Festivals and Fringe
Music, Film and Fringe Festivals
Festivals and Fringe
Rowan McKinnon (aided by Mr. X), a regular contributor to the Viator Travel Blog, compiled this list of the world's fringiest festivals. From the Burning Man Project in the Black Rock desert of Nevada to the immense Edinburgh Fringe Festival there is a festival somewhere in the world to fit anyone and everyone. Peruse this list whether you are a jazz music fan, a punk music fan, a cinefile or a fan of performance art, because this list has it all.
Melbourne Film Festival - Melbourne, Australia
One of the oldest film festivals in the world, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is arguably Australia's most significant winter festival. Taking place at a variety of city venues over 19 days, MIFF gives locals and visitors a great excuse to beat the chilly weather and settle in for some cinematic goodness.
Film festivals are typically the domain of the hard-core cinefile, but the Melbourne event is definitely one for the people: almost 200,000 attend the festival each year, and they're treated to hundreds of films from over 50 countries. 2007 - the festival's 56th year - features special programs (indigenous filmmaking around the world, independent horror movies, contemporary Israeli cinema, a retrospective of Japanese new wave director Shohei Imamura and more), film-related forums, a regular focus on Australasian cinema and the after-hours festival club.
Get in quick - 2007's festival runs from July 25 to August 12, and popular films sell out fast. The festival's opening night film is Michael Moore's new documentary Sicko and the curtain will come down on This is England, a British feature set in the early 1980s.
The Reading Festival - Reading, England
The contemporary Reading Festival kicked off as an annual jazz festival organized by the British National Jazz Federation. The first festival was held at the Richmond Athletic Ground in August 1961, but by the middle '60s jazz was declining in popularity while rhythm and blues and rock and roll were on the rise. Over the next few years the National Jazz and Blues Festival, as it became known, was moved to Windsor Racecourse, to Kempton Park and to Plumpton before the Reading Council allowed the festival to be held on the Thames riverbank as part of the town's Festival of Arts in 1971.
A Conservative Party-led Reading Council banned the festival in 1984 and '85 reclaiming the site for 'redevelopment', but the festival was restored in 1986 with the Labour Party council election win. In 1988 both Bonnie Tyler and Meatloaf were 'bottled' off stage when the promoter tried to make the event a mainstream pop festival, and after more than 25 years at the helm - he was dumped in favor of the Mean Fiddler Music Group. By the 1989 Reading was again one of the most important and prestigious festival gigs on the planet.
In 1999 the festival responded to increased demand, adding a Leeds Festival leg. The town hosted the first Reading Fringe Festival in 2005. The 2007 Reading and Leeds Festival, featuring Razorlight, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, takes place from August 24-26.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival - Edinburgh, Scotland
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival began in 1947 as an alternative offshoot to the first Edinburgh International Festival, the original official event of classical theater, opera, music and dance. The 'Edinburgh Festival' collective term actually refers to the group of events in August and September of each year that includes the above as well as the Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the People's Festival and the Edinburgh Annuale among others. However the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has long outgrown its parent and is now the largest arts festival in the world.
The frenzy of activity includes theater, arts, music and children's shows, but is perhaps most famous as the one of the premier comedy events in the world. Unlike many more formal festivals, guests are not invited or vetted, making it the perfect venue for experimental performances. The organizing committee provides advice, prints the program and arranges ticket sales. Now in its 60th year, the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs from August 5-27 and will host over 1800 shows in 260 venues.
Burning Man 2007 - Black Rock, Nevada, USA
Back in 1986 Larry Harvey and a few friends burnt an eight-foot wooden effigy of a man at sunset on San Francisco's Baker Beach - the scene of previous art events - to celebrate the summer solstice. Harvey described it as a spontaneous act of self-expression and around 20 beach-goers gathered around to bear witness.
From little things big things grow: despite the neo-hippy art extravaganza being moved to the desert in 1990 following a police ban on burning on the beach, nearly 40,000 people attended the Burning Man Festival in 2006. Here they saw an 80-foot-high man go up in smoke. Held annually over the US Labor Day weekend, August 27 to September 3 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, the 2007 event, The Green Man takes on an enviro theme and promises to be bigger, brighter and hotter than ever.
Big Day Out - Sydney, Australia
Rock festivals are thick on the ground in the Antipodes over the southern summer months, but the king of them all is the Big Day Out. The event started as a Sydney-only rock music festival in 1992. The first BDO, at the Sydney Showgrounds, was headlined by Nirvana and the Violent Femmes, and featured two dozen seminal Australian bands including the Cosmic Psychos, You Am I and the Beasts of Bourbon (15 years on only the Beast of Bourbon are still active). This was the nascent beginning of an Australian and New Zealand rock institution that now tours Auckland, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth annually in late January and early February, and whose die-hard attendees peaked at 265,000 in 2004.
Hot weather, multiple stages, and a wide variety of popular music styles keep the crowds flocking year after year. Last year's lineup featured Tool, the Killers, Lilly Allen, Muse and the Violent Femmes (again).
See the countries hosting these festivals.
- Between showings at the Melbourne International Film Festival get outside and take a tour in Melbourne.
- The Reading Festival in England is near enough to London to take a tour before heading home.
- The ginormous Edinburgh Fringe Festival may keep you so busy that there is no time to see Scotland, but if you can't leave without a visit to Loch Ness, Viator has the tour for you.
- It may not be as edgy as Burning Man, but after a weekend in the desert, a luxurious room in Las Vegas might be just the thing.
- Traveling to Sydney for a Big Day Out? Book a tour from our list of things to do.