In pictures: Edinburgh Festivals over the years

John Thomson and Steve Coogan, who won the Perrier Pick of the Fringe award (Perrier award) for Steve Coogan In Character during Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1992. Picture: TSPL

John Thomson and Steve Coogan, who won the Perrier Pick of the Fringe award (Perrier award) for Steve Coogan In Character during Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1992. Picture: TSPL

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Like many stars who came before and after, Alan Rickman made his major acting debut at the Edinburgh Festivals.

Rickman, who became famous for his roles in Harry Potter, Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, first acted in Edinburgh in 1976, in a double bill at the Assembly Rooms.

The Offshore Theatre Company presented The Great Northern Welly Boot Show at the Waverley Market during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1972. In picture, Kenny Ireland (chorus, right) Bill Paterson (chorus, 2nd right) and Billy Connolly (in front). Picture: TSPL

The Offshore Theatre Company presented The Great Northern Welly Boot Show at the Waverley Market during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1972. In picture, Kenny Ireland (chorus, right) Bill Paterson (chorus, 2nd right) and Billy Connolly (in front). Picture: TSPL

He played Friar Peter in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and Wittipol in the playwright John Barnes’ adaptation of Ben Jonson’s play The Devil is an Ass.

Newly out of drama school when he won the part, he would later describe Jonson’s play as his first major acting role.

In 2004, he spoke to The Scotsman about how the Edinburgh festival had delivered some of the seminal experiences of his working life.

“I’ve had some of the most profound theatrical experiences of my life up here. Scotland is inextricably tied up with my life,” he said.

Actors Alan Rickman and Anna Calder-Marshall in a Birmingham Repertory Company production of The Devil is an Ass at the Assembly Halls druing the Ednburgh Festival 1976. Picture: TSPL

Actors Alan Rickman and Anna Calder-Marshall in a Birmingham Repertory Company production of The Devil is an Ass at the Assembly Halls druing the Ednburgh Festival 1976. Picture: TSPL

“It just defines the word theatre when you come to the festival, I’ve had amazing times here.”

Rickman, who passed away earlier this year, is among many stars of stage and screen who made their debut at the festival - which first started in 1947, when eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival, an initiative created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life in the wake of the Second World War.

Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly co-wrote and starred in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show in 1972, a parody of the Upper Clyde shipbuilders in which workers try to takeover a welly boot-factory.

Actor Bill Paterson, who also starred in the show, told how Billy stepped in and saved the day when lighting issues hampered the show: “Billy went on with his guitar and banjo to fill the time. Nobody will ever forget it. He did everything – improvised, played a tune, told a story – and the audience were delighted,” he said.

Scottish entertainer Billy Connolly with a cigarette during an interview in Edinburgh in August 1980. Picture: TSPL

Scottish entertainer Billy Connolly with a cigarette during an interview in Edinburgh in August 1980. Picture: TSPL

Another star to make their debut at the festival was Rowan Atkinson.

Before Not The Nine O’Clock News and a long time before Mr Bean, Atkinson was taking his first steps into the world of showbusiness, performing in a role with the Oxford Theatre Group in 1973 and then returning two years later with The Dundee University Theatre Group.

In an interview with author Michael Dale, Atkinson talked about his earliest memories of the Fringe: “I remember the Fringe reception, with people wandering around in white masks holding spoons in front of them trying to attract the media’s attention, and I thought, I hope I never have to do that.”

The future Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan, made his fringe debut in 1990, starring alongside Frank Skinner, but it wasn’t until 1992 that he and fellow actor John Thompson appeared in Steve Coogan in character with John Thomson, subsequently winning the Perrier Award.

Edinburgh Festival in 2007. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL.

Edinburgh Festival in 2007. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL.

By all accounts this was a tough period for Coogan, with his well-documented drug abuse leading to him being hospitalised in the city after a night of drug taking.

Thomson went on to star in The Fast Show and ITV’s Cold Feet, which is making a comeback in 2016.

Since its low key beginnings, the Festival has ballooned into the massive world-famous extravaganza it is today.

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