Edit Magazine

The festivals and us

The University plays a huge part in Edinburgh’s festivals and staff from across the institution are involved in the many partnerships. Meet some of the dedicated people who contribute to the festivals in a variety of ways.

David Duffy in a room at Holland House

David Duffy is a Community Support Assistant in Accommodation, Catering and Events. He assists with routine maintenance at Holland House (pictured) in Pollock Halls, which is home to performers in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the summer.

“This time of year the atmosphere is always great. Although it’s hard work, you can’t help but smile when you hear the guests practising the music and dance for their performances.”

Susan Leven sat on the roof of New College

Susan Leven is the Festival and Events Coordinator in Estates. She helps to maintain and facilitate the use of the University estate throughout the festivals, including New College roof (pictured), ensuring it is treated respectfully and events go ahead safely.

 “Every day is different and I arrive at work not knowing what I might have to deal with literally minute to minute. This can make my job stressful at times but often its hugely rewarding.”

Kerry Cheek stands next to the Sustainability Hub

Kerry Cheek is the Projects Coordinator for Sustainability and Festivals in Social Responsibility and Sustainability. Along with her team, she helped organise the University’s first Sustainability Hub at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to encourage everyone to consider their environmental impact .

“The Fringe is colourful, fun and exciting but it's also clear to see that the Festival creates waste and consumes energy. As the largest landlord of the Fringe, the University has an important role to play in reducing this environmental footprint. We created the Festival Sustainability Hub to support visitors, performers and the local community to be sustainable and socially conscious throughout the Fringe.”

Simon Cooke outside the book tent at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Dr Simon Cooke is a Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature in the School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures. He is a Judge for the James Tait Black (JTB) Biography Prize, which is part of Britain’s oldest literary awards and presented at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

It’s hugely exciting, a bit daunting, and very humbling to be involved in such a distinguished prize, following such discerning judges and working with such fine postgraduate readers. I’ll try not to let being interviewed by Sally Magnusson go to my head too much, but I really enjoy the way the JTB brings together writers, the University, and the wider world of reading in the festival.”

Patricia Erskine sits in a venue showing events from Edinburgh International Festival

Dr Patricia Erskine is Head of Stakeholder Relations in the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences. She manages the University’s collaborations with the Edinburgh International Festival. Our new three-year partnership on the You Are Here programme is led by the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

“It’s great to help continue our partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival, one that’s existed since the first festival in 1947. The You Are Here strand lets artists open up conversations around their work and allows the public to meet with writers, directors, musicians, choreographers and performers. I ensure that colleagues with research, expertise or practice that relates to the themes of the work are involved. We will then bring the fresh perspectives that emerge into our planning for the Edinburgh Futures Institute."

Gwen Orr stands with McEwan Hall and Bristo Square in the background

Gwen Orr is a Festivals Coordinator in the Festivals Office. She currently manages the festival tenants in Bristo Square, McEwan Hall, Medical School Quad and George Square Gardens, as well as Adam House on Chambers Street, liaising with the different companies and making sure their performances run smoothly, while maintaining the University estate. Year round, the Festivals Office let out University buildings for a variety of events and film shoots.

“An enormous amount of work goes into the Festival Fringe to make sure our buildings are protected, our colleagues are not too disrupted and festival goers get to experience the University being at the heart of the action. We’re a small team and it’s hard work, so our preparations for next Festival will start in October!”

Sandra McGhee and Kirsty Carnie stand and sit in the VIP bar in David Hume Tower

Sandra McGhee and Kirsty Carnie are Cleaning Operatives in Estates. They are part of the team that keeps festival venues clean and tidy, including the VIP bar which is a pop-up venue for the Festival Fringe in the David Hume Tower (pictured).

“There’s a lot more to do this time of year, which can be tough sometimes, but it’s great to think that you’re helping maintain such a huge event.”

Matthias Schwannauer stands next to a lamppost with CoDI stickers on

Matthias Schwannauer is Head of School for Health & Social Science and Professor of Clinical Psychology. This is his third year taking part in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CoDI), where his show ‘Dumbing Down Trauma?’ shares his academic research.

“I really enjoy my participation in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas – giving a free-flowing talk and being able to fully engage in a public discourse (and controversy!) rather than remaining within a purely academic culture with all its regalia and rites. It’s greatly liberating and refreshing – also very scary.”

Janet Archer stands in Bristo Square with McEwan Hall in the background

Janet Archer is the University's newly appointed Director of Festival, Cultural and City Events. Her role provides University-wide leadership to create new opportunities for partnerships across Edinburgh’s festivals, as well as extending our wider relationships in the city to support the University’s research, education and service ambitions throughout the year.

“It’s been fantastic to join the University in the year the Fringe has been named Lonely Planet’s top experience in the UK for 2019 for being the most memorable, beautiful, surprising and compelling experience anywhere in the UK. Edinburgh’s festivals are one of the top cultural experiences in the world, made possible by collective endeavour by many people. It’s a privilege to play a role in contributing to this amazing celebration.” 

Photography by Sam Sills.

Related links

University at the festivals