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Edinburgh International Festival | Sally Hobson | Interview: “There are minds I admire, but I don’t want to be inside them.”

This year the Edinburgh international festival delivered world class work on and off stage. I had a chat with the Head of Creative Learning, Sally Hobson. Hobson has directed the Programme Development Department of the Edinburgh International Festival. In this position,  she curates and delivers the public talks during the August Festival and the extensive year round schools and outreach programme.
The Education manager talks about unpaid internships, the joys of programming inspirational learning opportunities for the festival and more.

Sally Hobson

Sally Hobson

Hello Sally, well done for surviving Edinburgh 2016. What were your personal highlights? 
Thank you. Das lied von de Erde – Australian Chamber Orchestra, Richard 3 – Schaunbuhne Berlin.

Edinburgh has a world class reputation as a creative city. What makes it so exciting?
It has reputation as a Festival City, not a creative city. It brings people and the arts together on a platform that cannot be found anywhere else. It is unique geographically and in terms of its history. It is lucky to have the Festivals because although it is beautiful it can be a closed city and without colour or joy.

How do you ensure EIF Learning and Participation has a wide ranging reach as possible? 
By knowing the city and Scotland very well, and making good relationships with schools, people and other organisations who we work with throughout the year.

What are your views on unpaid internships?
The internships are good so long as it is a win:win situation. So the intern is actually getting some really interesting work experience and learning opportunity and that the fit works for both. I think we do that in Creative Learning because we only take one and look after them properly.

What is the best part of your job? 
The ideas and the people.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
You’re going to be here for a while – enjoy it!

If you could swap brains with someone for a day, whose would you choose and why?
I don’t want to swap. I really couldn’t imagine how I would get back into my own mind after using another. There are minds I admire, but I don’t want to be inside them.

Can you describe your state of mind when you are programming EIF creative learning projects?
I think carefully about what is going in the festival and the programme and how to make that available to people who won’t know anything about them. I ask myself what would be of interest to the client group. How do I want them to be affected and what are the practical aspects. I don’t live in Nirvana when I’m programming, I simply search for a feeling as close as possible to a straight plumb line. I never know if the idea is good enough or will work until it is all done and dusted.

Anything That Gives Off Light

Anything That Gives Off Light

The Anything That Gives Off Light Installation at the Scottish Parliament ponds and Song Lines looked like a huge undertaking. What were the biggest challenges with those projects? 
Songlines was created too late due to programming problems and left me and the team on the back foot a lot of the time. But we got there – very stressed!  Same problem with Anything That Gives Off Light – but we got there too! They actually delivered what we wanted!
But I think we suffered throughout the year to make them happen. We are shifting our planning cycle now after many years of requesting a change, so it should be a better way of working. It’s good to see people really liking what we give them.

Many fringe productions have shorter runs, in a bid to save stress and cash. Is it really the best option?
I don’t know. Ask Fergus Linehan.

What do you for for the rest of he year, once the festival is over? 
Everything to make the projects work for August. All the hard work really takes place during the year making relationships, creating teams and deciding how to do things. August is just the shop window for us! We work hard throughout the year to line things up to make them look easy and accessible for everyone.

Anything that you’d like to add? 
Thank you for taking the time and asking me these questions.