EDINBURGH’S Jazz and Blues Festival has welcomed some of the finest artists the world has to offer, ensuring a star-studded opening to Edinburgh’s summer festival programme in its 70th anniversary year.

The Jazz and Blues celebration kicks off this weekend with two huge, free open-air events, the Mardi Gras and Edinburgh Festival Carnival.

From now until July 23, more than 50 events will mark the centenary of Jazz, featuring and promoting Scottish musicians.

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The musical programme will feature more than 170 gigs which cater to everyone’s taste, at both large venues and more intimate ones. The biggest crowds, however, are expected this weekend as revellers flood on to the capital’s streets.

“The festival is a celebration of both international and local musicians,” festival producer Fiona Alexander explained.

“We have a huge number of concerts featuring Scottish musicians working in collaboration with musicians from all over the world.”

First up is today’s Mardi Gras, a celebration which aims to transform the historic heart of Edinburgh into New Orleans for the afternoon.

A variety of bands will serenade festival goers on stages across the Grassmarket, promising to create a jubilant atmosphere.

“High-energy latin-swing band” Rumba De Bodas, “Norway’s youngest and hippest dixieland band” Swing’it Dixieland and “cool and classy jazz diva” Lorna Reid are among the renowned acts performing this afternoon.

Tomorrow, the party transitions from the old town to the new, with the Edinburgh Festival Carnival.

More than 800 performers will parade their way down from the Mound towards Princes Street along the famed thoroughfare before heading into the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, where the festivities continue.

The festival is benefitting from a recent funding boost announced by Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop.

She unveiled the Government’s drive to support the development of Scottish artists and creative expression, while raising the profile of Scotland through ambitious and innovative events at this year’s Edinburgh’s Festivals.

In its 70th anniversary year, the Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund for 2017 to 2018 awarded £2.3 million to Edinburgh Festivals, bringing the total invested since 2008 to £19m.

The Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund assessment process and funding is administered by Creative Scotland, with input from Event Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Festivals Edinburgh and City of Edinburgh Council.

The Jazz and Blues Festival alone was awarded £140,000.

“As Edinburgh Festivals celebrate their 70th anniversary, it is a time for our artists to dream, reflect, invent and celebrate by bringing Scotland to the world and the world to Scotland through arts and culture,” Hyslop explained.

“This funding for Edinburgh’s Festivals will see investment in the skills and talent of both emerging and established artists here in Scotland, which supports the development of new international opportunities, networks and partnerships among Festivals.

“I look forward to seeing the cultural excellence of our world-renowned festivals over the coming months.”

Alexander said the Expo investment has “allowed the Jazz festival to create some really interesting projects delivered by Scottish musicians”.

“Without the Expo money, the festival would be in a very different place,” she added.