Sunday, August 14, 2005

I have decided to compare the Edinbrugh Fringe Festival to all of Seattle's festivals, which include Bumbershoot, Folklife, Seafair, and The Bite of Seattle. I am going to prove why Edinburgh's Festival is the greatest summer festival in the world today.

Each of the Seattle festivals run over a long weekend during the summer and a bit into early Autumn. Basically, they run from Friday until Sunday evening. A couple of them run a third day. This makes for a very constrained atmosphere. You must get everything you want done in that time period. This is fairly easy as there is usually not too much (except for the bite, which as hundreds of stalls) and it all fits neatly into the Pacific Science Center.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs the entire month of August from the seventh (and some shows get started earlier) until the second of September. Unlike any of the Seattle festivals (with the exception of Seafair but that is a parade and a hydroplane race with a jet stunt interlude), the Edinburgh festival covers the entire city and has so many shows that you could not even begin to see them all in the space of a weekend.

A major important factor is that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival costs nothing. In fact, the Royal Mile is converted for the entire month into a huge street of performers and musicians. All the Seattle Festivals costs at least twenty dollars these days (they used to be free when I was young). I am not sure about Folklife but it was free the last time I checked but that could have changed now. Even if you never step foot into a show, you can entertain yourself and your kids, should you have any.

Since there are so many shows during the festival, it covers the entire city. This is quite nice in fact. While most of the Seattle festivals are constrained to one small part of the city (Pacific Science Center), Edinburgh becomes a huge stage upon which to perform (that goes for both the people who are performers and just passers-by who sometimes will perform just for the heck of it). It has an atmosphere that Seattle just cannot match.

Also during the Festival Fringe, there is the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the actual festival, which boasts the best traditional and classical performances in Europe. On top of that, there are musical performances in all the major venues of the city. So instead of having to plan three or four times during the summer, you can plan an entire two weeks of seeing shows and you can plan you vacation around it (many, many people do. Oh, by the way, the average vacation time in Scotland is four weeks per year plus sick leave and in some cases seven weeks per year).

The last and most important difference in my mind is the anything goes attitude that pervades the festival. In Seattle, every year, they keep telling us that they are going to be "Family Friendly" and they bore everyone else except kids (sometimes even they have a hard time). There is no sense of excitement or danger. As soon as the organizers find either of those, they work as fast as possible to get rid of it. It is an embarrassment.

At the Edinbrugh Fringe Festival, they take the exact opposite view. You can see the Puppetry of the Penis show if you want. You know from the beginning that it is going to be as non-politically correct as possible before you go. The organizers do not try to censor the content. This does not mean there are no kids events. In fact, the opposite is true. There are hundreds of them but they do not squeeze out the other fun shows that are not made for kids or censored because someone else has decided that you cannot make your own choices about what you want to see. If you want to see a comic, you go see a comic. They make it clear that kids are not invited. Of course, there is always a show that causes controversy but if there was not such a show, it would not be the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

There is one bright spot for Seattle in all of this. That is the Seattle International Film Festival. World Class. Nice job guys. Maybe we can parley that into something better in the future.

In comparison, Seattle's summer festivals need a huge renovation. I would suggest that they get together and form a super-festival-group so they can coordinate better (like the fringe does between the fringe office and all the venues that hold shows). They need to lighten up and allow the adults to have fun as well as the families. Being family friendly is not a goal in itself and often kills what it is trying to preserve.

In any case, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, while keeping me up at night, kicks major ass and you really should try to come to take in all the craziness.

posted by Chris  #9:07 PM | 0 comments |