Edinburgh International Festival

Various venues, Edinburgh, August 2-25

Let’s start with the main event. August 2024 marks the second Edinburgh International Festival under director Nicola Benedetti and the theme this year is “Rituals That Unite Us”. As always, the programme is extensive. But picking out some highlights it’s hard not to be excited about the world premiere of a theatrical version of Amy Liptrot’s memoir The Outrun which sees writer Stef Smith team up with director Vicky Featherstone, former artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland.

Luke Sutherland composes the music. Other must-sees include Paris-based Opera Comique’s take on Carmen and Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo. The classical programme includes performances from Bamberger Symphoniker, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the European Union Youth Orchestra, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, as well as appearances from cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and piano superstar Yuja Wang.

As for contemporary music, Jordan Rakei, Youssou N’Dour, Bat For Lashes and The Magnetic Fields are all coming to Edinburgh in August and Cat Power is performing a song-by-song recreation of Bob Dylan’s legendary 1966 gig in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. It’s unlikely that anyone will be shouting out “Judas” this time around though.


Edinburgh Tradfest

various venues, Edinburgh, May 3-13

This year’s Tradfest offers a platform for musicians as diverse as Archie Fisher, Bruce Ncube, Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and Canada’s The Fretless. Julie Fowlis, and Karine Polwart (who’s offering a song workshop). Martin Simpson and Rachel Newton are also in attendance, but one to look out for might be Birdvox, a new collaboration between Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes, Charlotte Printer (who has worked with Altered Images and Skippinish, amongst others), Inge Thomson and Jenny Sturgeon. They’re at the Traverse on May 9.

The Herald: Karine PolwartKarine Polwart (Image: free)


Big City

Queen’s Park, Glasgow, June 29

What you need to know about this new one-dayer festival is that it’s curated by Mogwai. As a result, the musical acts taking part are unsurprisingly top notch. Nadine Shah, Slowdive, Kathryn Joseph, Neu’s Michael Rother, Elisabeth Electra and Sacred Paws are all on the bill, though, naturally, Mogwai are headlining.



Boswell Book Festival Dumfries House, Cumnock, May 10-12

The news this week that this year's Aye Write Book Festival has been cancelled due to lack of funding is a cruel blow to the city and Scotland's broader cultural life. The lack of support for the arts is an ongoing disgrace. All the more reason to cherish smaller events such as the Boswell Book Festival.  “The world’s only festival dedicated to biography and memoir,” this bespoke weekend festival, set against the impressive backdrop of Dumfries House, promises an impressive line-up of guests including Alexander McCall Smith, Doon Mackichan, William Dalrymple, Herald contributor Len Pennie, Great British Sewing Bee star Patrick Grant and broadcaster Aasmah Mir. Oh, and the Scots-Italian women’s footballing pioneer Rose Reilly.

The Herald: Alexander McCall SmithAlexander McCall Smith (Image: free)

Stag & Dagger

Various venues, Edinburgh, May 4; various venues, Glasgow, May 5

The festival that takes over Scotland’s two biggest cities returns for the May Bank Holiday weekend with a busy line-up of musical talent headlined in both cities by Hamish Hawk. Others appearing include noisy Teesside polemicists Benefits, contemporary post-punkers DEADLETTER, the excellent Iraina Mancini (her 2022 single Undo the Blue is a big favourite round our house), and, in Glasgow only, indie hip-hop artist Antony Szmierek.



Galloway, May 23-26

A proper festival retreat in the Southern Uplands beside the Water of Deugh, Knockengorroch is a chance to get away from everything. A range of events across five venues will include cabaret, spoken word, comedy and dance, as well as children’s activities, workshops and food stalls. There’s even a sauna.

As for the musical line-up, it’s a smorgasbord of world music, folk, fusion and electronica. Expect the Peatbog Faeries, Banco de Gaia, Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening and a DJ set from 808 State.


The Herald: Peatbog FaeriesPeatbog Faeries (Image: free)

The Eden Festival

Raehills Estate, near Moffat, June 13-16

If you suffer from triskaidekapobia you may want to stay clear ..., but the Eden festival, now in its 13th year, seems a pretty sweet destination for the rest of us in June, with more than 250 acts playing over 10 stages, as well as cabaret, comedy, workshops and activities for kids. And any festival that can contain 1960s legends The Zombies, Blazin’ Fiddles and LTJ Bukem knows the meaning of the word eclectic. Blind Malian duo Amadou & Mariam are headlining the festival, but there’s also a DJ set from Leftfield and appearances by the likes of Rachel Sermanni and rising Scottish star Becky Sikasa.


East Neuk Festival

various venues, Fife, June 26-30

Opening with the Doric Quartet and pianist Hisako Kawamura playing Ravel, Beethoven and Schumann at Crail Parish Church and finishing with Maxim Emelyanychev and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra offering up a taste of Mozart and Beethoven at Bowhouse in St Monans, this is a wonderful boutique festival that celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. Other highlights this year include Esther Swift’s evocation of the Zulu fishing fleets, featuring both professional and community musicians, at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther on June 28, performances by the Pavel Haas Quartet and Opus 13, the amazing harpist Catrin Finch in collaboration with Aoife Ni Bhriain and pianist Neil Brand accompanying a programme of silent films.

That said, if you’re a Central Belter and you want to travel even further afield than the East Neuk for your classical thrills, the St Magnus Festival on Orkney runs from June 21 to June 29 and sees UK and world premieres as well as performances from the likes of Scottish Opera, soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and a homecoming performance from Erland Cooper.


The Herald: Maxim EmelyanychevMaxim Emelyanychev (Image: free)

Kelburn Garden Party

Kelburn Estate, Largs, July 4-8

The Kelburn Garden Party dates back to 2009 and it’s a proper festival bursting with music and kid-friendly attractions set around Kelburn castle and the surrounding glen and gardens. Wander around and you can stumble on bars, a waterfall pool and even a Turkish steam room. And this year sees the introduction of glamping.

As for the musical line-up, you can expect DJ sets from the likes of Erol Alkan and HAAi and live sets from the wonderful Nubiyan Twist, James Holden and up-and-coming Scottish singer Kohla.



Scone Palace, Perth, July 19-21

The 1980s just won’t go away, will they? They’re a constant cultural presence on TV, radio and in retro festivals like Rewind. This year’s weekend at Scone Palace is a smorgasbord of familiar faces looking just slightly older than their 1980s heyday. Saturday is headlined by Billy Ocean no less, with an impressive supporting cast which includes Roland Gift, Altered Images, Kim Wilde (be still my beating heart), Hue & Cry and Tiffany of all people. Sunday sees Gabrielle (who’s more 1990s to be fair), Nik Kershaw, Midge Ure, Living in a Box, and Peter Hook and the Light supporting headliners The Boomtown Rats. Which reminds us, it’s 40 years since Band Aid this December. Sigh … ewindfestival.com