Travel

A Day at the World’s Largest Arts Festival

9am on a Sunday morning, and I’m sailing out the front door onto an empty, sun soaked street. The Scottish clouds have scattered to the far corners of the Earth, opening up a crystal blue sky as I fly down Perth Road on my bicycle, LAT_56 traveller bag strapped to my back, enroute to the Dundee train station.

Unimpeded by car, person, or awkward bag, I arrive in minutes to the station – saving myself a twenty minute walk – alert, refreshed, invigorated and ready for a day at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world.

Lock up the bike, hop on the train, watch the dazzling Tay River pass by, opening up to rolling green hills dotted with tiny, grazing lambs, and in an hour and a half I’m in Edinburgh.

LAT_56 Traveller Bag at the gates of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

LAT_56 Traveller Bag at the gates of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

It’s still early in the day, promoters touting their leaflets are only starting to roll out of bed after the previous night’s shenanigans, but some performers are already in their full regalia and a magic show is in full swing, a South Korean performer with two volunteers prancing about to “Gangnam Style.”

As the day progresses, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s main street, turns into NYC’s Time’s Square, a similar manic flurry of activity squeezing you in at all sides, promoters, tourists, Japanese tap dancers, ghosts, and charlatans overwhelming you in a sea of carnivalesque mayhem.

In this crowded confusion, I’m grateful for the TT_01 traveller bag’s back pocket, my thin wallet safely inside, secure and protected. With a tidy, small, compact bag lying flush against my back, I can easily weave through the crowd and I don’t have to worry about anyone knocking me over and all the contents of the bag spilling out. One less thing to think about, more opportunity to fully loose myself in this communal experience.

A puppet stops to sing along with another pair of street performers

A puppet stops to sing along with another pair of street performers

An actor getting into make-up, back-to-back with a family of festival goers

An actor getting into make-up, back-to-back with a family of festival goers

The puppet having words with a passerby

The puppet having words with a passerby

My fiancé and I see two shows. One is pre-booked, suggested by an Irish friend with nothing but the best recommendations. This one is no different. Pilgrim is a one-man-show, a whirlwind of wonder, travelling from the debauchery of the California party beach scene to the remote expanse of New Foundland when the protagonist’s plane is grounded due to 9/11. I won’t say more as the script is phenomenal and Rex Ryan’s exuberant, magnetic performance is award-winning.

Next we take up a leaflet from a particularly charismatic French promoter and buy tickets for a performance dance piece, the dream memory of a blind man whose sensory experience of the world is distilled into a nonverbal dance. Its bittersweet poignancy translates something about love that words simply can’t; Blind Man’s Song is both haunting and breath-taking.

Before, in between, and after the shows we walk the full length of Edinburgh, buoyed by the shows we’ve seen, taking in the street performers, and elevated by this inverted world.

Wacky sign posting at the Pleasance Courtyard

Wacky sign posting at the Pleasance Courtyard

LAT_56 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

A life-size robot, greeting visitors at Pleasance Dome

LAT_56 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

A couple of street performers wow visitors

In the evening, we board the train back to bonnie Dundee, traveller bag still happy companion, having seen me through from bicycles to trains to crowded streets to crammed auditoriums to dream song planets and back home again. All in a day at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

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