Meadows Festival

A festival? In Edinburgh? But it’s only June!

Surely it’s August that the world descends and wanders open-mouthed at not only the frenzy of flyers, but the architecture and ambience of the city?

Every June it’s the people of the city that can gather enjoy their own surroundings thanks to the hard work of the volunteers who organise the annual Meadows Festival.

Across a whole weekend, this free festival welcomes not only local people, but also any visitors who are looking to experience a real taste of living in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

The first Meadows Festival took place 40 years ago. To become a charity there had to be a specific target audience, as Liz Summerfield, secretary of the organising committee, explains. “The original constitution said that the festival was to serve the community around and to the south of the Meadows – that’s what came into the mind of the original organisers when they had to specify the audience.

“To my mind, and this is a personal view, if we covered a wider geographic area and our raison d’être was to provide a festival for youngsters, older people, disabled people it would be easier for us to raise funds.”

It’s a solid idea, with £20,000 required to be raised by a volunteer committee every year to simply put the infrastructure in place. “That’s just for the security, to hire tents and put up fencing really. The bands, bless them, play for nothing and with a few small exceptions where people have expenses in getting here, everyone who hosts activities also do it without a fee.”

There are organisations happy to come along and stage events for those who come along. “It seems the whole of Edinburgh comes to the meadows to walk their dogs, so The Dogs Trust has been happy to come along for the past few years.”

They are at the festival to provide advice obviously and showcase dogs looking to be rehomed, but also to stage a dog show for every mutt who wants to take part – not just the ones with the fancy names.

 “It seems the whole of Edinburgh comes to the meadows.”

“My background is in staging festivals and touring theatre so I know just how much money it takes to stage events. Believe me, it takes a lot. Here, it’s astonishing what we accomplish on a shoestring and just volunteers.

The Meadow has a long and fascinating history as part of the city’s leisure time. It was once the site of the Borough Loch and was a main water supply for the city, but starting in the early eighteenth drainage began under the auspices of Thomas Hope who leased the loch. Then began the process of creating a place to walk and planting greenery.

In 1827, the City of Edinburgh Improvement Act made it illegal to build on the Meadows, preserving it for the use of the people.

It was extended a few decades later and has been the site of exhibitions and even played a part in the establishment of the city’s football teams, with the first derby match between Hibernian FC and Heart of Midlothian FC taking place in 1875.

Today the Meadows is the venue for everything from the start and finish of the annual charity Moonwalk, which raises money for breast cancer research, it has its own half marathon and it also hosts some events during August’s festival bonanza.

However, for that weekend in June, the celebrations are on a much more organic level, with live music, a children’s area with activities including face painting and storytelling, stalls selling everything from antiques to clothing to Fair Trade products, food stalls and much more.

Last year more than 20,000 people attended over the two days – a huge task for the organisers. When the festival events begin on Saturday, however, they do manage to get some time to enjoy the days. “We do have a rota so there is time to relax, enjoy the music, maybe take part in a  workshop,” says Liz.

“My background is in staging festivals and touring theatre so I know just how much money it takes to stage events. Believe me, it takes a lot. Here, it’s astonishing what we accomplish on a shoestring and just volunteers.

“Some are there helping for the full four days, starting with putting up fencing and erecting tents on the Friday, then over the weekend it can be litter-picking, directing traffic, which isn’t allowed to drive on the grass, and reuniting lost children with parents. They do get lunch though,” Liz laughs.



A Community Festival


The Edinburgh Meadows Festival is a free volunteer-run annual event featuring live music, merchandise, stalls, kids’ and adults’ activities and loads more. The first Meadows Festival took place in 1974 and since then the Festival has been an annual feature of the calendar.

Festival facts

  • It’s FREE!
  • Live music
  • Kids’ Area with activities
  • General Merchandise stalls
  • Information stalls of various types
  • Food stalls
  • A football competition