Entertainment & Arts

Surviving 24 hours at the Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Fringe Image copyright PA

The festival season is underway in Edinburgh - throughout August the Scottish capital will play host to over 50,000 performers from all over the world.

From comedy improv to Bollywood dancing, bubble-blowing entertainers to string quartets, and pretty much everything in between - it's one giant arts party.

But how much culture can one person take?

The BBC's Becca Bryers is a firm believer that during this month every year, Edinburgh joins New York as "a city which never sleeps".

So she decided to test the theory. Her wake-up alarm was set for 8am on Saturday morning... and she wouldn't return to bed for a full 24 hours.

Image caption Becca planned much of her 24 hours of culture experience on the hoof

SATURDAY 08/08/2015 - 08:00 BST, hotel

I shower, dress and pick up my carefully prepared plan for the day. In past years here, I'd definitely still be in bed.

09:00 BST, Royal Mile Cafe

I arrive at my first event of the day, which I've tactically arranged to include free breakfast - The History of Porridge.

Over 45 minutes, host Carina Contini gives a lively talk on the origins, production and enduring popularity of the oats based dish, "from gruel to gorgeous".

Best new fact: porridge is traditionally eaten standing up, Carina reckons to fit more food in for the long work day ahead.

Image caption Porridge takes a starring role at The History of Porridge

10:00 BST, C Theatre

Shakespeare For Breakfast (there's a free croissant on every seat) is a bit of an Edinburgh Fringe institution - it's been a sell-out hit for the previous 23 years.

During a reworked version of Hamlet, plenty of audience laughs come from the impressive range of Bard and popular movie quotes, but also the sheer silliness of seeing Hamlet's father appear in ghostly form - doing pirouettes in a white sheet and afro wig.

11:30 BST, Scottish National Gallery

An early lesson learnt in the 24 hours - a smartphone app might tell you it takes just 10 minutes to walk somewhere, but it probably doesn't factor in festival-related road closures and thousands of tourists.

So instead of watching Phill Jupitus sketch some of his favourite paintings, I take a little time to wander around the vast galleries at the Scottish National Gallery.

12:30 BST, Elephant House

Time for a coffee. Still aiming to fit in as much culture as possible, I stop by the Elephant House; the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book.

The boy wizard is clearly a pull for international tourists - the menu comes in English and Chinese. But it's not until I nip to the loo that the fan dedication really shows itself - the walls, doors and even the toilet paper holder have been scrawled with hundreds of quotes and dedications.

Image caption Checking out the Harry Potter Graffiti in the Elephant House loos

13:00 BST, The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the vibrant epicentre of Fringe happenings - it's the place where you can't walk without having a leaflet thrust in your face as performers collect to give free tasters of their shows.

I think my favourite is the guy decked out in a wedding dress, dark sunglasses and headphones, dancing up on a bollard.

One man hands me a leaflet and jokes, "Come to our theatre show, it's the only show in Edinburgh not featuring an a capella group"

The next leafleting man's opening line? "We're an all-male a capella group…"

Image caption Performers on the Royal Mile hand out leaflets hoping to fill their venues

14:00 BST, The Mosque Kitchen

I fill up on curry for lunch and flick through the Free Fringe guide. Edinburgh is not the cheapest place to be this time of year, and the programme of pay-what-you-can shows is designed to make things more affordable for both audience and performers.

I make a decision on a show… and arrive at the Irish pub venue two minutes too late to see it. Back to the Royal Mile then.

16:00 BST, Pleasance Courtyard

In some ways I feel Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells has been the soundtrack to my life - so I was really intrigued to see how two Australian guys would recreate the complex album live on stage.

It turns out it involves lots of instruments, some frantic retuning and a lot of good humour. It was fascinating to see such a wide range of people in the audience - including some complete Tubular Bells virgins ( WARNING: geeky music label joke).

17:30 BST, Potterrow

A quick pop into the BBC's Edinburgh Fringe headquarters, Potterow - which is open to the public every day of the festival.

I just miss out on the last act in the Pink Tent, so instead persuade the next, Semi-Toned, to perform a quick number for me - my own personal a capella show!

Image caption Performers on the Royal Mile keep the public entertained

18:00 BST, Assembly Hall

Montreal-based collective 7 Fingers (Les 7 doigts de la main) perform some truly incredible moves - swinging from the ceiling, somersaulting through hoops, making one-handed handstands on top of another person's head look simple.

It's so engrossing, at one point in the show a woman sitting close to me shouts out in relief when the acrobat narrowly misses ploughing head first into the stage.

20:00 BST, The Lyceum

No time for a sit down meal, I grab a selection of snacks from a supermarket to quickly munch before my next culture stop.

I've never seen an opera before, so I'm really intrigued to see the Edinburgh International Festival's world premiere of The Last Hotel.

My conclusion - I really enjoyed the mix of eeriness and comedy, even though I'm not entirely sure I understood it all.

22:30 BST, Edinburgh Castle

As to be expected in Edinburgh, it starts raining. Just in time for my only outdoor, seated event - the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

This year's theme is East Meets West, and the castle esplanade comes alive with a wonderful mix of saris and kilts.

The show is absolutely spectacular - Switzerland's Top Secret Drum Corps were a particular highlight for me - and it ends with a stunning firework display.

Image copyright ROB MCDOUGALL
Image caption Chinese dragon dancers perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

SUNDAY 09/09/15 01:00 BST, Gilded Balloon

After a very brief trip back to the hotel (to change out of damp clothes), I'm back at the centre of the Fringe action.

I squeeze into a packed Late'n'Live - a showcase of comedy acts followed by a band. The jokes are definitely ruder and the audience more lively at this time of night.

Compere Patrick Monahan does a fantastic job of organising a dance off and crowd-surfing competition, and the slightly bizarre antics of Australian trio Aunty Donna make me laugh so hard it hurts.

03:30 BST, Gilded Balloon courtyard and bar

Pizza. I chat to the girl serving me who tells me it's not a bad job - the customers are in good spirits and it's the done thing to stay up all night here. She went out after work the night before and got home at 10am. I'm in good company.

Image caption The morning view from Arthur's Seat

05:00 BST, Arthur's Seat

It gets to the point in the early hours where the main entertainment is at music venues and bars making use of the festival late-night opening rules.

But why sit down with a glass of wine and enjoy a relaxing jazz session, when you can instead head out of the city centre and get lost in Holyrood Park?

I eventually make it to the top of Arthur's Seat the highest hill in the city and am rewarded for the climb with beautiful views of Edinburgh and the sea beyond as the sun rises.

08:00 BST

After taking the scenic route back down to civilisation (in honesty, they're all scenic routes, I got lost again) - I return to the hotel at 07:30.

How better to spend the last 30 minutes of my 24 hours in Edinburgh than how I started it - with a bowl of porridge. Eaten while sitting down, I might add.

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