Dear Brian McMaster: The Edinburgh Festival is full of goodies, but finding them is the problem, the Independent's arts correspondent tells its director

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Indy Lifestyle Online
You have now proved yourself a visionary Edinburgh Festival director. Anyone can put on a Shakespeare here, a Beethoven concert there and a soupcon of Canadian modern dance to keep the avant-garde happy. But to put on a seven-and-a-half-hour Russian-language version of the Oresteia by a German director in the hitherto unsung venue of the Edinburgh ice rink shows bravery beyond the call of duty. If only 500 of the 3,600 tickets have sold in advance, then that is a comment on the philistinism of these isles.

Perhaps you should have gone the whole hog and staged the thing on ice to get the coach parties in.

But as you are clearly prepared to go where no Edinburgh Festival director has gone before, let me suggest some equally radical ideas to make August in Edinburgh a happier experience for the punters.

Though this may be unpalatable to those who run the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, the rest of us don't really distinguish between you. Official or unofficial, planned or anarchic, we just come for the shows.

But only on the second day. The first day is spent finding out what's on. To taste a little of everything means walking round town picking up brochures and buying tickets at different box offices for international, fringe, film, book and jazz festivals - not to mention a separate leaflet for the art galleries. Why not, for the first time since 1947, get together with your opposite numbers on the fringe, have one single punter-friendly brochure for everything that's on, print it early with combined festival/fringe booking forms, and send it round the world?

Next, open information and box offices at Waverley Station and the airport, as well as in the city centre. The centralised information centres and all-embracing brochures at festivals such as Aldeburgh and Cannes would repay study. Once you've sorted that, tell the city's hoteliers that hiking prices at festival time does the festival, Edinburgh and the British tourist industry no favours.

William Burdett Coutts, the head of the Assembly Rooms, the premier fringe venue, says that behind the smooth front the Edinburgh operation is 'shambolic' and 'amateurish'. Looking at some of this year's pre-festival fiascos - the district council throwing the Assembly Rooms box office out of its own building, the festival's failure to include a single art exhibition because the festival office and the director of the National Galleries of Scotland were apparently unable to agree - one almost sees his point.

But I wouldn't go that far. Anyone visiting Edinburgh this August will have a whale of a time, seeing shows until the early hours, strolling around one of the world's most beautiful cities, drinking and eating with friends and occasionally the famous. Just help visitors to sample the caboodle with less hassle. In return I might just come to see the German/Russian/Greek ice-rink tragedy.

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