Curtain up on Edinburgh People's Festival

A GIG behind bars and free walking tours of Rebus country are part of this year's Edinburgh People's Festival in its bid to "reach the parts others ignore".

Prisoners at Saughton will get their very own performance by London-based Southern Tenant Folk Union on August 11 as the Edinburgh Festival gets into full swing on the outside world.

Comedy, music and art will also be rolled out on to city estates as organisers protest against expensive shows that make up Edinburgh's festivals.

The Rebus walking tour round the fictional detective's favourite haunts is being offered by professional guide and actor Colin Brown.

However, the focal point of this year's events is an exhibition telling the story of the People's Festival, which was originally established in 1951. The display documents its journey right through to the re-launch in 2002 by Scottish Socialist Party leader Colin Fox.

The exhibition will take place throughout the People's Festival, which runs from August 9-17.

Organisers are appealing for residents who took part in events back in the 1950s to share their memories and photographs to form part of the exhibition.

A group of schoolchildren are also getting involved by performing a play based on a song by singer-songwriter Jamie T.

The play, by fourth-year pupils from James Gillespie's High School, focuses on teenage issues and alcohol, and is based on the song Sheila.

Called A Cup of Jamie T, the play will be performed on August 9 in the Craigmillar Artspace.

Prize money of 1000 is also on offer in a new visual arts competition to be judged by city arts impresario Richard Demarco.

The competition is open to artists across Scotland who are invited to submit wall-mounted work on the theme "People Like Us".

Entries will be exhibited at the North Edinburgh Arts Centre.

Chairman Colin Fox believes this year's programme "surpasses anything the group has presented before". He said: "The People's Festival just goes from strength to strength.

"This year we again present outstanding artistic attractions in those communities which all the other festivals ignore.

"I am particularly pleased to stage our exhibition in Craigmillar as that community has been in many ways the spiritual heart of the People's Festival for more than 50 years.

"And thanks to the generosity of the city's trades union movement, all this is largely free."

In 2002, the People's Festival booked David Sneddon to play at the Jack Kane Centre in Craigmillar, just weeks before he went on to win the BBC's Fame Academy talent show.

In previous years, the festival also took the voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright, to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, smuggled comedian Mark Thomas and Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six into Saughton prison, and showcased Oscar-nominated playwright Trevor Griffiths at The Stand.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said: "It's a good boost for prisoners.

"We have had the People's Festival here on previous occasions and we are pleased to invite them back again this year."

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