At this time of year, I'm always given to thinking about the Edinburgh Festival, particularly as my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of people lucky enough to be there right now. I've been to the Fringe a few times, always attached to a show (or several), and loved every second of it. But for some reason I've resisted going back without a theatre company to call my own.
On our way to St Andrews in May this year, we stopped off in Edinburgh overnight. May. No festivals. It was weird.
My previous memories of the city were entirely filled with festival moments: hours spent searching for budget train tickets and cheap accommodation; arriving at Waverley Station with a tent and only the vaguest notion of where we might find the campsite (clue: it's not in the city centre); stumbling across rainy cobblestones to get to the next performance just in time. Late nights and the kind of party atmosphere that only comes from every other person being an actor, comedian, or stage hand. (Me? I was usually producing or marketing, you won't get me on stage.)
Edinburgh, outside of the festival season, is a very different place. It's too quiet, for a start. The gothic architecture looks stark when it isn't draped in technicolor Festival banners. And I struggled to find my way around without the familiar theatrical landmarks.
It was only a flying visit, but I was struck by how easy it is for the character of a place to transform overnight. I live near to Cheltenham, these days, which is another famous "festival city," but I've never felt that the mood of the town really changes with the comings and goings of its arts festivals. So I was taken aback by just how different Edinburgh felt without its street performers, temporary theatres, and heaving crowds.
Normally I prefer quiet environments, but my memories of Edinburgh are so wrapped up with theatre that it just felt strange. There's only one thing for it: I need to go back to the Fringe.