The last 16 months have been filled with pain. The pandemic has killed far too many people and also irrevocably damaged the lives of even more. So often, living through events on a daily basis one does not gain full perspective on what is happening and has happened. This means that snapshots such as annual events can have a far greater impact.
In the period between the end of the Second World War and 2019, the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to give them their full names, had grown from a worthy ambition to become one of the most significant events in the theatre / opera / dance / comedy and more recently literature calendars for hundreds of thousands of people. Literally thousands of productions popped out of nowhere, enjoyed their three weeks in the limelight and then disappeared.
Strictly, that wasn’t generally the case, since international companies might spend years preparing for their special trips, while even the schools and university companies would work hard behind-the-scenes as they aspired to perfection.
The upshot was an entertainment extravaganza enjoyed by visitors from across the globe, a chance for theatre companies to sell their wares and youngsters to come of age, enjoying not only their moments of glory on stage but also the opportunity to build lifelong friendships while wallowing in the accompanying razzmatazz.
While many of the locals might have claimed to go into hibernation, at least they could rent their homes at many times the usual price and pay for a summer holiday far away from the bustling, sleep-deprived city.
As with so much else, the coronavirus pandemic stopped the celebration in its tracks, effectively cancelling 2020, although there was a limited presence online. There appears to have been rather too much dithering ahead of the 2021 event, which once again will be carried out on a very limited basis.
The International Festival (along with the Book Festival) will be closest to normality, with some performances taking place in theatres, others in outdoor spaces and a selection shared online. Even so, with overseas visitors effectively banned from travelling to the UK for leisure activities, this will be a far cry from the good old days two years ago.
As for the Fringe, it appears that all of the major producers are offering something but in a very limited fashion. BTG will cover a selection of shows viewed online and there is always the chance that the odd show will get reviewed by a local critic but one fears that 2021 will very much be a holding year rather than the usual glorious celebration.
The same goes for Edinburgh’s London competitor, Camden Fringe, which is also working hard to put on a show in the most trying of circumstances.
While anyone who listens to the scientists expects the next few months to be rocky and if past precedents are anything to go by the virus will make a strong return during the winter, this could be a good time to look forward.
By August 2022, we must all hope and possibly even expect that the worst ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic will have calmed down to manageable levels across the globe.
The United Kingdom should be welcoming overseas visitors in unprecedented numbers, while many of those who have endured two years of pain, loss and hardship might feel ready to enjoy a full-scale celebration of the kind that Edinburgh can offer.
Therefore, let us all enjoy some online entertainment from the Scottish capital this year, thereby supporting companies that desperately need all the help they can get merely to survive, and look forward to the biggest and best Edinburgh ever 12 short months away.