AND so here we are. Back to normal. Or normalish. After a pandemic-induced gap year in 2020 (some heroic efforts apart), the Edinburgh festivals are set to cautiously return this week, suitably socially distanced, possibly vaxxed and outdoors when necessary.

It’s been a challenging and uncertain 18 months for everyone in the arts, but the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh Art Festival are all staging events this year. Add to that, the return of the Edinburgh International Film Festival to its original August berth and there is a surplus of possibilities in the capital in August for those seeking culture.

Compromises have had to be made in terms of the number of shows, the size of audiences and the venues that can be used. The International Festival is venturing outdoors for many events, while the Book Festival is running a hybrid model in which some guests will appear in person and others online.

And you don’t even have to come to Edinburgh this year, with more and more events being available online. But if you do, here are 20 events which might be of interest. Just remember to bring your raincoat, just in case.

Shappi Khorsandi

HeraldScotland:

Listen, we could all use a laugh this summer, so time to slip off to the Gilded Balloon Teviot for one of the Fringe’s most reliable pleasures. Our favourite Iranian-born comedian returns to Edinburgh with her latest show, It Was The 90s!

Revisiting the decade of Britpop and Tony Blair, Khorsandi looks back at her party animal twenties.

Shappi Khorsandi: It Was The 90s! opens at the Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar on Thursday and runs until August 10. Visit edfringe.com

A Grand Night for Singing

Soprano Danielle de Niese is just one of the voices attached to this new staging of the 1990s Broadway show that highlights the songbook of Rodgers and Hammerstein, with tunes from Carousel, Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific and The Sound of Music. Originally conceived by Walter Bobbie, this new take on the show is the brainchild of Broadway and West End singer Kim Criswell, who also performs in the show.

A Grand Night for Singing, Edinburgh Academy Junior School, opens on Sunday, August 8 and runs until August 13. Visit eif.co.uk

Willy Vlautin: The American Nightmare

This year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival kicks off on Saturday, August 14 in its new home at the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art. Like all festivals, it’s been affected by the pandemic and so this year is staging what it’s calling a hybrid festival with both in-person and online events, with the latter available live and on-demand afterwards.

And while events in which the author is beamed in from home don’t have quite the same thrill as being in the same room as the writer, the opportunity to see a talent such as author and musician Willy Vlautin is one well worth taking. Vlautin’s novel The Night Always Comes is one of the most compelling, heart-breaking books you will read this year, featuring a heroine, Lynette, who you just wish the actor Karen Black was still alive to play in the movie version.

Vlautin is one of the great contemporary chroniclers of American life at the sharp end and this is an opportunity to hear him talk about what’s going on in the land of the free and the home of the underpaid.

Willy Vlautin: The American Nightmare, Baillie Gifford Theatre (West Court), Wednesday, August 25. Visit edbookfest.co.uk

Ariadne Auf Naxos

HeraldScotland: Dorothea Roschmann. Photograph Harold HoffmannDorothea Roschmann. Photograph Harold Hoffmann

Perhaps more than anything else, opera – with its inbuilt scale and ambition – is the ultimate act of artistic faith in the midst of a pandemic. So, all hail the Scottish National Orchestra’s concert performance of Richard Strauss’s opera-within-an-opera comedy. Sir Andrew Davies conducts Louisa Muller’s concert staging, which stars German soprano Dorothea Roschmann and Scotland’s own Catriona Morrison.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Edinburgh Academy Junior School, August 25, August 27 & August 29. Visit eif.co.uk

Hamish Hawk

This is surely going to be Hamish Hawk’s year. The Edinburgh singer-songwriter releases his new album Heavy Elevator in September. His singles Caterpillar and Call to Tiree have been all over 6 Music all year, and he has just released a new single entitled The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973, a title which may gave you an idea of quite how singular a talent he is.

Hawk is one of the highlights of this year’s Nothing Ever Happens Here music strand at Summerhall, which also sees performances from the likes of Withered Hand, Siobhan Wilson, James Yorkston, Andrew Wasylyk, Laura Veirs, Roddy Woomble and Rachel Sermanni. And for early noughties nostalgics it also hosts Kosheen celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 2001 album Resist.

Hamish Hawk, Summerhall, Tuesday, August 17. Visit summerhall.co.uk

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour

HeraldScotland: The Lady of the Lake (Lessons of the Hour) 2019, Isaac Julien, courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro London/VeniceThe Lady of the Lake (Lessons of the Hour) 2019, Isaac Julien, courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro London/Venice

London-born film-maker and installation artist Isaac Julien unveils the UK premiere of his new 10-screen film installation in Edinburgh this summer as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. Filmed in Edinburgh, London and Washington DC, it offers a meditation on the life of the famous 19th-century African-American anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass, himself born a slave.

Accompanied by Julien’s tintypes, the installation examines Douglass’s life and times and its relevance to the present day.

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour is now on at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One) and runs until October 10. Visit nationalgalleries.org

Annette

HeraldScotland: Marion Cotillard in AnnetteMarion Cotillard in Annette

New year, new creative director, a return to old times. Until last year’s pandemic-infected hiatus, the Edinburgh International Film Festival had been held in June since 2008. But this year sees it shifts back to its original August slot first established way back in 1947.

Kirsty Matheson will take up her new role as creative director after this year’s festival, but in the meantime, this year’s festival goes ahead with indoor and outdoors screenings.

One to watch for is the UK premiere of Leos Carax’s latest film, Annette, for which the director picked up the Best Director Award at Cannes this year.

With a screenplay provided by Russell and Ron Mael of Sparks (yes, really), and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, Annette opened the French film festival to a mixture of baffled and brilliant reviews. It’s a musical, a melodrama and by all accounts another of French director Carax’s unique excursions into the bizarre.

Annette, Filmhouse 1, August 21. Visit edfilmfest.org.uk

Sweet F.A.

Rather appropriately staged in Tynecastle Park (Fringe venue 547 if you need to know) this historical drama from This is My Story Productions looks back to the First World War years when women’s football was becoming the most popular game in the UK, so much so that it was banned a few years later. Written by Paul Beeson and Tim Barrow, Sweet F.A. follows the efforts of one Fountainbridge factory team to play the beautiful game. It comes with an endorsement from Hearts club ambassador Gary Locke and how many plays in Edinburgh in August can say that?

Sweet F.A. opens at Tynecastle Park on Thursday. Performances run August 5-12, August 17-19 and August 24-29. Visit edfringe.com

Laura Mvula

HeraldScotland:

Released last month, Mvula’s latest album Pink Noise is a 1980s-inflected pop banger of a thing that is also a triumphant two fingered gesture to a music industry that had rejected its creator.

The Mercury and Brit-nominated and Ivor Novello and Mobo-winning artist was dropped by her record company RCA in 2017 (by email), which must make the news that Pink Noise has been nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize all the sweeter.

The classically-trained musician has now fully embraced her inner pop diva, which makes her upcoming appearance in Edinburgh all the more enticing. Oh, and look out for an interview in these pages very soon.

Laura Mvula plays Edinburgh Park on Sunday, August 29. Visit eif.co.uk

The Road Dance

The EIFF sees the world premiere of this big-screen adaptation of STV’s John MacKay’s novel next month. Set in the Hebrides before the First World War, The Road Dance is a romantic drama that offers an insight into island life at the beginning of the 19th century. Directed by Richie Adams, the cast includes Hermione Corfield, Mark Gatiss, Morven Christie and Sean Gilder.

The Road Dance, Filmhouse 1, August 24. Visit edfilmfest.org.uk

Kathryn Joseph

HeraldScotland:

Any chance to see Kathryn Joseph live should be grabbed with both hands. Her performances have an intensity and thrill to them that no other Scottish artist can match at the moment. Live, her songs have an electrifying, quicksilver quality. You can understand why she gets compared to the likes of Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush. The question is how long before new artists get compared to her?

Kathryn Joseph, Edinburgh Park, Sunday, August 8. Visit eif.co.uk

Jed Mercurio

Yes, that Jed Mercurio. If you spent lockdown glued to the last series of Line of Duty (I didn’t think the ending was terrible, but we can discuss that later), you may be interested to know that its creator has now turned to the world of graphic novels. Sleeper sees Mercurio team up with actor, writer and director Prasanna Puwanarajah and illustrator Coke Navarro to tell the story of DS-5, a “biologically-enhanced law enforcement marshal”. Expect space opera thrills combined with a murder mystery. Mercurio and Puwanarajah, taking part remotely, will speak to none other than Val McDermid for this year’s book festival. There may be one or two questions about the identity of H, we suspect.

Jed Mecurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah, New York Times Theatre (Sculpture Court), August 16. Visit edbookfest.com

Daniel Sloss: HUBRIS

HeraldScotland:

Still only 30 (make you sick, doesn’t it?) the Netflix-endorsed Sloss has been a stand-up since he was a teenager. His last show X was shocking, brave and all too timely for the #MeToo moment. It was also a display of a comedian totally in command of his material and the stage. HUBRIS has already seen him sell some 40,000 tickets in Australia last April. Here’s a chance to see him perform on his home turf.

Daniel Sloss: HUBRIS, runs from August 5-8 and August 11-15 at Edinburgh Corn Exchange. Visit edfringe.com

Mele Broomes: Grin and Wrapped Up in This

HeraldScotland: Mele Broomes in Wrapped Up in ThisMele Broomes in Wrapped Up in This

For some of you, of course, the idea of going into a crowded venue, however socially distanced people are within, might still feel a little uncomfortable (especially if you’re still waiting for a jag). For those of you who feel safer at home, digital online events can at least offer a flavour of the Fringe in the summer of 2021.

Summerhall is particularly active in this regard. Among its offerings are two dance shows from Glasgow-based dancer and choreographer Mele Broomes.

Grin, which also features Divine Tasinda and Kemono L Riot, is a Made in Scotland showcase which challenges the sometimes-oversexualised notions of African and Caribbean dance, while Wrapped Up in This examines the role women from the Commonwealth played in the NHS in the post-war years and the racism they were subjected to.

Wrapped Up in This is available from Friday until August 29. Grin is available from August 13 until August 29. Visit summerhall.co.uk

The Night House

Ghost stories may be more associated with Hallowe’en and Christmas, but maybe the best time for a chill is when the weather is hot. Director David Bruckner’s The Night House, receiving it’s UK premiere in Edinburgh, is a contemporary take on the haunted house trope. It stars the always-excellent Rebecca Hall (who has served her time in this field before, 10 years ago, in the boarding school ghost story The Awakening) as a widow grieving for her dead architect husband in the home he built her. But when she’s not drinking, she’s seeing visitations. Is her dead husband trying to tell her something? You may jump now and then.

And if one ghost story is not enough watch out Ruth Platt’s Martyr’s Lane, which is also receiving it’s UK premiere. The story of a young girl and a nocturnal visitor. That title is a bit ominous, isn’t it?

The Night House is screening at Filmhouse 1 on August 19. Martyrs Lane is in Filmhouse 3 on August 22. Visit edfilmfest.org.uk

Tracey Thorn: Music, Memories and the Blue Moon Rose

HeraldScotland:

Everything but the Girl singer turned author Tracey Thorn returned earlier this year with a new book My Rock ’n’ Roll Friend about Go-Betweens drummer Lindy Morrison. It’s a subtle, angry memoir that rewrites 1980s indie rock history from a feminist perspective. It’s also often very funny. Best of all, it’s a fond, loving portrait of female friendship. She comes to Edinburgh to talk about it at this year’s book festival. Blue Moon Rose, by the way, is the title of a song Thorn has written about Morrison.

The New York Times Theatre (Sculpture Court), August 27, 5.30pm. Visit edbookfest.com

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho

You want some politics? Really? Haven’t you had enough of that over the last few years? Oh, you want some politics, camp humour and tunes? Well, why didn’t you say? Returning after four Fringe sell-out runs, Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford’s show takes the blessed Margaret to Soho and turns her into a cabaret superstar on the eve of the vote on Section 28. Political history meets LGTB+ fantasy, in other words. Tedford himself plays the title role.

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, Underbelly – George Square, from August 12 to August 15. Visit edfringe.com

Lost Boat Party

HeraldScotland: Jock McFadyen. Photograph Gordon TerrisJock McFadyen. Photograph Gordon Terris

Jock McFadyen’s exhibition of paintings Lost Boat Party continues at the Dovecot and is well worth your attention, but maybe you could time your visit for Little Sparta’s performance of their accompanying album of the same name. Made up of guitarist Alan Boyd, drummer Scott Skinner and violinist Susie Honeyman, best known as a member of The Mekons and who is also McFadyen’s wife, Little Sparta play Americana-flavoured instrumentals that are charged with the same haunted, unheimlich atmospheres to be found in the abandoned landscapes that McFadyen conjures up in his work.

Little Sparta play the Dovecot Studios next Friday at 6pm and 8.30pm. Jock McFadyen: Lost Boat Party exhibition continues at until September 25. Visit dovecot.studios.com

Prince of Muck

Two hours by ferry from Mallaig or Arisaig, the isle of Muck is one of the Small Islands off Scotland’s west coast. Dutch film-maker Cindy Jansen’s documentary, which receives its world premiere at this year’s EIFF, follows island patriarch Lawrence MacEwen, the octogenarian Laird who has spent much of his life protecting and preserving life on the inner Hebridean island. It’s a study of change and ageing and time passing, and at its centre there is a man raging against the dying of the light.

Prince of Muck will receive its world premiere at EIFF on August 19. It will also screen simultaneously in cinemas around the country. Visit edfilmfest.org.uk

The Unthanks

HeraldScotland:

If life was fair and there hadn’t been a pandemic, I would have seen The Unthanks at the Albert Hall in Stirling last year. But maybe the delay will only add to the anticipation for the appearance of the Northumbrian folk collective at Edinburgh Park next month.

Based around the gorgeous harmonies of Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, in tandem with the arrangements of pianist, producer, arranger and composer Adrian McNally (Rachel’s husband), The Unthanks are labelled folk, but their range stretches far beyond any narrow boundaries that label might suggest. They have worked with everyone from Damon Albarn and Orbital to the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, have been nominated for a Mercury Prize and turned Emily Bronte poems into songs. The sisters have also been known to do the odd bit of clog dancing now and then.

The Unthanks play Edinburgh Park on August 22. Visit eif.co.uk