Culture Club.

Summer, summer, summer.

Dazzling sunshine, sweltering heat, days wasted lazing in the park with an iPod and an ice lolly, carefree lie ins and the smell of freshly cut grass. Nothing short of idyllic, right?

I spent all year waiting for this perfect quintessential British summer, waiting patiently for an excuse to kick back, do nothing and feel not even a morsel of guilt. Mother nature, my arch nemesis, has different ideas and unfortunately her decision to unleash buckets of rain and claps of thunder on Edinburgh of late have had an immediate effect on the quality of my summer. Granted, I have been in Italy for the past few weeks but is it so much to ask to return on July the 21st and be greeted with something other than grey skies? I'm quite frankly sick of sitting indoors waiting for something decent to happen- I am a simple girl really, bubbly and blue sky does it for me.

Still, I feel I blame the weather for an awful lot- what can one really expect from Scotland? It's probably more to do with my own outlook. Namely my inability to chill out and my lack of initiative when it comes to entertaining myself. I'm a total freak in that I hate relaxing and always have to occupy myself with something productive- a result of my Higher exam revision which transformed my sluggish afternoons into carefully constructed study sessions with scheduled snack and leisure breaks! This combines with my lack of creativity when it comes to finding new, exciting ways to pass the time to create this dull excuse for a summer holiday!

I shudder to think of all the amazing things that I miss out on in Edinburgh purely through a force of habit. It's just too much effort to find out about all the local going-ons really, isn't it? It seems i'd much rather prefer to sit hunched over my laptop mindlessly drifting from profile to profile on the depressing force that is Facebook (according to the Independent i, we may all use Facebook but hardly any of us actually enjoy it! And the point is?...). Well I think a change is certainly in order and with local guides like The Skinny, The List and i-On Edinburgh at my disposal, I really don't have any excuse for my laziness any longer. Also- what better time for a cultural turnaround than the lead up to the imminent, buzzing Edinburgh Festival?

I've decided that in the months leading up to my almighty move to halls just beside London's cultural hotspot- you may have heard of it, it's called Camden (every time I say this, I can't help but grin!)- I will get back into art, theatre, music and all the other amazing events that go on right on my doorstep! It shouldn't be too much of a challenge because I absolutely love visiting galleries and seeing kooky little films and shows, it's infinitely more interesting than it seems. Possibly even more interesting than the mortifying evening me and two friends (I will keep their anonymity for their own sake!) spent playing a skewed version of Trivial Pursuit after our own pursuit of something to do with our evening had failed quite miserably. Well no more boardgames for me (I suppose you could write it off as a retro way to spend an evening? We've just got our finger on the pulse, you see.)! Edinburgh is officially my colourful, cultural oyster!

Art and Exhibitions

Edinburgh has a fantastic art scene. Edinburgh College of Art is one of the most covetable art schools in the UK and their graduate shows can churn out some fantastic pieces (both their fashion and fine art/sculpture shows are admirable) and we also have an eclectic array of art galleries showcasing everything from priceless oil paintings to conceptual art.

While to some of you, a gallery may seem the very definition of staid and boring, they can actually be a wonderful experience- some exhibitions can be informative, some can be simply beautiful and some are emotive and thought provoking.

I personally have a fondness for photography exhibitions which regulate Edinburgh. The first I visited here was the fantastic Mario Testino exhibition in the modern Dean Gallery many years ago which really surpassed my expectations of what a gallery could be like. While Testino's colourful portraits are long gone, The National Portrait Gallery- which has undergone a massive revamp- is currently home to a fascinating collection of portraits of Her Majesty the Queen ('The Queen- Art and Image'). From her paintings to beautiful photography, the exhibition costs £7 and runs until the 18th of September (see more here). If you want a more eclectic array of photography then I suggest you check out The Edinburgh Photographic Society International Exhibition of Photography which is currently in it's 149th year of showing stunning images from around he world. Find out more here.

If you want a more daring slant on photography, 'Pot of Dreams' by Jannica Honey and Holly Davidson is shown in the Sapphire Rooms. Locals may recognise the name as one of Edinburgh's strip clubs on the charming Lothian Road, but don't be put off! This exhibition sounds quite fascinating- the intention "to lay bare the more human aspects of Edinburgh's lap dancing community". Admission is free from the 7th of August from 14.00 till 18.00... I probably wouldn't hang around much later though!

This blog is SW Fashion, not SW Culture, so obviously I will need to round up the photography section with a slight fashion edge. If you are interested in glossy fashion photography- as I am- head down to Urban Outfitters Edinburgh at the moment as they are home to a number of charming fashion photography work from Meghan Giboin (see her work here) and will be showing various other art works throughout the festival alongside live music and daily comedy previews from The Stand Comedy Club. 'Like' Urban Outfitters Edinburgh on Facebook to keep up to date with it (click here).

And on the topic of fashion- if you fancy taking a little trip through to Glasgow from the 21st to the 24th of July then you can find yourself immersed in the buzz of the Merchant City Festival which is in it's 10th year. This year it is home to a bespoke fashion show with local talent including designers like Lorna Shields' label HandmadeInPatrick and Tatiana Ashakova's millinery work with Beretk!Ah, as well as Heriot Watt graduate Isla Scott. The first event will be tomorrow at the Virginia Court in Glasgow, all in aid of charity! Read more about the various events taking over Glasgow right here.

As far as other notable art exhibitions go, you'd be an idiot not to check out websites like The Skinny, i-On Edinburgh and The List where all the best ones will be recommended. I also suggest getting a copy of the Fringe schedule- or browsing it online here- so you don't miss out on anything!

If you are after some beautiful paintings then the work of Elizabeth Blackadder is showing in the National Gallery of Scotland for £8. Her watercolours and drawings of flowers are totally gorgeous and this is authentic Scottish art that is always very charming.

You may be familiar with Edinburgh Central Library- a beautiful building with miserable connotations of revision for me!- and during the festival it will be home to the This is Not An Exhibition installation by a group of ECA students. Entry is obviously free and the concept is not to decorate the library with art, but rather to work in "the unique spaces within the library". It all sounds rather interesting I think!

There is always something charming about visiting an exhibition of jewellery or crafty things and the fringe has plenty of this to offer. Asimi jewellery on George Street which will feature handmade crafts and jewellery to marvel at. Dazzle Jewellery exhibition will be returning to Assembly George Square feature designs from all over Europe- perfect for total magpies like myself! In the charming Royal Botanic Gardens you will find works by six contemporary Danish designers who craft imaginative installations from discarded junk which sounds very interesting indeed. Most excitingly, however, is the Children of Asia exhibition which sounds unmissable. At the Galerie Mirages there is to be a beautiful exhibition of embroidered childrens hats and clothing from around Asia, it's free entry and promises to be a visual treat full of vivacity and colour.

Finally, the conceptual work of Tamsyn Challenger in 400 Women is certainly worth a mention. It is a response to gender violence and "the project utillises portraiture by a critical mass of 200 international artists". It can be seen at Venture in Canongate.


The word "museum" is enough to strike fear into every young person's heart. Give them a cinema any day, but a museum? Bleugh. Well not for long! The new National Museum of Scotland opens on Friday the 29th of July and it is set to blow us all away with a fantastic new look and exhibitions. The opening ceremony itself sounds fantastic with drummers, dancers and a T-rex strolling down Chambers Street (not a real one... obviously.). Then, when the museum opens its doors, we can expect an array of delights from the World Cultures Galleries, The Natural World Galleries and a breathtaking entrance hall. Plus it's just a walk from the Hotel Missoni- which you really can't beat for lunch! Which brings me on to my next topic...

Cafe Culture

Now we're on to my area of expertise- coffee and cake. Edinburgh is a fat girls dream! In Bruntsfield alone there are two of Olive magazine's favourite British chocolate shops- Coco and The Chocolate Tree  featuring some lovely choccy treats including The Chocolate Tree's Sea Salt and Caramel chocolate bar that is almost as pleasurable as a new dress.

If you are looking for Edinburgh's best coffee, it's arguable that Centotre on George Street can offer you just that. The building is the former Bank of Scotland so is all high ceilings and pillars with beautiful floral arrangements creeping upwards. The service is friendly and the traditional Italian pastries and the Cup Cake Caffe (which donates 10p from every cupcake to charity- bless- read more here) cakes make for a decadent companion to some luscious fruit juices (try the Bosco on a hot day- if you're lucky enough to experience one in Edinburgh) or one of their lovely Italian coffees.

Also worth mentioning are Falko Konditormeister- a German bakery based in Bruntsfield with glossy tortes and gateaux to set your heart racing- as well as Henri's in Morningside where you can get a coffee and a croissant in the quaint Parisian deli. My personal favourite, however, would be Eteaket in the city centre- a charming tea room and tea boutique on Frederick Street where the aim is to make tea sexy again! I love the atmosphere and the selection of gorgeous teas- my favourite being a white peach infusion which is the perfect way to wash down a currant-studded scone with clotted cream and oozy strawberry jam.

Comedy, Theatre and Film

The Edinburgh Film Festival has sadly been and gone, but you can still catch some lovely quirky films at cinemas like the Cameo and The Filmhouse- just if Harry Potter isn't floating your boat! I'm afraid i'm not entirely knowledgable about cinema, but I know that these two specialise in kooky, indie films as well as classic cult films that we all should have seen but just haven't got round to it!

However, if you are truly upset that you missed the acclaimed Edinburgh Film Festival earlier this summer, then don't be too saddened as The Fringe offers the Fringe Film Festival. The programme showcases shorts and contemporary films all day long. It features work from across the globe and it is sure to please you film buffs! Find out more here, but I shall certainly be paying this a visit!

I am also pretty out of touch with theatre and comedy- but you can find out plenty on the Fringe website as my recommendations may be a bit off really!

Play it by ear!

Or, if you aren't an organised sort, you could simply go for a leisurely walk around the town centre and take in all the exciting street performers and live music and see what's going on for free! There's just so much to see and do that it seems silly to waste days indoors just because our weather's miserable. There's a reason Edinburgh is flooded with tourists- it's got a heck of a lot going for it, it's just all too easy to forget. 

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