THE Angels have descended again upon Edinburgh's festival season.

The prestigious awards, given by The Herald to festivals acts, artists, producers, companies and anyone else involved in the August festivals, returned this weekend.

Nicola Benedetti, the Scottish violinist, Cora Bissett, the actress, writer, director, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, Druid's production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot, and the comedian Sarah Keyworth were all given Angels for their superlative performances, in the eyes of the judges.

A special Archangel, for long term contributions to the festival, was given to the Polish theatre company, Teatr Biuro Podrozy.

In an unusual touch, the awards were given to recipients at the Festival Theatre, the key supporter and venue for the awards, by the ventriloquist comedian Nina Conti, in her role as Monkey.

Nina Conti is Monkey is running at the Underbelly, McEwan Hall at the Fringe this year.

Ms Benedetti received the award for her concert at the Queen's Hall with the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Richard Egarr.

She sent a message which said: "I am so delighted to receive a Herald Angel Award for my recent performance with the Academy of Ancient Music.

"It's such a wonderful experience collaborating with Richard and the orchestra, so I would like to share this award with them.

"I always cherish performing in Scotland, and greatly look forward to the forthcoming performances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, later in the month."

The National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCOS) were "sensational" in the opening concert of the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), according to Keith Bruce, Herald arts writer and organiser of the Angels, when they were performing Haydn's The Creation.

All the Angels are judged by Herald arts reviewers and critics, and have been awarded since 1995.

Galway's Druid and their staging of Waiting for Godot, directed by Garry Hynes, at the EIF was described as the "opening weekend's sensation".

The cast including Finlay and Angus Alderson, twins, who turned 14 on Saturday, playing the role of the The Boy.

A musical memoir at the Fringe also scooped an award.

Keith Bruce said: "If Godot was the show that everyone was talking about at the International Festival right from the start, the show that everyone was talking about at the Fringe was at the Traverse Theatre, and it was Cora Bissett's superb musical memoir, What Girls are Made Of."

Neil Cooper, The Herald's theatre critic, called it a "kick-ass riot of self-emancipation."

Ms Bissett said: "It's a lovely thing to receive.

"This is my first time acting on stage for about seven years so it was very nerve wracking and the response has been a little bit overwhelming."

Ms Bissett thanked her fellow actors in the show, Susan Bear, Simon Donaldson and Grant O'Rourke as well as director Orla O'Loughlin.

Sarah Keyworth was awarded an Angel for her stand-up show which described as "fresh and off-kilter, powerful and poignant and extremely funny".

Keyworth said: "I was taken to a show last year at the Fringe called Locker Room Talk [by Gary McNair], it was a verbatim piece about men talking about women when they are not around, and it left me feeling incredibly angry, and it left me realising I wanted to write a show for a girl, a child, at home, that I love."

Teatr Biuro Podrozy received the Archangel for their "consistent contribution to Edinburgh over the years".

They are currently staging a show Silence at the EICC, "a collage of evocative images, a fiercely physical show that asks troubling questions, a viscerally memorable show for those that stand and watch."

More Angels awards will be given to artists of all kinds next weekend.