There is sometimes a misconception that once the carnivalesque atmosphere and crowds of the Edinburgh Festival have evaporated, and the Royal Mile is emptied of the usual assortment of acrobats, mime artists, flame-throwers, aspiring comedians, performance artists and other colourful characters brandishing their flyers, that Edinburgh retreats into its beautiful, if somewhat reserved shell during the winter months, only to emerge again on special occasions such as Christmas and Hogmanay, until August returns.
This could not be further from the truth. As the home of the largest annual cultural festival in the world, Edinburgh boasts an abundance of world-class arts venues which ensure it remains a destination for exciting music, dance and theatre events year-round as shown by the wildly successful runs of The Lion King at the Playhouse and War Horse at the Festival Theatre. As well as offering outstanding programmes of live music, ballet, opera, theatre, musical, stand-up, cinema and more, many of these venues form such an integral part of Edinburgh’s cultural fabric, that a visit to them is an experience in itself.
2014 marks a major milestone for these cultural institutions
The Usher Hall – the principal venue of the Edinburgh International Festival, this beautiful domed concert hall will celebrate its centenary on 6 March with a special 100th Birthday Concert featuring music performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, and on the hall’s magnificent organ which dates from 1913. Other upcoming highlights include gigs by Scottish post-rockers Mogwai and acclaimed singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, a one-off concert by Scottish Opera of Puccini’s Turandot, and a performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 in A ‘Turkish’ by Nicola Benedetti. The internationally acclaimed Scottish Chamber Orchestra is also celebrating this February with a special 40th Birthday Concert featuring works by Chopin, Beethoven and an exuberant, specially commissioned piece by Martin Suckling.
The Cameo Cinema – one of the oldest picture houses still operating in Scotland, the Cameo celebrated its 100th birthday this January. Originally named The King’s Cinema, it was taken over by local cinephile Jim Poole in 1947 who introduced the city’s post-War audience to the exotic world of foreign and arthouse movies. Since then the Cameo’s been a popular haunt of the city’s film buffs, students, visitors and the occasional A-lister such as Quentin Tarantino who declared it one of his favourite cinemas after Pulp Fiction screened here in 1994. It even hosted the 1996 premier of the Edinburgh-set Trainspotting. Hailed as ‘a cinema with a beating heart’ the cameo, with its history, cosy bar and unabashed love of film, offers an experience you simply won’t find at a multiplex
The Edinburgh Festival Theatre – unveiled on the former site of the Empire Palace Theatre in 1994, the Festival Theatre kicked off its 20th anniversary year with the sold-out and only Scottish performance of the National Theatre’s War Horse, and it has plenty of other sensational shows in store including the West End musical Singing in the Rain, Matthew Bourne’s seminal Swan Lake, the Northern Ballet’s new version of Cinderella, and Scottish Opera’s productions of Don Pasquale and the highly acclaimed Madama Butterfly. Why not take a Backstage Tour and get a behind-the-scenes look at this historic venue? Learn all there is to know about its fascinating past and the showbiz luminaries who have graced it with their presence including Laurel & Hardy, Judy Garland, David Bowie, to name a few.
More great venues
The Studio – an exciting new offshoot of the Festival Theatre, the Studio opened its doors last year, staging smaller scale and friendly-friendly performances including the highly anticipated Puppet Animation Festival
The Assembly Rooms – erected in 1787, this elegant Georgian building has hosted many grand events and distinguished individuals in its time including royalty and literary greats. A major venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it underwent an extensive restoration in 2011 which saw the interior returned to its original splendour
Bedlam Theatre – catch a performance at the oldest student-run theatre in Britain and home of the Edinburgh University Theatre Company (EUTC). The Fringe’s longest running show The Improverts, an acclaimed improvised comedy troupe, perform here every Friday during term-time
Summerhall – housed in a former veterinary school, the largest of Edinburgh’s newest arts venues showcases everything from art exhibitions and cutting-edge theatre to live music and creative workshops. Don’t forget to stop by the Royal Dick bar for a pint of Summerhall Pale Ale brewed the resident craft brewery, Barney’s Beer
The Filmhouse – with its plush red seating and arched ceiling of the former St Thomas Church, the Filmhouse serves as a suitably grand venue for the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival. Watch everything from classic re-releases and low-budget foreign flicks to popcorn fodder. It also hosts the annual Dead by Dawn festival in April. An absolute must for horror fans
Do you have a favourite place in Edinburgh you like to go to get your cultural fix? Share it in the comments below. Or maybe you’ve seen a fantastic show, exhibition or performance you just can’t recommend enough. Let us know with the hashtag #brilliantmoments on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social platform of your choice.