Festivals, Cultural and City Events

A Big Festival Thank You

​​​​​​​Now that the summer festival season has drawn to a close, we would like to take the time to thank those who have made 2019 such a success and revisit some of the University’s festival highlights.

If you cast your mind back to those heady summer days (complete with frequent thunderstorms, of course) to when the city was happily overrun with performers, tourists, street food trucks and nightly firework displays, you might also recall the huge contribution made by University staff, students and the local community towards making this year’s summer festival season a success.

We would like to take a moment to thank all those involved for their hard work across long days – and into the night – and relentless enthusiasm for the festivals that put Edinburgh on the world map as a centre of arts entertainment. Read on for a recap of the summer’s festival highlights.

Fun at the 2019 Fesitvals

Back at the beginning of the festival, the University was unveiled as the official partner of The Scotsman Fringe First Awards. The award, which has been running since 1973, was designed to encourage performers to bring new work to Edinburgh in the spirit of adventure and experiment. Previous winners include Stephen Fry, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Rowan Atkinson, with Stephen Fry back to present the final round of awards this year.

Twenty different productions were awarded this summer, including How Not to Drown, co-written by the University’s own Nicola McCartney alongside Dritan Kastrati. We look forward to seeing how this award continues to recognise such achievements over the next few years.


The Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) saw great success with the debut of their Sustainability Hub in the Bayes Centre Courtyard. The Hub saw 11 different hosts put on 27 events across the festival, including collaborations with The Greenhouse Initiative, the SHRUB Coop, Somewhere at the Fringe and Festivals Edinburgh, as well as events run by the SRS.

Some of the items used to build the Hub - such as the picnic benches and the planters - have been re-homed across the University, leaving no waste behind. It was also great to hear that B Cup saw a successful reusable cup trial with Assembly Festival (one of the University’s tenants) with 92% of those surveyed prepared to buy a reusable cup at the festival rather than a disposable plastic cup in the future. For James Conway, this summer’s Festival Sustainability and Plastics Assistant, this will be very welcome news following his research project on single-use plastics.


Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and Janet Archer, Director of Festival, Cultural and City Events, welcomed guests into the University’s Playfair Library Hall to a reception celebrating the University’s central role at the heart of Edinburgh’s Festivals. A film, debuted on the evening, showcased the breadth of the University’s vivid involvement across the Festivals and is now available for all to view below.

Video: The University at the Edinburgh Festivals
The University sits at the heart of Edinburgh’s festivals, which are among the world’s greatest celebrations and explorations of human intellect and creativity. With a large range of venues across the University playing host to multiple tenants including Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance, Space UK, Underbelly and Zoo the campus is transformed every year into a hub of theatre, music, dance, circus and comedy.

The Fringe of Colour database spotlights black and brown performers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was started in 2018 by Jessica Brough, a PhD student in the School of Philosophy and Language Sciences, in reaction to the scarcity of shows by people of colour and disproportionate promotion they receive in contrast to entirely or majority-white performances. 2019 saw a new ticket scheme introduced to provide free tickets to young people of colour to attend shows by performers of colour. At the Edinburgh Comedy Awards at the end of the festival, Brough was awarded the panel prize, which goes to an individual embodying the spirit of the Fringe. We would like to extend a huge congratulations to Brough for all her hard work over the summer and are very excited to see how this scheme progresses.


The University of Edinburgh Theatre Company’s Bedlam Theatre, best known for its cheap festival pints, was taken over during the festival by an exciting programme of events that provided a platform to marginalised voices. The stage was graced with five star performances, such as lagahoo production’s SPLINTERED – a joyous, but touching cabaret show exploring various coming out experiences in the Caribbean – and Shrinking Violet’s Barry, which told the story of Dr James Barry, a transgender student at the University of Edinburgh in the early 19th century. The Improverts were also celebrating 30 years at the festival, with energetic performances every night of the Fringe and a themed orange cocktail on the bar.


Lastly, we would like to direct you towards Edit Magazine’s article ‘The Festivals and Us’. It documents the staff members across the University who are involved with the many different aspects of the city’s festivals throughout the year. The list includes Gwen Orr, Janet Archer and Susan Leven from our own Festivals Team and is evident of the credit deserving of each and every staff member who help make Edinburgh’s festival scene such a success on our campus.

Now then, who’s ready and excited for next year...?