Parade to mark start of Edinburgh Festival set to return

This year is the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Picture: Jon Savage
This year is the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Picture: Jon Savage
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A MAJOR parade is to be held along Princes Street to herald the start of Edinburgh’s festivals season for the first time in four years.

The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival has confirmed it is masterminding the event, which will be held almost two weeks before the start of the Fringe, if councillors give the go-ahead next week.

It is hoped the event, which the local authority is expected to plough almost £100,000 into, will guarantee a high-profile launch for the festivals season, which will coincide with the London Olympics. It is planned to spill down into Princes Street Gardens.

Although it is not expected to be on the same scale as previous cavalcades, which attracted upwards of 250,000 spectators onto Princes Street, a report for the council said the jazz festival would be working on the event, on July 22, with other summer festivals and community groups.

However the vast majority of Fringe acts are set to miss out on the chance to take part in the new-look festivals launch as it is being held on the first weekend of the jazz festival, which moved its dates back by a week last year in a bid to save costs and avoid competition with other festivals.

Last year’s curtain-raiser was cancelled just four months before it was due to be held after the director of the event pulled the plug on his involvement. It had been a fixture of the festivals since 1974.

David Todd, a former manager of the city’s Festival Theatre, had been forced to relocate the long-running “festivals cavalcade” to Holyrood Park due to the tramworks on Princes Street in each of the previous two years.

The latest round of tramworks on Princes Street are expected to be finished shortly before this year’s “festivals carnival”, which will be held the day after Madonna’s concert at Murrayfield.

A colourful parade of performers, many of whom will be part of the jazz festival’s programme, will climax in a host of free music and dance performances being held in East and West Princes Street Gardens.

The event will also revive the jazz festival’s big open-air celebration in Princes Street Gardens, which was last held in 2009, and was billed as the biggest in Britain, before it was ousted to make way for a new Fringe venue in 2010. The jazz festival itself dates back to 1978 and its Princes Street Gardens event had previously been staged every year since 1991.

Acts performing at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, who normally took part in the cavalcade, are thought unlikely to appear in this summer’s revival as they will not be in the city at the time of the event.

Roger Spence, co-producer of the jazz festival, said: “We can confirm we are working on a new public event which would launch the summer festivals season.

“As soon as we have sorted a few of the logistics out we will be very keen to announce a bit more detail of what is planned.”

The council had been keen to revive some form of parade on Princes Street - particularly as the free Fringe Sunday event had been axed two years ago due to funding problems.

Steve Cardownie, the council’s festival and events champion, said: “The festivals cavalcade has been a much-loved event for years and it is fantastic that we can announce, with the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, that a similar event will be returning to the city’s streets this summer.

“I am sure it will be a superb event and a great way to kick-off this year’s festival celebrations.”