Stage all set for return of festivals buzz

A captivating array of events is taking place on campus as the University reaffirms its commitment to Edinburgh’s summer festivals.


The University has been working closely with a range of cultural partners, Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government to ensure that shows go ahead safely.

This summer’s programme takes place in venues at Old College, Bristo Square, Teviot Row, George Square, Pleasance and Edinburgh College of Art.

It is a welcome return for in-person shows following the cancelation of so many cultural highlights in 2020. Also returning are live BBC broadcasts – this year from High School Yards.

Inspiring archives

Concerts celebrating a unique Scottish cultural resource are being presented by the University as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

The two shows mark 70 years of the University’s precious School of Scottish Studies Archives, which include photographs, films, sound files and rare historic documents.

The first event– called A Folk Song Sharing – presents an outstanding gathering of cross-generational artists as they exchange songs, stories and histories.

A second concert – called The Living Archive – spotlights a mesmerising range of song, music and dance inspired by material held by the School of Scottish Studies Archives.

Both shows take place in Old College Quad on Sunday 8 August. They are part of the Festival’s In the Tradition series, which showcases some of Scotland’s best-loved music acts.

Heartfelt tribute

The Quad is hosting another University-backed event that has a traditional music focus and takes place from 13-15 August.

Edinburgh Futures Institute is supporting an enthralling series of concerts curated by acclaimed fiddler, composer and producer Aidan O’Rourke.

A Great Disordered Heart features three performances inspired by the city’s historic Cowgate – from its Irish-influenced past to the present-day impact of the pandemic.

Edinburgh Futures Institute is partnering with the Festival’s Learning and Engagement team in a community project linked to the concert series.

The Heart & Home project will connect with local communities and our international students to explore what home means to them.

Engaging artworks

Also in the Festival, arresting artworks inspired by the ‘wake-up call’ of Covid-19 are the focus of a University exhibition that addresses pressing global concerns.

Key themes in The Normal, which takes place at the Talbot Rice Gallery, include the pandemic’s impact on communities, health, work, nature and even ideas about progress.

Talbot Rice Director Tessa Giblin says The Normal affirms the urgent need for people to rethink their relationship to the natural world.

The presentation of 21 works brings together acclaimed artists from around the world who are attuned to this singular moment in history.

Fond Farewell

A poignant sound installation, curated by the Talbot Rice Gallery, promises to be one of the highlights of Edinburgh Art Festival,

Resounding to the strains of Auld Lang Syne in 28 languages, Song of the Union laments the UK’s departure from the EU.

A choir of recorded voices representing each EU member state will perform Robert Burns’ much-loved song in a sound installation at the foot of Edinburgh’s Calton Hill.

The constantly changing arrangement by Nigerian-born artist Emeka Ogboh is being broadcast from the Burns Monument throughout the Festival.

Opening event

As part of the Art Festival’s opening weekend, Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier from English Literature will be in conversation with internationally acclaimed artist Isaac Julien.

Julien’s new film installation Lessons of the Hour on the life of author and activist Frederick Douglass is presented at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One).

Professor Bernier specialises in the literatures, histories, politics, visual cultures and philosophies of women, men and children living in the African Diaspora.

She worked closely with Julien on the film’s narration, helping to reimagine Douglass’ relationships to a range of key historical figures. The free online event is on Friday 30 July,

Masters Show

The annual Masters Show by Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is another vital part of the Art Festival.

The week-long presentation of work by recently graduated MA students launches on 20 August with a physical show in ECA’s Main Building as well an online exhibition of portfolios.

These will join nearly 400 online portfolios by ECA’s June graduates, making it the College’s most comprehensive graduate show website to date. 

New chapter

University students, staff and alumni are joining a stellar line up that celebrates brilliant writing and bold ideas at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

More than 300 writers, artists and thinkers from around the world are coming together this August to share their stories in a programme of live online events. 

More than 250 events for adults, children and families are taking place in the Book Festival’s new home at ECA. Many are in front of in-person audiences.

Among the events is a celebration of this year’s entries for the University’s James Tait Black Prizes – the UK’s longest-running literary awards.

Silver screen

Work by recent ECA graduate Eilidh Nicoll features in a series of animated shorts being presented as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Nicoll’s darkly comic take on ageing, called Silvering, is part of the IMAGININGS series, which explores the recesses of the human mind and its memories, anxieties and yearnings.

IMAGININGS is being screened at the Filmhouse on Thursday 19 August. Silvering was also shown during this summer’s graduate show at ECA.

Film pioneer

The University is awarding an honorary degree to a former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival  – cinema producer and innovator Lynda Myles.

Appointed as the Film Festival’s first female director in 1973, Lynda Miles has encouraged women filmmakers and championed emerging talent.

Lynda Miles produced her first film, Defence of the Realm, in 1975 before holding senior positions with Columbia Pictures and the BBC. In the 1990s, she co-produced the BAFTA-winning adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments.

Lynda Myles receives the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa.

Theatre highlights

Traverse Theatre's Festival programme features two plays by creative fellows who were based at the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

Still was created by Frances Poet to ask big questions about the human condition and the nature of pain in a world that often seeks to eliminate it.

Full of tenderness and humour, and woven through with a live, folk-rock inspired musical score, Still is a cathartic story of life, loss and joy set in familiar locations around Edinburgh.

MOVE by Julia Taudevin is a play of hope about migration, loss and communal healing. It is being staged in a unique open-air performance at Edinburgh’s Silverknowes Beach.

Weaving storytelling, choral soundscape and Gaelic song, five women portray the ebb and flow of people across the globe throughout the ages.

Dangerous Ideas

No fewer than 18 academics from the University are taking part in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, which returns for a ninth year at the Edinburgh Fringe,

This cabaret like no other provides an informal, high-profile platform for researchers to discuss their work on stage in The Stand comedy club

Ideas being mooted include a radical redefinition of wellbeing, a plea for a more creative approach to data and the prospect of robots caring for older people.

The five-day programme is curated by the University, produced by arts-based promoters Fair Pley and compered by comedian Susan Morrison.

Related links

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh Art Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Traverse Theatre

Photo by  Ryan Buchanan