah Smith will be talking about the key role of translation in bringing international fiction to an English speaking audience https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/charlotte-collins-daniel-hahn-deborah-smith
On August 25th, Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern (best known for her novel P.S. I Love You) and YA novelist Teri Terry will be discussing and challenging our preconceptions of right and wrong, and good and evil: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/cecelia-ahern-teri-terry-judgement
Be sure to check back with the box office for tickets to see Ian Rankin or Alexander McCall Smith (both currently sold out)- they would be amazing to be at.
My first recommendation for the Fringe has to be EPIC BEARD MEN, a.k.a. Sage Francis and B. Dolan, over from Rhode Island for the month to do 20 spoken word shows “Strange Speech, Famous Development” at the Stand. Even if you’re not sure about “spoken word”, believe me – these shows will be fun.
David O’Doherty, purveyor of whimsy with tiny keyboards, will be back at the Fringe (in addition to his event at the Book Festival) with his show “David O’Doherty: Big Time”. Always guaranteed a good laugh and a warm feeling about the world in general (a pretty tall order these days).
Josie Long is a similarly wonderful comedian who I tried never to miss- and she’s doing two shows this year: her “Josie Long: Work in Progress” and “Josie Long and Martin Williams: Investigations”. Both shows run August 16-28.
“Work in Progress” is a popular title this year, as it’s also the title of ever-popular Stephen K. Amos‘s solo show. Always an hour of top-notch comedy sure to make your stomach hurt from laughing. His “Talk Show” is also sure to be well worth the meagre ticket price.
A Dublin friend once called me from Australia to let me know that Andrew Maxwell was in town and planning to do a set in a local (Dublin) comedy club that night so I wouldn’t miss it- that’s how much fun a Maxwell set can be. He’s doing shows in Edinburgh from August 18th through the 28th in the Assembly George Square Theatre- don’t miss it.
Shappi Khorsandi is “celebrating her fortieth year in Britain with a love letter to her adopted land” in the form of her show, “Oh My Country! From Morris Dancing to Morrissey”. Guaranteed to be a good laugh.
Jason Byrne is consistently unpredictable and always very, very funny. You should go see him: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jason-byrne-is-propped-up
I was delighted to note that veteran Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan is back at the Fringe this year: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/tommy-tiernan-out-of-the-whirlwind
I’ve never actually seen Al Porter do comedy (that I can recall) so I can’t personally vouch for him, but I’ve heard good things from reliable people, which is almost the same- he’s doing an hour at the Pleasance Courtyard just about every night in August. You should probably be there. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/al-porter-at-large
And if you’re looking for high energy, Axis of Awesome lived up to their name when I saw them in Edinburgh a few years ago- well worth the ticket price: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/axis-of-awesome-won-t-ever-not-stop-giving-up
Brendon Burns is doing the Free Fringe this year- funny, maybe sometimes not to everyone’s taste but I always left with a sore stomach from laughing. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/brendon-burns-dumb-white-guy
For fans of Father Ted- “Further Ted”, featuring Joe Rooney, Michael Redmond and Patrick McDonnell: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/further-ted-michael-redmond-joe-rooney-and-patrick-mcdonnell
Kiri Pritchard-McLean’s “Hysterical Woman” looks like fun: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/kiri-pritchard-mclean-hysterical-woman
Fans of “One Foot in the Grave” won’t want to miss Richard Wilson in “I Don’t Believe It! An Evening with Victor Mildrew” August 16-21 and 23-28. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/i-don-t-believe-it-an-evening-with-victor-meldrew
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few favourites from the Irish “scene”:
Damo!- Damien Clarke is back for another Fringe, and is consistently a fun hour: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/damian-clark-can-t-slow-down
If sketch comedy is your thing, you could do much worse than Foil Arms and Hog: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/foil-arms-and-hog-doomdah
Jarlath Regan, brilliant Irish comedian and creator of the popular “Irishman Abroad” podcast: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jarlath-regan-arseways
Rory O’Hanlon is doing shows as part of the Free Fringe, and while I would have to say odds are slim that you won’t have a great time, you can’t beat the pick-your-own-ticket-price options https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/rory-o-hanlon-you-are-where-you-need-to-be
Meals and tours:
As usual, if you happen to be passing along the Royal Mile, I strongly recommend stopping in to Gordon’s Trattoria for lunch, dinner, or a banana split with coffee. Excellent service, convivial atmosphere and frequently someone is singing somewhere (it’s always a good sign when the staff are singing while they work).
I also strongly recommend taking the bus and boat tour that goes out on the Firth of Forth, if you have time. It’s a wonderful trip- you can get it from Waverly Bridge, with the other tour buses.