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Five alternatives to the Edinburgh festivals

Edinburgh Mela

The Fringe, the International Festival, the Book Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Art Festival, the Military Tattoo and all of the other major events that occupy central Edinburgh throughout August bring excitement, colour, vibrancy and above all culture to the city like no other time of the year. But once you’ve been forced off the pavement by massive herds of tourists and accosted by amateur thespians one time too many, not to mention been handed one million flyers too many, it can all start to feel a bit much. If you fancy getting away from the crowds, clamour and wanton paper waste of the world’s biggest arts festival, even just for a day, here are five other cultural happenings in and around the capital, beyond the fringes of the Fringe et al, which are each well worth checking out.

Pale Imitation
Independent Scottish music has had an uneasy time finding its place in the context of the Edinburgh Fringe over the years (RIP the Tigerfest and Retreat festivals). But Pale Imitation continues boldly fly the flag for the local music scene by booking a variety of ludicrously cheap and ludicrously good line-ups at intimate basement venue Henry’s Cellar Bar (often three bands for as little as £5). Numbers Are Futile, Garden of Elks, Plastic Animals, Spinning Coin, the Save As Collective, eagleowl, Supermoon & Rob St John, Happy Meals and Jesse Rae will all appear, among others TBA.
Aug 1-29, Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh, songbytoad.com

The Howlin’ Fringe
A brand new event by Isle of Eigg-based record label and music collective Lost Map, The Howlin’ Fringe is a hairy music and comedy all-dayer taking place in its first instalment at Penicuik Town Hall, just 45 minutes south of Edinburgh by bus. The line-up remains to be announced, but is expected to feature several artists from the Lost Map roster as well as a few special guests and other selected surprises.
Aug 8, Penicuik Town Hall, Midlothian, lostmap.com/howlinfringe

Fringe by the Sea
Get away from the Fringe by going to… a different Fringe. This one takes place just a half hour along the coast in the picturesque seaside town of North Berwick. It’s like the big daddy-o in the capital – theatre, comedy, music, kids entertainment and other assorted forms of cultural stimulation – but more compact and calm, with bonus sea breezes and quality fish and chips on the promenade.
Aug 10-16, North Berwick, East Lothian, fringebythesea.com

Doune The Rabbit Hole
This one will require the biggest out of town trek of the lot – about and hour and a half by car over past Stirling – but it’s well worth it. Doune the Rabbit Hole is one of Scotland’s best loved little independent music festivals, drawing its bill predominately from the crème de la crème of the Scottish music scene, this year all from Shooglenifty and The Phantom Band to Fatherson, Stanley Odd and Tuff Love. A headlining special guest from further afield – prolific, long-serving San Franciscan experimental rock band Deerhoof – provide the cherry on the proverbial cake.
Aug 21-23, Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith, dounetherabbithole.co.uk

Edinburgh Mela
On the go for over 20 years now and growing all the time, the Mela is Edinburgh’s celebration of world music, dance, fashion, food and multiculturalism taking place for two-days annually well away from the main August brouhaha down on Leith Links. The programme is yet to be announced, but expect a feast for the mind, stomach and senses alike, bringing together participants with roots everywhere from Europe to the Far East, Middle East, Africa and South America.
Aug 29-30, Leith Links, Edinburgh, edinburgh-mela.co.uk

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