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Thousands of acts poised to take to the stage as Edinburgh festival season begins

The Edinburgh International Festival and Festival Fringe combined is the largest arts jamboree in the world.

Edinburgh’s famous festival season is getting under way, with hundreds of thousands of performers and visitors heading for the Scottish capital.

The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe annually run over three-and-a-half weeks in August, hosting the largest arts jamboree in the world.

A free event will open the EIF, with Anna Meredith’s Five Telegrams inspired by five aspects of communication during the First World War and commemorating the lives lost a century ago.

The Fringe programme this year features more than 3,500 shows covering theatre, dance, circus, physical theatre, comedy and music.

Performers this year include Hi-de-Hi! star Su Pollard, who will be making her Fringe debut, actor and singer Jason Donovan, broadcaster Esther Rantzen, actress Maureen Lipman and Lee Ridley, winner of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent.

Also in the programme are the shows Trump the Musical and Mandela Celebration, a South African musical extravaganza of traditional music, jazz and township big bands honouring the life of Nelson Mandela.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will add to events in the capital with nightly performances on Edinburgh Castle esplanade until August 25.

EIF director Fergus Linehan said: “We’re pretty excited now. The preparations are really ramping up and we have an absolutely stunning opening event.

“This year’s event includes live performance for the first time, and combining with Anna’s intricate and moving score and the spectacular visual show that 59 Productions has created, I think it will be both an awe-inspiring and emotional start to this year’s festival.”

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Acrobats from Cirque Berserk show off their skills – and the Edinburgh skyline (Jane Barlow/PA)

The EIF was established two years after the Second World War to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange.

The Fringe began in 1947 when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to perform at the inaugural international festival.

The companies were refused entry to the programme but decided to perform on the fringe of the festival anyway, beginning the dawn of the worldwide fringe movement in the process.

To this day, the Fringe adheres to its open access principle that permits anyone with a show and a venue willing to host them to participate.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “This year’s programme contains an eclectic mix of creative endeavour from across the globe that will move, challenge and, of course, entertain.

“This year we are encouraging everyone who comes to the Fringe to take a leap into the unknown.

“Whether this is your first or your 50th time visiting the Fringe as a performer or audience member, this is a place where new discoveries wait around every corner.”

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