First Edinburgh International Festival

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First Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh, Edinburgh and the Lothians The 24th of August 1947 AD

The umbrella-term Edinburgh Festival is used to cover what is in fact a series of festivals at the end of the Scottish summer; and even the very first event, put on in 1947, comprised the official Edinburgh International Festival and what later became known as the Edinburgh Fringe .

With WWII ending barely two years earlier, and in a time of great austerity, it took great imagination and energy to create such a happening. One of the driving forces behind the festival was Rudolph Bing, manager of the Glyndebourne Festival since it began in 1934 ; but lesser-known figures in the city’s corporation were equally vital to the success of the thing: Princes Street, Waverley Station and Central Station were all spruced up and decorated with flowers; policemen were issued with new helmets and gloves; and soldiers from the castle provided military glamour and spectacle on the streets, dancing reels for the thousands of visitors drawn to the event, the hospitality sector temporarily overwhelmed by the numbers.

More than a score of uninvited theatrical companies joined the fun, putting on plays in any venue they could arrange; even the local cinemas organised themselves into what amounted to a mini-festival of film.

The 1947 event was a huge success, laying the foundation for what has become the world’s largest cultural gathering.

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