The Edinburgh International Festival is an annual festival of performing arts in Edinburgh, Scotland, over three weeks in August. By invitation from the Festival Director, the International Festival brings top class performers of music (especially classical music), theatre, opera and dance from around the world to perform. The festival also hosts a series of visual art exhibitions, talks and workshops. The first International Festival (and the first "Festival Fringe", although not known as such in the first year) took place between 22 August and 11 September 1947.
The idea of a Festival with a remit to "provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit" and enrich the cultural life of Scotland, Britain and Europe took form in the wake of the Second World War. The idea of creating an international festival within the UK was first conceived by Rudolf Bing, the General Manager of Glyndebourne Opera Festival, the arts patron Lady Rosebery, theatre director Sir Tyrone Guthrie, and Audrey Mildmay (wife of John Christie) during a wartime tour of a small-scale Glyndebourne production of The Beggar's Opera.
Rudolf Bing conceived of the festival to heal the wounds of war through the languages of the arts. This is its principal raison d’être. It was first financed by Lord Roseberry with the £10,000 winnings of his horse Ocean Swell that won the only two major horse-races run in wartime including the Jockey Gold Cup in 1944. This sum was matched by Edinburgh Town Council and then some money in turn was matched by the Arts Council of Great Britain formed by Lord Keynes at war's end. Bing also co-founded the Festival with Henry Harvey Wood, Head of the British Council in Scotland, Sidney Newman, Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University, and a group of civic leaders from the City of Edinburgh, in particular Sir John Falconer.