Campus comes alive as festival audiences return

Edinburgh’s campus will be buzzing with festival crowds once more this August as the city passes a significant cultural milestone.

Crowds in George Square during the festival
Festival-goers in George Square Gardens

Scotland’s capital is celebrating 75 years of the Edinburgh International Festival and the University is again playing a vital role in its ongoing success.

It is a poignant landmark for the University as one of its most celebrated scholars, the Austrian composer Hans Gal, helped to shape the inaugural Festival programme.

Gal, who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, later became a musical education lecturer at Edinburgh and a co-founder of the Festival with fellow Austrian musician Rudolph Bing, who was also a refugee.

This year the University is linked to a series of International Festival events that reflect the founders’ bold post-war vision of an annual cultural gathering for people of all nations.

Refuge series

Edinburgh Futures Institute is supporting the Festival’s Refuge series – a season of drama, dance, art, film and conversation, exploring what global citizenship means in today’s world.

Artists, practitioners, academics and community leaders from across the globe will offer their perspectives on themes including identity, displacement and inclusion.

The programme, created in collaboration with Scottish Refugee Council, reflects on the profound impact that migration has had on arts and culture in Scotland and further afield.

Refuge will showcase the stories of people living in Scotland today, who represent a variety of cultures from around the globe, and present them alongside those of international visiting artists.

Inaugural lecture

As part of Refuge, the University will host the inaugural Rudolph Bing Memorial Lecture, which will be given by the head of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb.

The award-winning producer will draws on his prolific career –spanning opera, film, radio and festivals – to offer his reflections on arts and culture.

Mr. Gelb has overseen a number of initiatives aimed at revitalising opera and connecting it to a wider audience since the start of his tenure in 2006.

The lecture, which takes place on Monday 8 August in the Playfair Library, is presented in association with Edinburgh Jewish Cultural Centre.

Online conversations

A key element of the Refuge season will be online conversations chaired by two Edinburgh academics.

Dr İdil Akıncı, of the Alwaleed Centre, will lead a two-part discussion Rethinking Internationalism, which explores what it means to be an international artist working in the UK today.

Panellists will weigh up how recent events have shaped or changed their practice and consider what forces are at odds with the idea of internationalism – and how these can be overcome.

Guests in the first sesson will be choreographer Julie Ann Minaai, Projekt Europa director Maria Aberg, theatre-maker Yasmeen Audisho Ghrawi and producer Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso.

Joining Dr Akıncı for the second session will be playwright and cultural activist Mudar Alhaggi and author and actor Antonythasan Jesuthasan.

Climate crisis

Professor Liz Grant, Director of the Global Health Academy, will chair an online event that focuses on internationalism in the context of the climate crisis.

Climate Change and Displacement will explore how countries can continue to collaborate while creating sustainable practices.

Professor Grant will invite artists to share their perspectives on how we can re-evaluate our relationship with the environment and better understand our place in the world.

Panellists in this virtual event include writer Tariq Jordan and choreographers Katina Olsen and Jasmin Sheppard.

Disordered heart

The University is also supporting the Festival’s screening of a film inspired by the streets around Edinburgh’s Cowgate – from its Irish-influenced past to the recent impact of Covid-19.

A Great Disordered Heart,-which was co-directed Edinburgh College of Art alumna Becky Manson, is a film about folk music and its power to connect people. It will be screened at The Filmhouse on 15 August.

Musician Aidan O’Rourke has assembled a stellar cast of Irish and Scottish musicians to explore what home means and the role that music and storytelling plays in underscoring our sense of belonging.

The event features a stunning original soundtrack by O’Rourke and live performances by Liam Ó Maonlai, Brìghde Chaimbeul, Comac Begley, Róisín Chambers and Aoife Ní Bhriain.

Four festivals

The University is involved with five of Edinburgh’s six August festivals, working closely with cultural partners, the City Council and the Scottish Government to ensure shows go ahead safely.

Two Fringe events supported by the University will take place on campus – The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart by Lyceum Theatre in Playfair Library and the stunning exhibition, Robert Blomfield: Student of Light, at the Main Library.

Fringe shows will go ahead too at Pleasance, High School Yards, Roxburgh Place, Chambers Street, George Square, Bristo Square, the Old Medical School and New College.

Dangerous Ideas

Also in the Fringe, no fewer than 16 academics from the University will take part in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, which returns for a tenth year.

This cabaret like no other takes academics out of their familiar settings to debate burning issues and cutting edge research with audiences at The Stand comedy club,

Questions to be pondered include how a nuclear war might affect housing prices, whether the police can be feminist and what your skin says about you.

Other ideas considered include how much phone apps know about us, whether killer robots can save humanity and how looking bad is good for you.

The 18-day programme is a joint initiative involving Edinburgh’s four universities, the Beltane public engagement network, arts-based promoters Fair Pley and The Stand.

Book Festival

Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) will be home to Edinburgh International Book Festival for the second year running as part of a long-term partnership agreement.

University students, staff and alumni are joining a line-up of inspirational events that celebrate the power of sharing stories and ideas.

This year’s vibrant programme builds on the hybrid format developed over the past two years, with many of the live, in-person events available to stream online.

A programme of 600 events, featuring more than 550 writers, artists and thinkers from around the world, will provide audiences with adventures, insights, personal stories and fresh perspectives.

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.

Artistic wonders

As part of Edinburgh Art Festival, a captivating exhibition at the University’s Talbot Rice Gallery will invite audiences to re-evaluate how we engage with the world around us.

A diverse array of art by Franco-Italian artist Céline Condorelli explores how people – individually, and as part of wider society – live and work together.

After Work probes the relationships between labour and leisure time, private space and the public realm, and manufactured materials and the natural world.

The show, which runs until 1 October, features major new works, ambitious installations and the first showing of the hugely versatile artist’s drawings and maquettes.

Student showcase

Also in the Art Festival, ECA will welcome visitors to a showcase of work by graduating students, from its schools of Art, Design and Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

The students have faced continuing challenges across their studies, but have met these head-on with creativity, intelligence, resilience and hope for the future.

This year, the show takes place in the Main Building and Evolution House where visitors can to discover and explore this new wave of creatives.

Film partnership

The University continues to develop its partnership with Edinburgh International Film Festival by supporting a retrospective dedicated to the influential Japanese director, Tanaka Kinuyo.

The retrospective is a key element of this year’s programme, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first Women’s Film Festival in Edinburgh in 1972.

Audiences will be able to uncover the work of a pioneering director, who broke many barriers and continues to inspire filmmakers across the world.  

Related links

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh Art Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Image credit: Chris Scott