Fes­ti­val city keeps whole fam­ily happy

DA­MON WILKIN­SON dis­cov­ers that Ed­in­burgh of­fers an event tai­lor-made to en­thrall kids and in­spire par­ents

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

AF­TER be­com­ing par­ents we as­sumed the week­end city break was a thing of the past.

Why would you spend a for­tune drag­ging two hy­per­ac­tive tod­dlers along to a place where most of the stuff you want to do – wan­der round aim­lessly, go to the pub – ends in a tantrum and the things they want to do – roll around in the mud, eat ice-cream – can be done any­where?

But what if there was a way of mak­ing ev­ery­one happy?

And that’s where Ed­in­burgh comes in – specif­i­cally ‘Auld Reekie’ dur­ing the only one of the city’s 12 an­nual fes­ti­vals aimed specif­i­cally at kids.

Ev­ery May and June the city’s smaller, off-beat arts venues, com­mu­nity cen­tres and grand old build­ings such as the Na­tional Mu­seum of Scot­land are taken over by per­form­ers for the eight-day Imag­i­nate Fes­ti­val. This year’s event in­volved 14 shows from nine dif­fer­ent coun­tries de­camp­ing to Ed­in­burgh, and there’s stuff for all ages. Our girls are two and three and the youngest finds it hard to sit still through a five-minute episode of Peppa Pig. So it was with more than a lit­tle trep­i­da­tion we took our seats (or cush­ions on the floor) for Pog­gle, a 40-minute ‘play­ful, high en­ergy’ dance piece, about a boy who finds friend­ship with a wood nymph, at a tiny the­atre in the Old Town – just round the cor­ner from the cafe where JK Rowl­ing wrote the first Harry Pot­ter books.

But we needn’t have wor­ried as both of them were rapt from the start. It helped that the chil­dren were en­cour­aged to play with the branches that lit­tered the apron of the stage and weren’t frowned upon when they oc­ca­sion­ally stood up and walked around.

But they also loved the danc­ing and per­cus­sion, which saw the lead char­ac­ters stomp­ing around while play­ing the drums on their bel­lies.

We were pack­ing two shows into a busy af­ter­noon, but we still had time in­be­tween to make the most of the dis­tinctly un-Scot­tish sun­shine and meet up with some rel­a­tives in Princess Street Gar­dens for a pic­nic un­der­neath the cas­tle walls.

We then headed off to The Story of the Lit­tle Gen­tle­man, a play about a man’s strug­gle to find friend­ship af­ter mov­ing to a new town.

That might sound a bit heavy-go­ing for tod­dlers, but it was done with a light­ness and mis­chief that has our two cry­ing with both laugh­ter and sad­ness.

We stayed in the Old Town Cham­bers, a lux­u­ri­ous apart­ment, full of Scandi-cool fur­ni­ture and dark wood floors.

It’s a mere caber toss to the Royal Mile and with the win­dows open we can hear the bag­piper play­ing un­der the statue of philoso­pher David Hume.

Dur­ing a whirl­wind two-night stay we also crammed in a visit to the Dy­namic Earth, a mu­seum squeezed up against the foot of Arthur’s Seat that tells the story of the earth’s cre­ation – and on Sun­day morn­ing, the jaw-drop­ping cas­tle.

And as the kids both fell asleep on the train home, us grown-ups were left to think that, maybe, we might just be able to squeeze in a few more week­ends away yet...

The Royal Mile in Ed­in­burgh

Da­mon Wilkin­son, with wife He­len and daugh­ters Mae and Neve at Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle

A childen’s the­atre show

Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle

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