Alongside the on-stage quality of the Edinburgh International Festival and something like a return to the familiar quantity of the Festival Fringe, the other major festivals which provide attractions to the city in August will be returning this month, bringing a vague sense of normality.
Quick out of the blocks in embracing a ‘hybrid’ festival – one which would include online events, pre-recorded ones, and in-person dates if they were to be permitted – the Edinburgh International Book Festival (14 to 30 August) has relocated to its new home in the studios and courtyard of Edinburgh College of Art, with a line-up which captures the big questions of the day.
Guests with something to say include Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement (30 August); Edinburgh University’s Professor of Global Public Health and regular pandemic commentator Devi Sridhar (27 August).
Turkish author Ece Temelkuran and British politician Ed Miliband, who share an event (28 August), speculate on how politics can be fixed.
The big names in the Edinburgh International Book Festival
Big names include Joan Bakewell (15 August), whose new book considers selling her longstanding home as she approaches 90.
Author Kazuo Ishiguro (29 August) discusses new Artificial Intelligence-inspired novel Klara and the Sun.
Also look out for dancer and Strictly star Oti Mabuse (21 August) and Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio (16 August), who discusses his new science fiction graphic novel.
There are plenty of Scottish interests, including Douglas Stuart, author of the Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain, who’s in conversation with Nicola Sturgeon (30 August).
Crime writer Val McDermid speaks about her new book 1979 (19 August; she also speaks to footballer Pat Nevin about his memoir on 15 August).
Ian Rankin opens up about completing William McIlvanney’s unfinished novel (30 August) and James Robertson introduces his new novel News of the Dead (16 August).
Edinburgh Film festival
An accidental byproduct of pandemic postponement is that the Edinburgh International Film Festival (18 to 25 August) finds itself temporarily restored to its former August timeslot, with a number of notable films being seen for the first time.
One of the most eye-catching of these is the gala opening European premiere of Pig (Festival Theatre, 18 August), Nicolas Cage’s typically eccentric new film about a reclusive truffle hunter who has to track down his mysteriously kidnapped pig.
Other big events include Annette (Filmhouse, 21 August), a musical written by the cult pop duo Sparks and starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, and the closing film Here Today (Filmhouse, 25 August).
The latter features the actor and writer – and here, also the director – Billy Crystal as a comedy star who Tiffany Haddish’s young character wins a lunch date with, despite not knowing who he is.
There will also be a special preview screening of the film version of the hit West End drag queen musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Festival Theatre, 20 August)
Film Fest in the City (St Andrew Square, 19th to 25th August) returns, presenting outdoor screenings of popular classics like Star Wars, Mamma Mia! and Grease.
Edinburgh Art Festival
Finally, while Edinburgh Art Festival (until 29 August) isn’t alone in not being able to offer quite the same volume of events we’d usually see, there are plenty of large, small and specially-commissioned shows.
The newest of these is Karla Black’s Sculptures 2001-2021 (Fruitmarket, until 24 October), in which the Scottish artist makes vivid, tactile sculptural works for the Fruitmarket’s impressively redeveloped new warehouse space.
Another great new collection of very familiar works is Joan Eardley and Catterline (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Modern One; until 9 January), which explores the great Scottish artist’s relationship with the landscape of the village near Aberdeen.
Meanwhile the hit Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Modern Twol until 20th February; continues to enthrall film fans.
Archie Brennan: Tapestry Goes Pop! (Dovecot Studios, until 30 August) is a brilliant, comprehensive reassessment of the Scottish tapestry weaver and Pop Artist.
The series Marine by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay (City Art Centre, until 3 October) explores the concrete poet’s fascination with the sea in elements of his work.
An excellent series of special commissions around the city, meanwhile, includes Song of the Union by Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh (Burns Monument, until 29 August), which explores Auld Lang Syne’s connection to the UK’s departure from the EU.