Updated on October 11, 2015
The Best Seat in the House
The din of a festival rings in Edinburgh’s ears. 2014 roars by still.
For the last three years I have watched the closing fireworks concert from the best seat in the house. Photographers are allowed into the gardens at Princes Street and work in front of the orchestra’s bandstand during the full display. A performance and a view so spectacular, I cannot measure the privilege. The fireworks finalise a month of festivals in Edinburgh and the city centre closes for the city’s people to gather in round the gardens. The city’s unusual landscape comes into its own as people hike up hills, camp on rooftops and hunker down in the street to watch the display.
Sometimes the best seat is wherever you find yourself. This year I was untethered and let myself be carried through the tide of spectators. With only half an eye on the blazing acrobatics in the sky, the display for me was the unique collection of people that venture out and cluster together for the view. Fireworks are a devastating thing. They jolt our emotions out from the deep and pull us back to earth and into the present. They are maybe the closest thing to magic we ever know, a cosmological concussion on the heart. To watch the enjoyment of others spellbound, was to enjoy the show twice-fold for me. I relished the uncommon hush on the air beforehand, and took real delight in how gentle and patient everyone became, pulling in close and wearing their affection. Families, friends and lovers, the same faces from every day, still and contemplative in their own private turbulence.
For Edinburgh, they are the most cathartic thing. As glowing cinders and hot tips fall and dissipate into the black night, so too does the chaos and tumult of the last thirty days of festival delirium. The ash and smoke are carried off on the last of the summer wind as another chapter closes, and winter appears on the horizon again.