The Wonderful World of Spiegeltents

Ibibio Sound Machine Edinburgh Jazz Festival

My festival season got off to a great start with Ibibio Sound Machine at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. As per tradition, it was a rainy Edinburgh July night that felt more like October, but the crowd were keen and the band delivered. Think high energy funk meets African percussion with a dash of Michael Jackson-esque synth and you're just about there.

The gig was great but I was possibly even more excited to see a spiegeltent back in Edinburgh. Smaller and more intimate than a big top, they're my favourite festival venue. They travel from city to city, something that appeals to anyone who ever dreamed of running away to join the circus and the decor is like nothing else. Part tent, part wooden construction, they are bejewelled with mirrors, stained glass and magical lighting.

It turns out that spiegeltents have been around since the early 20th century when they were used as travelling dance halls - Marlene Dietrich is said to have sang Falling in Love Again in the Famous Spiegeltent in the 1930s. Today the few remaining spiegeltents are in high demand at festivals around the world, holding a few hundred people and providing a great stage for bands, cabaret and good times. 

I visited the Paradiso for the Jazz Festival gig and in August I'm hoping to visit the George Square Spiegeltent to compare notes. You can find out more about spiegeltents (even hire one if you've got the budget) here at the Van Rosmalen website.

Are you festival ready?

Edinburgh festival brochures

What's that distant rumble? It's the sound of the world's best actors, directors, comedians, dancers, authors, musicians and fire-jugglers getting ready to descend on Edinburgh.

Walking the streets of the Scottish capital in July and August is like being in the eye of the festival storm. Posters fight for your attention on every spare bit of wall and fliers are thrust at you from all directions. So how do you make sense of it all? My top tip is to check out the festival previews and round-ups from our best critics and publications. This isn't a substitute for trawling through the brochures and making up your own mind, but it can help point you in the right direction. 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh's festivals and from the sounds of things, there's more than ever to choose from.

For theatre, the Guardian's Lyn Garner is a sure bet. In 2016 I managed the Pleasance Press Office and Lyn was the critic that all the performers wanted to impress. Her What To See and Where To Go blog is a great preview of the Fringe's most promising theatre shows. Her tips  range from Fleabag to Forced Entertainment, with Shakespearean puppet shows, a dance marathon and a love letter to Dolly Parton.

The List's special festival editions are a must-grab and in the run-up to the festival they do lots of preview round-ups online to help you decide what to spend your money on. 10 Reasons to Visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017 is a great introduction. The List also has a solid round-up of this year's Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival highlights - look out for the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Scofield and Kandace Springs.

The Skinny is another good source of festival news and reviews. Check out their Edinburgh International Festival reveal Spirit of '47 report which shares details of the EIF's partnershp with the British Council celebrating arts and culture from across the globe, from Syria to Stirlingshire.

The Scotsman has a nice round-up of which film industry luminaries will be visiting Edinburgh this year for the Edinburgh Film Festival (Kevin Bacon and Oliver Stone top the list), while The Herald previews the Edinburgh International Book Festival, including details of new venues as well as speakers as diverse as Limmy and Nicola Sturgeon.

This year I'll be working with The Corner Shop PR to help generate advance publicity for clients including The Pleasance and Underbelly. I can't wait for the circus to roll into town.