Calm Before the Storm

Lightness Of BeingThere's only a few weeks to go before the Edinburgh International Festival & Edinburgh Festival Fringe start. Already taxis & buses carry adverts with the grinning faces of this year's up-&-coming comedians. Last year the Fringe had almost 2 million ticket sales and this year there are over 2,400 shows so you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing much happens in Edinburgh before festival season kicks off in August.

And while it does feel like the calm before the storm there's still plenty to see.

Somewhat overshadowed by its bigger festival brothers, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival starts today & runs to 31st July. As ever the programme is an eclectic mix: Courtney Pine, Curtis Stigers, the Robert Cray Band (all playing in the intimate Queens Hall), the unique sound of Swedish electronica merchants the Magnus Öström Band, a resurrection of the Vegas! night club as well as the traditional - and completely free! - Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket on Saturday 23rd.

After a fantastic 2010-11 season at the Royal Lyceum Theatre the Lyceum Youth Theatre get their chance to (literally) take central stage this weekend (22nd & 23rd July) with a double bill Blood Wedding & It Snows. The young company's last show Bassett was flawless and you can see these two plays for a mere £8.50.

An oasis of calm at all times of the year, the Scottish National Gallery is currently hosting two major exhibitions. A rare chance to see a selection of Elizabeth Blackadder's work including her famous botanical drawings. An exhibition of another Elizabeth is The Queen: Art & Image, comprising formal painted portraits, official photographs & media images including Jamie Reid's iconic God Save the Queen poster for the Sex Pistols.

Further afield, Elizabeth Blackadder's place of birth Falkirk hosts Funny in Falkirk (today until 2nd August). Many of the usual suspects (hello, Fred Macaulay) are appearing but Vladamir McTavish is always good value, Bruce Morton is still at the top of his game after three decades of stand up and Frank Carson is deserving of the description in the programme of 'legendary'. Falkirk is only half an hour away by train. Go on, it's a cracker.