The Edinburgh Festivals – A Politico’s Guide

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Any overview you care to read about the Edinburgh festivals will mention the independence referendum as a key theme of this year’s offerings…before quickly recommending you see other things, assuming, for some reason, that you might not be a political obsessive. As we are somewhat obsessive her at the Public Affairs Co-op, we are unabashedly offering suggestions for those who like a bit of politicking with their festivities. There’s something for every kind of politico:

For the cultural politico – those who seek their politics via thought-provoking, artistic performance, and aren’t afraid of a little poetry.

James Trilogy – History, intrigue, murder and production value, plus a bit of vintage Scots-English tension in Rona Munro’s dramatic telling of the these little known 15th Century Scottish kings. With stellar talents of James McArdle (RSC, National Theatre), Andrew Rothney (NTS), Jamie Sives (Game of Thrones) and Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing). Ones not to miss. Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Theatre, 10-22nd August, £15-35

All Back to Bowie’s. Taking David Bowie’s call for ‘Scotland, stay with us’ as a literal invitation, a group of Scots artists known as ‘David Greig and The Barnett Consequentials’ are putting on a series of events around the referendum, mixing politics, poetry and music at the ‘David Bowie’s yurt of thought’ aka The Stand in The Square, St Andrew’s Square. Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Aug 4-24 £8/6.

The Referendum Debate Could Have Been Different – For anyone tired of the economic arguments, artist Alexander Moffat and poet Alan Riach make a case for the cultural argument  taking a leading role in shaping Scotland’s future, as it has shaped our past. Chaired by Stuart Kelly. Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, 12th August, £10/8

For the satirical politico – those who know the only way to cope with the nation’s politics is to laugh at it. Bitterly.

Playing Politics – A duo of genius musical political parody.  This year promises to skewer ‘tabloids, tax-dodgers, Faragists, welfare reformers, royals and the referendum’. Book early. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides. 15/22nd August £12.50/10

Matt Forde: The Political Party – Scottish Independence Special – Comedian versus politician for two nights only. Matt Forde will interview a politician from both sides of the debate in two shows on the 18th and 20th August.  This follows a sell-out London run with guests such as Alastair Campbell, Nigel Farage and George Galloway. Guests TBC. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Pleasance and Roxy venues. £8.50/7

For the hardcore politico – nevermind all this comedy and singing malarkey. You want straight up, undiluted politics from the mouths of the elected and expert.

Nationalism and Unionism: The Background – Murray Pittock, Literature professor at Glasgow explores the rise of nationalism since the 60s and Christopher A Whatley, History professor at Dundee looks at the history of Scots in the Union. For those wanting the in-depth background. Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, 23rd August, £10/8

Festival of Politics: A long weekend of events at the Scottish Parliament debating all the referendum biggies from oil to healthcare. Our top pick: Poverty and Life Expectancy Chaired by The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, with panel Gary Coutts – NHS Highland, Martyn Evans – Carnegie UK Trust, Robin McAlpine – The Jimmy Reid Foundation. A rare opportunity to hear some thought provoking debate from an expert panel. 15-17th August, Scottish Parliament, £5/3.50

Scotland’s ReferendumFest 2014  With a programme of speakers on topics ranging from Europe to film, history to poetry to considering what it means to be a modern Scots man. An extra draw (or health warning) will be that each has a five minute soapbox slot for politicians to make their case for your vote. Our pick: Kate Higgins – Generation Scot Y – Better known as blogger ‘A Burdz Eye View’, Kate Higgins explores what it means to be Scottish among the young, and their role in shaping the future of Scotland. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Quaker Meeting House, 22nd August. Series runs August 18-22nd £3​.