So, I’ve just got back from the Edinburgh Festival. And what a unique, electrifying experience it was. I’ve been going up to the fringe every year for the past eight years and it never ceases to be enriching, infuriating, provoking and life-affirming. To have the evidence of so much new work being produced, so much skill and concentration, and so much experimentation – it makes you glad again that performing arts exist!

It saw more than 2,871 shows performed by 4,071 artists in 273 venues across the city – in grand halls, theatres, university buildings, sports halls, office blocks, temporary cabins and inflatable cows.

The city is ablaze with live performance for four weeks in August. The majority of the shows do the whole month so, give or take the odd Monday, they play the same hour in the same place for 24 days solid. A taxi driver told me that at festival time the population of Edinburgh swells from its usual 450,000 by an extra one and a half million.

That’s some boost to the economy from the arts, eh? And the shows? Well I saw 24 shows in four days, from big, grown-up theatre at The Traverse to pure fringe bonkers comedy musical theatre in a corporate building by the university.

I go every year to see what’s new to touring and what I could book for our venue. As ever, it’s a mixed bag – some good shows, some companies that I’d like to pursue; some I wouldn’t book at all. At every show, as it starts, I sit there thinking, ‘this is going to be it; this is going to be the show I can go back to our venue and rave about’. Sometimes it happens and those times are truly exciting, but often it’s somewhere in the middle. But, as my previous head of arts reasoned, seeing the poor ones is as useful as seeing the great ones, because knowing what not to book is as good for your audiences and the venue’s reputation as the other way around.

And, boy, did I get to do a lot of walking. It’s great – you set off from your (noisy) hotel room every morning with your timetable, brochure and map and your apple and cereal bar (you never know when you might get the chance for a meal) and you’re off.

For the next 12 or 13 hours pounding the streets of this extraordinarily beautiful city – power walking all the way from St Stephen’s at the top of the New Town down to Summerhaul in the south of the city, finding new short cuts, discovering new venues, and dodging the thousands of other tourists and street performers on the Royal Mile.

But for now we return to Cornerstone, our amazing autumn programme and fifth birthday celebrations. You must come – see the programme at It’s a massive celebration – Alice Francis, First Lady of Cool Swing, on Friday, September 13, then a day of surprise and free delights on Saturday, September 14. Don’t miss it.