48 Edinburgh


48 travels to Edinburgh for the world’s largest arts festival.

  A street performer on the Royal Mile

On this 48, Amanda Palmer and the crew are in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, for the world’s largest arts festival. Every summer, performers descend from all corners of the globe; the streets buzz with stand-up comics and mime artists, tartan-decked bagpipers and actors in bizarre costumes drumming up audiences.

The population of this usually reserved, conservative city doubles as half a million tourists flood the streets to experience the festival, which was originally set up to provide “a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” in the wake of the Second World War.

Overlooked by squat, grey Edinburgh Castle which perches on the edge of an old volcanic crag, the city’s medieval and Georgian streets, which escaped the wartime bombing largely unscathed, bristle with historic landmarks. But this is very much a modern European city – seat of the new Scottish Parliament and a booming financial centre that attracts thousands of new residents each year from England, Europe and beyond. 48’s guide is local filmmaker Russell Beard, who in a display of true Scottish hospitality invites the team to stay at his family home and can’t wait to give Amanda a tour of the city – by skateboard.

  One of the festival actors promoting his play

This is a city where tradition is still enthusiastically embraced by the young, but where a 21st century brand of national pride is also emerging. Amanda meets two third-generation craftsmen: passionate kiltmaker Howie Nicholsby whose avant-garde designs have made it into celebrity wardrobes, and Duncan Forbes, a turf farmer who won a controversial contract for a designer wild-grass garden and roof at the Scottish Parliament building.

Paranormal investigator Mark Turner introduces Amanda to a more sinister side of the city’s history, and armed only with a dictaphone and some candles, the team bravely ventures into the gloom of Greyfriars Kirkyard to find out why Edinburgh is known as one of Europe’s most haunted cities.

Amanda and Russell on Arthur’s Seat

Russell also makes sure the team doesn’t leave town without catching a show. During the course of the Fringe Festival alone, there are over 30,000 performances at 250 venues. But the real drama takes place behind the scenes as the performers, many of whom save up all year to appear at the festival, use every trick in the book to woo the discerning public. Amanda drops in on the young thespians of The Rogue Shakespeare Company who have managed to bag rave reviews, despite the trauma of staying in a rented flat with mice, poor central heating and a 1970s colour scheme.

Russell and Amanda spend the last of their 48 hours out on the town for a traditional Scottish evening with a difference. Young Edinburgh band Teannaich have created a stir in the city with their fusion of funk, jazz and rock and Celtic folk. Amanda discovers the physical demands of the Scottish national dance, the céilidh – which is even sweatier with an electric fiddler setting the pace.


Other music in the programme provided by Hector MacInnes of Injuns (http://www.injuns.co.uk/) and John Charles Wilson of Frogpocket (http://www.myspace.com/frog_pocket).

Thanks also to the following people who kindly provided images for the show:

Dane Love (http://www.dane-love.co.uk), Reconstructing History (http://www.reconstructinghistory.com), Edinphoto (http://www.edinphoto.org.uk); Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association (http://www.covenanter.org.uk); and Vroma (http://www.vroma.org)

* Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Watch part one of this episode of 48 on YouTube

Watch part two of this episode of 48 on YouTube




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