Edinburgh Festival Carnival – colourful cover-up

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Scotland’s capital city has many charms, but a balmy Mediterranean climate isn’t among them. Rain and bracing breezes are common, so it’s no surprise that bikini-and-beads costumes were noticeable by their absence at Edinburgh Festival Carnival (EFC) on Sunday 16 July.

The 2023 edition, produced by former Brouhaha supremo Giles Agis, took place in Princes Street Gardens in the shadow of historic Edinburgh Castle. In previous years it passed along Princes Street, but perhaps it was the presence of the tramline that forced a change of venue. Large metal constructions parading under tramway wires might have provided the festivities with the wrong sort of electricity!

Nevertheless, there was plenty of colour and drumming – and the carnival was blessed by sunshine. In common with many ‘modern’ carnivals, EFC has banished the ‘big truck’, a policy that favours samba bands over soca-powered Caribbean-style mas bands.

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Most of the 800 participants belonged to local Edinburgh groups, though Bombrando from Portugal and KalentuRa from the Netherlands added an international flavour. Edinburgh’s Chinese, Indian, Nepalese, Latin American and Palestinian communities were represented too, so it was fair for EFC to claim that it’s Scotland’s largest multicultural celebration.

After completing the park parade route, many of the groups then performed on stage at the Ross Bandstand. The stage show ended with a tribute to Windrush 75, featuring calypso, soca, ska and reggae music.

But the photos don’t lie – despite the sunshine, there wasn’t much bare flesh on display!

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