What was the Edinburgh Festival like in the 70’s?

What was the Edinburgh Festival like in the 70’s?

It’s the last week of the Edinburgh Festival and Weef shares a few
‘acts’ from his early life in Athens of the North.

For all its “you’ll have had your tea” image Edinburgh was very generous to me -welcoming and kind during my eight years living in Auld Reekie trying to be an artist – particularly during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I had designed a few posters for the Traverse Theatre and The King’s Theatre when  I met Alistair Moffat, the director of the Fringe, who gave me a little job livening up the newsletter with illustrations. This was the main communication that was sent out to the theatre groups planning to come up to Edinburgh for three weeks to do their shows, have a lot of fun and generally lose money. One thing led to another and I ended up drawing Superman ripping open his shirt to reveal to two FF’s of the festival fringe for the cover of the program.

Edinburgh jazz festival 1970s

Over the years I designed three more including the first in full colour, unfortunately, that was my last – Alistair left that year to join STV – such good memories. I particularly remember a dreich afternoon sitting at the back of the shop/office with Alistair and Jenny Brown, his deputy, laying out the map by hand showing each venue location. (This was the late 70s so pre-computers)  On the back of this work I got my first commission from the wonderful Jim Crumley, Features Editor of The Edinburgh Evening News, to caricature Alistair in a stand-off with John Drummond the Director of the Official festival.

Edinburgh jazz festival 1970s

Edinburgh was, and probably still is, a very cultured city all year round – but during the festival, if you are into the arts, then your life can best be described as hectic. I felt obliged to see as many shows as I could manage, then got pissed off when told by friends about other shows that ‘you simply must see‘. Then there are the late nights in The Gilded Balloon that you had to recover from. Copy to write – even with my atrocious spelling abilities I managed to blag the Art Gallery reviewer column; I would type up my 250 words and hand deliver them to the features desk, which probably gave the sub-editors hours of amusement as they turned it back into readable copy. (Note to Ed – nothing changes then?)

Edinburgh jazz festival 1970s
During the festival there was always a feeling that you were missing out on something – FOMO existed even back then – is there a better party going on in some other venue that no one told you about? You are being bored by some foul-mouthed drunk, drinking warm Riesling, whilst all the glamorous celebs are quaffing the good stuff somewhere else and more than likely in the venue right next door.
After the three weeks are over, and all the comedians’ flyers have been swept up down the Royal Mile, the real Edinburgh folk move back into the flats they rented out to theatre groups and start getting builders’ estimates for the damages. Churches go back to hosting the WI and jumble sales instead of a Pinter play performed by puppets. Cultural life in the city carries as if nothing much had happened; you drink tea, gossip, hustle for work and generally lay low until next August. And it all begins again.


Weef lived in Edinburgh from 1977 to 1986. He was the Edinburgh Evening News Art Critic for five years.

GOLDIE magazine® is the first publication Weef has developed for GOLDIE media LTD but unlikely to be the last. He didn’t expect to become an entrepreneur in his sixties but now he has, he is thoroughly enjoying it.  He is always happy to chat about collaborations over a pint.

email: weef@goldiemediagroup.co.uk

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