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The Edinburgh International Festival

Dancers against backdrop
Photo: Laurent Philippe/CCN Creteil Cie Montalvo-Hervieu
Top billing has to go to the Edinburgh International Festival, often known just as the EIF. Variously described as "the official Festival", "the real Festival" or simply "the posh one", the EIF is where it all started: established in 1947, just two short years after the devastation of the Second World War, its mission famously remains to "provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit".

Universally recognized as one of the world's most important cultural celebrations, the EIF runs a largely high-brow programme of classical music, theatre, opera and dance. Based in a half-dozen major theatres and concert halls across the city, it combines the innovative and the traditional: Shakespeare takes his place alongside brand-new theatre, and ballet lines up next to stunning contemporary dance. It has a reputation, too, for deftly-woven programme themes, carefully curated and changing from year to year.

The musical component is no less noteworthy. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and resident Edinburgh Festival Chorus are joined by symphony and chamber orchestras from across the world, in a programme which sees a major concert or two almost every day. And the whole thing's under the direction of one controlling brain - currently Jonathan Mills, who's held the top job since 2007.

But none of this comes cheap, of course, and despite sincerely-meant attempts to "open up" the Festival it remains a largely exclusive preserve. The best tickets for the premier events are well over £50 - though to be fair, they can go down to £10 if you don't mind where you sIt. It's great value when you consider that only a quarter of the Festival's costs are met through ticket sales, but a trip to the EIF will still make a bigger dent in your wallet than the other entertainment you'll find in Edinburgh at Festival time.

It's a deep irony too that the International Festival, without which none of Edinburgh's other offerings could exist, accounts now for less than 15% of combined ticket sales. Still and all - now well into its seventh decade, the EIF remains the jewel at the centre of Edinburgh's festival crown.

The Edinburgh Festival Fr... >>