Scott Wightman

British High Commissioner to Singapore

Part of UK in Singapore

16th August 2018

The greatest show on earth

I was in my home town of Edinburgh last week.  August is a great time to be in Scotland’s capital city.

The Edinburgh International Festival was born out of the destruction of the Second World War, its creators conceiving it as a “platform for the flowering of the human spirit”.   From modest beginnings in 1947, together with its “Fringe Festival”, it has developed into the world’s largest celebration of the arts.

Each year, thousands of musicians, dancers, artists, authors, comedians and street performers from every corner of the planet transform the unlikeliest of sites into performance spaces, staging a staggering range of productions: classics from ancient Greece, from China and India; some of the world’s greatest orchestras and soloists; professional and student groups putting on new works, all set against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat, the narrow wynds of the mediaeval Old Town and the neo-classical elegance of the New Town.

Edinburgh Castle provides a dramatic backdrop to the Festival

Tourists flocking to the city are liable to bump into some of the leading names of stage and screen, taking in shows between their own performances.  I passed one of our greatest Shakepearean actors muttering to himself along Shandwick Place; an ex-Blue Peter presenter looking to rustle up an audience for his one-man show in a central Edinburgh bar handed us a flyer while we were having a drink.  Edinburgh during the Festival is a true leveller.

There really is something for everyone.  We went to an interesting Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland focusing on his influence over the development of British painting from the 17th century to the present day.

An interesting Rembrandt exhibition is on at National Gallery of Scotland

Throughout the Festival, The Queen’s Hall hosts a series of morning chamber music recitals.  We greatly enjoyed the Takacs Quartet from Boulder, Colorado, accompanied by Canadian pianist, Marc-André Hamelin.  The Soweto Gospel Choir singing songs from the liberation struggle to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s centenary was an intensely emotional experience at the Assembly Hall.

And the enthusiasm of the young amateurs of the Edinburgh Little Theatre was infectious in their fun production of “All Shook Up!” – an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night using Elvis songs.  The venue was classic Edinburgh Fringe – makeshift theatre on the top floor of a masonic lodge; pigeon nesting in the air conditioner.

So for next year, if you’re planning a trip to Europe in August, make sure you schedule a few days in Edinburgh.  You too can be part of the greatest show on earth.