Festivals, Cultural and City Events

Gwen Orr's 2020 reflections

Despite the fact that festivals have been unable to go ahead this year in their usual form, the university has still been able to produce a fantastic amount of events. Gwen Orr contributed to our collection of reflections illustrating some of the ways the University of Edinburgh has supported cultural life in the city this year.

  • Gwen Orr
    Please tell us about yourself and your role at The University of Edinburgh?

My background before I started at the University was in managing theatres and cinemas in London and Edinburgh. At the University, I am part of the team that delivers the festival on campus – a process that takes months of planning. Year round, we also rent out University spaces for one-off events, photo shoots and location filming.


  • Had 2020 been a standard year, what work would you have traditionally been working on with regards to the city’s festivals?

I would have been chasing paperwork, submitting plans, talking to cleaners, Servitors, IT specialists, Security, landscape gardeners, the Fire Safety Unit and the Health & Safety Department. On top of that, I’d be talking to Building Managers and local staff to alert them to all the activity and how it might impact on them.


  • How has that changed for you in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic?

I haven’t had to answer a single noise complaint! In all seriousness though, I’ve still been busy with other projects but we’re a small team and we’re used to bouncing problems and solutions off each other and I miss that camaraderie.


  • What have been your observations of working during lockdown?

I realised how much of our job is about communication and how much I missed that easy interaction. From the general office chat, to having a coffee with our Tenants, to meeting location managers on site, everything is much harder. I’ve also learnt how in times of crisis, we turn to art and music and culture and how this is not valued enough.


  • Have the projects you have been working on surprised you in any way?

The online Event Series required me to learn a whole new area of tech  - I didn’t know I could still be adaptable! The Social Spaces project showed that when push comes to shove, our Office’s expertise can move mountains! ( Or at the very least we can get portable toilets ordered and delivered in a very, very short space of time…)


  • What else have you learnt from this situation?

How much I took the live experience for granted and how much I miss it. And that there’s no such thing as too many quizzes.