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History of the Festival

The Edinburgh Competition Festival was started in 1920 and has been held every year since then with only two exceptions. A member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, it features a wide range of competitive and non-competitive classes, together with workshops. Until 1980, classes took place in the Assembly and Music Hall in George Street, but the following year circumstances caused the Festival to move to the Brunton Halls in Musselburgh.


The following ten years saw tremendous growth in both the range and size of classes. In 1992, the Festival returned to Edinburgh and until 2007 was held in the Stockbridge area of the city. It is now based in City Centre venues and, in a further break with tradition, is held at the end of February and beginning of March instead of the previous timing of late May/early June.

One of the highlights of the Festival is the two-stage concerto class, started in 1965. Open to all instrumentalists, there is a preliminary round, held in advance of the main Festival, following which four chosen finalists perform with an orchestra on the final evening of the Festival- a popular event with a very high standard.

Since 1994 there has been a growing trend for the inclusion of non-competitive classes, extended adjudications and mini-workshops. There are now valuable opportunities for special educational needs. Edinburgh was the first Festival to judge the music classes by categories instead of marks. The Festival has a policy of employing specialist adjudicators where appropriate.

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Festival Memories

To mark our Centenary Festival in 2020, we asked distinguished former entrants about their memories of competing in the Festival.

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