What’s Edinburgh’s Royal Mile been like without the festivals?


Royal Mile

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James Hessler, who has been a street performer at 20 Edinburgh festivals, said he had been pleased to be back out entertaining people

Hundreds of thousands of people descend on Edinburgh every August for the world’s biggest arts festival.

The Edinburgh Festival attracts so many visitors from all over the world that the Royal Mile – where street performers and actors promoting their shows congregate – becomes a sea of people.

But how does the famous thoroughfare compare this year following the cancellation of the festival?

Glynis Hammond, 36, from Watford in Hertfordshire, said she was “shocked and happy” at how many people there were on the Royal Mile.

She said: “I expected it to be so quiet, so to see so many tourists, so many people here, is just great.

“We were meant to be holidaying in Ghana where my family is from but instead we have come to Edinburgh and I’m so happy to be here. I didn’t know it would be so beautiful, we don’t have architecture like this in London.

“It is our first time in Scotland and it makes me want to come back, I’m thinking of talking my husband into the Scottish Highlands for Christmas now that I’ve seen how great it is here.

“We’ve been to the castle and also had caricatures done by a street artist in the royal Mile and now we are going for lunch and for a look down the narrow alleyways.”

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Glynis Hammond and her daughter Nia Mutsekwa, nine, said they were “shocked and happy” by the volume of people in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

Normally the festival attracts so many street performers that City of Edinburgh Council has to give them time slots.

James Hessler, 58, from Midlothian, said he had been performing in the Royal Mile for 20 Edinburgh Fringes.

He said: “I wanted to come back as quickly as possible so I called the council and was given a licence.

“Normally you just have to make a loud noise and you have a huge audience during the festival but this year there is a much slower build up to attract people and so you have to have more material.

“Now we are having to build an audience but then pull it when we see it is getting too big, we do this by making the shows shorter.

“It’s great to be back out on the Royal Mile and we just have to work harder to get more energy from a smaller audience.”

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Todd Various said he had enjoyed working as a street performer in August this year in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

Todd Various, 45, from Midlothian, who has performed street theatre during 16 Edinburgh Festivals, said he estimated there was about 20% of the normal footfall of the Fringe.

He said: “This crowd is way better because it is a genuine audience making the choice to watch me.

“Normally people are muscled into watching what is closest to them.”

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David Bosek said the smaller crowds had meant his performances with his puppet Evan had been more popular than ever

David Bosek, 41, from Edinburgh, said his street performance with his puppet Evan, had been a hit this year with passersby.

He said: “Less people is better for my show because I can interact with people more easily and make more jokes.

“Busier makes me more money but I prefer more funny and less money.

“I’ve been joking all day with people this year, which I love.

“However, I do want the festival to run next year in all its full glory.”

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Rafkha Gibrani said he was enjoying being a tourist in Edinburgh

Rafkha Gibrani, 20, who was on holiday in Edinburgh from Brighton, said it was his first trip to the city.

He said: “I was due to be in Mauritius but it was cancelled so I have come to Edinburgh instead and I am staying with friends.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be this busy but I am happy to see more people because it means things are getting back to normal.

“I am enjoying my trip so much and will definitely come back when the Edinburgh Festival is on again.”

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Naz Issa

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Naz Issa, manager of Laila’s Bistro in Cockburn Street, said his takings were down to a third on more normal times

Meanwhile shops, restaurants and bars in and around the Royal Mile said they had experienced nothing like the normal footfall this year during August when the Edinburgh Festival was on.

Naz Issa, manager of Laila’s Bistro in Edinburgh’s Cockburn Street, said his takings were down to a third of what he would have expected at this time of year.

He said: “It’s been nowhere near as busy, not even half as busy.

“It’s certainly not a ghost town now but normally its chock-a-block on the Royal Mile with 50,000 people and now there are just a few thousand.

“During the festival it is very difficult to walk down the Royal Mile. There is still life here now but it’s not the same buzz.

“I’m looking forward to next year when the festival returns.”

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Daniela Scott

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Daniela Scott, who runs her father’s Italian restaurant Gordon’s Trattoria on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, said the street had been much quieter this year in August

Daniela Scott, who runs her father’s Italian restaurant Gordon’s Trattoria on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile said: “Normally it takes me 15 minutes to walk down the Royal Mile to our restaurant during the festival because it is absolutely rammed.

“Now its like a winter’s day.

“The Royal Mile is breathing again but there is no buzz and it’s not comparable just now to previous August days during the festival.

“We need the festival back next year.”

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Kitty Bruce-Gardyne, director of Scottish textiles in the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile said she missed the Edinburgh Festival this year

Kitty Bruce-Gardyne, director of Scottish textiles in the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile, said: “It’s much emptier now. The comparison is dire. In the festival there are hordes of people walking past the door.

“I miss the festival. There is no buzz just now, it is sad.

“The Royal Mile is a different Edinburgh just now, it’s an Edinburgh for locals.”

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Todd Various

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Todd Various said he had enjoyed being a street performer this year despite there being no festival crowds



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