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Today in Edinburgh

Monday 13 August 2012, 18:25

Jim Naughtie Jim Naughtie Jim Naughtie presents Bookclub on BBC Radio 4

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Editor's note: Jim Naughtie presented a special edition of the Today programme from Edinburgh on Saturday 11th August. He wrote this blog about the magic of the festival last week before travelling to Edinburgh - CM.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Where else should Today be in August but Edinburgh? The festival city comes alive, and has a fizz of its own. Jugglers on the Royal Mile, young actors finding their feet in hard-to-find basements and silent church halls, the best story tellers and comics at the book festival and on the fringe and still, beating away, the heart of it all in the International Festival itself which, for more than sixty years, has thrown some of the best artists in the world together and told them to get on with it.

Now, of course, there is more. The argument over the future of Scotland involves the whole of the UK, to make an obvious point that's sometimes forgotten. So when I present the programme from George Square on Saturday (August 11) we'll be diving into the arguments that are now being rolled out ahead of the referendum on independence, probably coming along in 2014. Although Scots have been dipping their feet in these waters for a long time, you can't miss a quickening in the pace. We'll talk about defence, about money and the economy, as well as the more generalized question of whether it's sensible to reconfigure the UK. But, fear not, Liz Lochhead will also be with us, Scotland's Makar, equivalent of the Poet Laureate, because we need a bit of her grit and fun, and Simon Callow will give us a bit of Dickens, because it is His year.

In other words, it will be a true Edinburgh event. I'm told that hundreds of listeners are coming along - they're great folk in Scotland for free tickets - and we'll try to catch something of the spirit of an elegant and vibrant place, even if it is in the midst of a terrible kerfuffle about the trams that are on the way and have - how can I put this delicately? - brought some angst to a city that Voltaire once called the most civilized place in Europe.

There was a time, in the heat of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, when a visiting English scientist said that you couldn't stand on the High Street outside the Kirk of St Giles for more than a couple of hours without shaking the hands of fifty men of genius. Festival-time always feels a little bit like that in the Edinburgh of today.

I've had some of my happiest times in those weeks when all the rules are lifted, and anything goes. Brilliant musicians, surprising plays and one-person shows, daft theatrical enterprises that go wrong, fireworks and out-of-tune pipes. There's nothing like it.

I hope we're a bit serious, and a bit festive. In August, Edinburgh becomes - how can I avoid the comparison? - an annual Olympics, fired up against the backdrop of Arthur's Seat, the Castle, and the elegant terraces of the New Town. I confess I bias - those BBC obligations always kick in - because I live part of my life there, as much as I can. I love it, and so do the people who zoom in from everywhere for festival month. I'll be at the Mass for Life by Delius in the Usher Hall tonight; I'll see some stand up comedy over the weekend; there are some shows I want to catch; and, above all, I'll surf the streets to find something new.

  • Listen again to the Today programme from the Edinburgh Festival.
  • Read Radio 4 Commissioner Caroline Raphael's blog post about finding talent in Edinburgh.
  • Visit the BBC's Edinburgh Festival website.

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    Comment number 1.

    I agree with all Jim says about Edinburgh and the festivals. Last week I travelled up from Birmingham just so I could be in the audience for the Today programme and it was well worth it. Everyone on the team made us so welcome and there was a great mix of serious and not so serious subject matter. Special thanks to Jim himself who was very warm and friendly as well as being professional. A great time was had by all!

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    Comment number 2.

    On Farming Today, ANna Hill used the word "waiver" as a verb - e.g. "should it be waivered?" The verb is "waive", surely?

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    Comment number 3.

    My message to today's Broadcasting House:
    Shame on you Paddy for so smugly peddling the Daily Mail type myths about J A. (or bringing in those to do it for you). And why so one sided? Of course these people in your 'news' propaganda report would take that attitude. If Wikileaks and JA are guilty of publishing 'secrets' then so are The Guardian, Der Speigel Le Pais Le Monde et al - and The New York Times and the editors - why no mention of that fact?
    JA is an investigative journalist doing the work that you guys have given up on - this is his crime and why you lot want to rubbish Wikileaks... and why no mention of Collateral Damage the film that peed off the Americans and showed us the unvarnished truth re that Iraq illegal war, that we have all paid so dearly for - like Vietnam.
    .... You'd take a different attitude should an American Drone go off course and hit your shiny new building wouldn't you. America is hideous in its treatment of all kinds of people - let alone dissidents, yet you are doing their work for them. How naive. I suppose you have to be in pay of the government (licence fee politics) who like Sweden (whose biggest trade is with USA) UK is America's puppet in Europe

 

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