There probably isn't a time of the year I love more than August in Edinburgh.
For sure, a lot of us locals like to complain about it. Buses take twice as long, trying to get anywhere beyond the royal mile requires a steely determination and flyers seem to make their way into every bag and pocket.1
Much like when we complain about the weather, complaining about the festival is just an easily accesible topic of small talk. Doing so may bring us together and cement our identity but deep down I don't think we really want things to be any different. Edinburgh without the festival season just wouldn't feel like Edinburgh at all.
We are proud of the fact that the world's biggest arts festival descends on our little city. Speak to a local and it won't be long before they tell you how the population of city doubles during the month of August.2 Edinburgh comes alive with a vibrant and pulsating energy and it's hard to be entirely cynical.
I find this energy contagious. Wandering around the sea of posters advertising every available show, I feel the buzz that I get when I visit major cities like London or New York.
One of the thing that brings me the most pleasure is walking back home late at night, camera in hand.
George Square and the Pleasance are still abuzz with people who don't have work in the morning. Musicians and jugglers still perform to small crowds in the dim light of the Royal Mile.
Performers are wandering back to their accomodation with spray painted faces wearing hoodies over ornate costumes. I wonder what kind of crazy show they are a part of.3
Food trucks and pop-ups are everywhere making it almost impossible to resist the urge for a for a late night slice of pizza.4
And every night is accompanied by the familiar soundtrack of fireworks. Right on cue.
This year I tried to embrace it as much as I could. It was my most festival-y festival ever. The Fringe is often synonomous with comedy but it is also home to some unique experiences you won't find elsewhere. In total I saw 22 different shows, bands and events.
I saw Edinburgh Castle light up with 350 million years of history.
I saw an elaborate technical show, Wifi Wars, go so horrible wrong that they resorted to singing Eminem covers on a Ukulele while someone tried to restart all the routers.
I saw Nish Kumar deftly switch between innocuous material on his desire to be the drummer in Coldplay to Brexit, bankers and gentifrication by the middle classes.
I saw Sigur Ros at the playhouse where they were not so much making music as a providing a sensory experience.
I saw Louis CK at the playhouse received like a rock star with comedy that took cynicism to a whole new level. In the best possible way.
I saw a somewhat crass, Australian foul-mouthed puppet reflect on the nature of life and whether we should sacrifice being a decent person in order to make good art. I loved it.
I saw Abandoman improvise a rap about my problems getting Wi-Fi reception in my bedroom.
I saw a musical about the true story of a group of migrants from Glasgow fighting to have the law changed. With feel good song and dance numbers.
I saw Last Dream (On Earth), an immersive, technically astounding live audio experience recreating both a refugees journey to Spain and Yuri Gagarin in space.
I saw some alcohol experts turn a drinks tasting into an hour long show involving dodgy puns and cross dressing. The drinks were a lot better than the jokes.
I saw James Acaster deliver a slow-burn of a stand up set that was exceptionally well crafted and delivered with immense precision. Mainly about honey.
I saw James Thiérrée, grandson of Charlie Chaplin in a surreal, strangely beautiful, Dali-esque piece of theatre. And in which everyone ended up getting eaten by a giant polythene toad.
I (eventually) saw Kieran Hodgson in a charming hour of autobiographal character comedy after what was surely the most stressful and insane queuing system in the entire city. It brought everyone together.
I saw Sam Beam (of Iron and Wine fame) and Jesca Hoop bring their beautiful harmonies to end the month in the most perfect low-key way.
And I gathered with friends in Princes Street gardens, drank some wine, shared some food while we watched it all finish with a bang.
Thank you Edinburgh. See you next August.