Edinburgh International Festival Returns Live Performance To Scotland

Members of Shona the Musical Choir at Edinburgh International Festival

 Edinburgh International Festival launches tomorrow, pioneering the return of live performance to Scotland and marking the first live festival performances for almost two years. The world’s leading performing arts festival features a diverse programme of over 170 performances in Scotland’s capital city, spanning classical and contemporary music, theatre, opera, dance and spoken word. In a first for the International Festival, a digital programme delivers 18 free full-length performances to audiences around the world.  

Audience safety is central to the planning of the 2021 Festival, with measures including bespoke outdoor venues for increased ventilation at Edinburgh Academy Junior SchoolEdinburgh Park and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad; audience members seated in bubbles spaced two metres apart; and shorter performances with no intervals. The programme also includes carefully planned indoor performances at the Festival TheatreTraverse TheatreThe Lyceum Theatre and Dance Base.  

As part of the International Festival’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, the 2021 programme includes audio described, captioned and British Sign Language interpreted performances and free tickets to classical music concerts for 200 young people. Audiences under the age of 26 can enjoy £8 tickets on the day of selected performances; visit to find out which performances are included in this offer. 

Kicking off the festival on Saturday 7 August is the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dalia Stasevska featuring Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s PIVOT, a new work inspired by an old Edinburgh folk music venue. The same evening also sees the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s Medicine from the award-winning Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival, presented in association with The Traverse. Featuring Domhnall Gleeson alongside Clare Barrett, Sean Carpio and Aoife Duffin, Medicine examines social responses to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance.  

On Sunday 8 August Scottish Opera returns to the International Festival with its new production of Falstaff  by Glasgow-born director and designer Sir David McVicar. This new staging, adapted from the outdoor version, gets to the bones of Falstaff, balancing laugh-out-loud moments with a poignant tale of a childlike man who has outlived his own time.  

Other artists appearing at the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival include: Nicola BenedettiAlan CummingJoyce DiDonatoGolda SchultzRenée FlemingThomas QuasthoffIsata Kanneh-Mason, Anna MeredithThe SnutsDamon AlbarnLaura MvulaCaribouThundercatSaul Williams and conductors including Valery GergievMarin AlsopElim Chan and Sir Simon Rattle.  

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said:  

“Today is a hugely important moment for audiences, artists, and all Edinburgh’s summer festivals. Over the coming weeks an incredible selection of performers from across the UK and around the world prepare to take the stage in our cherished venues and our beautiful new outdoor pavilions. We are thrilled to, once again, bring the city to life.  
I want to express my gratitude to all those who have shown loyalty and commitment to the idea of the International Festival – that the arts are a universal force for good that enrich us personally, as members of our community and as global citizens.” 

For full details of the 2021 International Festival programme, visit

Edinburgh International Festival Lights Up the City and Reveals Digital Line-Up of Scottish Artists

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival, the world’s leading performing arts festival, today unveils My Light Shines On – a series of video works and light installations across Scotland’s capital to mark the beginning of the festival season and celebrate the enduring spirit of the Festival City.

Through a series of digital commissions, the Edinburgh International Festival is partnering with Scottish artists and national arts companies, spanning the worlds of theatre, music and dance, to film original performances in venues including the Edinburgh Festival TheatreThe King’s TheatreLeith TheatreThe HubUsher Hall and The Queen’s Hall. All films premiere on Edinburgh International Festival’s YouTube channel on Saturday 8 August at 9:30pm.

The films include a personal love letter to Scottish theatre from the National Theatre of Scotland, directed by award-winning filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach and co-conceived with National Theatre of Scotland Artistic Director Jackie Wylie and dramaturg Philip Howard, along with Scottish Opera’s modern-day interpretation of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone, starring Soraya Mafi and Jonathan McGovern, filmed in the bar of the King’s Theatre.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra features mezzo soprano Karen Cargill in a recorded performance led by Music Director Thomas  Søndergård in his International Festival debut. The Orchestra performs a rich programme in celebration of Mahler’s 160th birthday. A series of films from Scottish Ballet includes new work from emerging choreographer Nicholas Shoesmith, as well as a revival of acclaimed American choreographer Helen Pickett’s TraceThe Scottish Chamber Orchestra presents Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto with acclaimed pianist Paul Lewis in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

My Light Shines On also features an outdoor light installation in which Edinburgh’s festival venues, including the Usher HallEdinburgh Festival TheatreBristo Square and the Castle Esplanade, are illuminated by hundreds of beams of light, reaching up into the night sky. Each venue will also be lit from within by glowing lanterns, which shine and pulse behind closed doors, celebrating the people and artists who play a key role in the festival community. Scottish lighting designers Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes have been commissioned to design the project.

As the beacons of light are visible from across the city, Edinburgh residents are encouraged to view the spectacle from their windows or a high vantage point, staying within government distancing guidelines and without gathering in crowds.

On Saturday 8 August 9:30pm, a one-hour gala film hosted by journalist and TV presenter Kirsty Wark and cellist Su-a Lee previews the My Light Shines On activity. This specially commissioned production is premiered on BBC Scotland TV (TBC) and the International Festival’s YouTube channel to mark what would have been the opening of the 2020 festival.  The film features famous faces from festivals across the years, and collaborations with Edinburgh Festival FringeEdinburgh International Book Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, showcasing Edinburgh role’s as the Festival City.

Other artists featured in the International Festival’s digital offering include violist Laurence Power with the world premiere of a composition by Esa-Pekka  Salonen, West African supergroup Les Amazones D’AfriqueDeclan, a reimagined version of Traverse Theatre’s multi-award-winning Mouthpiece, contemporary folk music group Breabach, a collaboration of pioneering folk performers led by fiddler Aidan O’Rourke and Glasgow indie rock musician Honeyblood.

From 10–28 August the activity continues with a sound installation broadcasting classical music throughout Princes Street Gardens each lunchtime from Monday to Friday. Each 40-minute specially recorded performance will be audible throughout the gardens, allowing socially distanced audiences to enjoy the music whilst having a picnic or taking a walk. Artists will include Mark Padmore, Angela HewittDunedin Consort and the Hebrides Ensemble. Videos of the full concert series, recorded behind closed doors in The Hub, will be released on the Edinburgh International Festival YouTube channel. Highlights from the concert series will be broadcast on Classic FM in a special edition of The Classic FM Concert with John Suchet and streamed on the station’s Facebook page. Classic FM is the UK’s most popular classical music station and has the highest Facebook following in UK radio.

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus features in the International Festival’s summer activity with a brand-new recording of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. From their own homes, over 120 chorus members have  rehearsed and recorded their parts  for two movements  of Orff’s iconic masterpiece. The recordings and videos have been mixed together until the unmistakable grandeur of ‘O Fortuna’ and  hopeful energy of ‘Ecce  Gratum’ are recreated in all their richness. The two films premiere on Edinburgh International Festival’s YouTube channel on 8 August.

Highlights from the Festival’s archives are celebrated by a series of five Usher Hall concerts including Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa CeciliaBBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Verdi Requiem and Cleveland Orchestra with Franz Welser-Möst and Joela JonesThese will sit alongside 15 concerts from The Queen’s Hall between 10–28 August on BBC Radio 3 as part of BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine. The Queen’s Hall Series includes pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, mezzo soprano Sarah ConnollyTrio Zimmermann and Les Vents Français. Full details can be found on the Festival’s website.

Additionally, Edinburgh International Festival is holding Artists in the Age of Covid – a range of digital conversations for the global performing arts industry, hosted virtually between 8–15 August. This series, in partnership with The Edinburgh International Culture Summit, seeks to explore the challenges and opportunities for the performing arts in a post-COVID world. International creatives discuss subjects ranging from the power dynamics exposed by coronavirus, to the relationship between organisations and communities, to artists reimagining the future and collaborations between different artforms to create work suitable for present conditions. Participating speakers include Chief Executive of Eden Court James Mackenzie-Blackman, curator of Glasgow’s After the Pandemic Summer School Graham Hogg, Artistic Director of Melbourne Arts House Emily Sexton, poet and novelist Jenni Fagan and Chief Conductor of Antwerp Symphony Orchestra Elim Chan.

The International Festival is partnering with all Edinburgh’s August festivals to create Faces of Edinburgh Festivals, a collection of portraits and interviews that shine a light on the people who help to transform Edinburgh into the Festival City every summer. This rich pool of stories about the individuals who bring the festivals to life, from performers and technical staff to taxi drivers and business owners, will be on display on posters across the city and on the Festivals Edinburgh website.

The Festival’s Learning and Engagement work continues throughout the summer, including a new partnership with Hermitage Park Primary School to provide an outdoor stage for learning, play and creative exploration. This structure will help to the school to embed outdoor creative arts in the curriculum and deliver a solution to the social distancing challenges facing schools as they re-open.

Additional events appearing in association with the Festival’s summer activity include Night Walk for Edinburgh by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller which sold-out its premiere at last year’s International Festival and now can be safely experienced through its own mobile app, while Edinburgh Art Festival revives Peter  Liversidge’s  2013 Flags for Edinburgh, placing flags reading ‘HELLO’ at venues around the city, including at The Hub.

In The New RealThe Edinburgh Futures Institute commissions two digital installations – Mechanized Cacophony from Anna Ridler and Caroline Sinders and Zizi – A Virtual Show from Jake Elwes – that reflect on humanity’s journey into the new real and how we make sense of differing realities. The New Real launches online on 17 October 2020.

Edinburgh International Festival also platforms a work from Festivals for Compassion, in which festivals around Europe  come together in recognition of the severe difficulties they collectively face in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Double bassist Nikita Naumov performs a specially composed solo from Greek-Dutch pianist Calliope  Tsoupaki, available on the International Festival’s YouTube channel and the Festivals for Compassion website.

On 25 September, The Portal, a new podcast from Martin GreenWils Wilson and David Greigfollows the story of lovers Etteridge and Angela. This audio tale of love, music, drugs and deceit features an original score from Martin Green – fresh from winning an Ivor Novello Award for Aeons – with contributions from James Holden (WARP/Border Community) and BBC Folk Award-winner Brìghde ChaimbeulThe Portal will be available on all major podcast platforms including Apple, Spotify and Google.

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director at Edinburgh International Festival said:

“For most of us, the past few months have been a time spent at home. For some, a time spent with family and for many a time overcoming adversity. For artists, home can mean different things; there are the buildings where they live and the relatives and friends they love. But beyond these, there is another home and another family at the centre of their creative lives. This home is the concert platform, the proscenium arch and the rehearsal room. This family is their fellow actors, musicians or dancers as well as directors, choreographers, conductors, designers, technicians and stage managers. COVID-19 has not dimmed the creativity of our artists, but it has physically isolated them from each other. 

“For the first time since lockdown, orchestras, ballet companies, traditional musicians, theatre ensembles and designers have come together to perform in and light up the venues they love. This has been achieved with great care to ensure the safety of all involved. It represents a cautious but essential step towards the re-emergence of the performing arts in our country. 

“The programme of events that we announce today is not so much a curated season as a reunion – it is time for our artists to make theatre together, to play music together, to sing together, to dance together and to light up the skies together. 

“We are working hard to engage and employ artists and freelance workers in the festival ecosystem and to help companies take the first steps in performing together in venues. Through these projects, we are providing employment for over 500 Scottish artists, creatives and technical staff. 

“To all who have participated and all those who have supported them, thank you.”

Fiona Hyslop, Culture Secretary, said:

“The loss of Edinburgh’s festivals this August will be felt across the world. Every year since the Edinburgh International Festival’s inception in 1947 the city has heralded the best of international talent, alongside some of the finest performers that Scotland has to offer.  

“It’s wonderful to see that despite the difficulties the world is facing, the Edinburgh International Festival has harnessed that creative spirit to create a digital programme focusing on Scottish artists, once again bringing them to the global audience.   

“Whilst we can enjoy this special programme from our own homes wherever they may be, we can look forward to the day when the Festival is able to return to Edinburgh’s theatres, concert halls and performance venues.”  

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener, said:

“Since the very beginning our festivals have fought against all odds – acting as a beacon of hope to unite people from all over Europe after the Second World War. Over the last 73 years they have turned a small city like Edinburgh into the world’s biggest stage and, while we have to do things very differently this year, they will continue to light up our City and our screens.     

“The festival organisers have very creatively designed a programme which will bring audiences from across the world together to enjoy a one-of-a-kind celebration of culture, proving that Edinburgh’s festival spirit shines on. Of course, it will be tempting to watch displays live and in person, so we’ll be encouraging everyone to stay indoors or at a safe distance. This August, the best festival views are to be found at home.” 

Ian Munro, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland, said:

“In these challenging times for culture in Scotland and around the world, it’s fantastic to see Edinburgh International Festival keeping the world’s leading Festival City alive through these innovative events. 

“This digital celebration will enable a global audience to connect with many of Scotland’s finest artists and celebrate the spirit of the Edinburgh International Festival, wherever they are. 

“Creative Scotland is proud to support this celebration which will bring a moment of light and joy in these turbulent times.” 

Edinburgh International Festival is encouraging those who are able to donate to the Theatre Artists Fund and Help Musicians UK, two hardship funds that support individuals across the performing arts in the UK who have been financially affected by the impact of COVID-19.

Visit for further information about My Light Shines On and Edinburgh International Festival’s summer activity.


Edinburgh Fringe cancelled: How will we cope?

Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been cancelled due to concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was never a case of if but when.
The world’s biggest arts festival, and the Edinburgh International Festival, will not take place for the first time in 70 years.

In fact, all five of Edinburgh’s August festivals were due to welcome more than 4.4 million people and 25,000 artists.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Fringe society, said the decision was not one that was taken lightly. McCarthy held out hope, though, that they would find ways of “uniting people” under a fringe umbrella.

“It’s too early to say what this will look like, but we are confident that as a collective we can find a way to reach through the walls that currently surround us and inspire, cheer and connect.”

Mark Monahan writes brilliantly in the Telegraph on the inevitability of the 2020 Fringe cancellation: “It was, above all the sheer scale of the Edinburgh Fringe that made it so unlikely to survive lockdown… This means that the amount of forward-planning required is simply colossal, and essentially takes all year. Shows must be written, rehearsed and produced. PRs hired, schedules created, venues assigned (built, even), brochures compiled and printed (in their tens of thousands).”

The effects of coronavirus on the cultural sector has been devastating, with more casualties, closures and job losses to come.

Never before has the theatre landscape shifted so dramatically. Theatres, arts centres and concert halls have all closed their doors indefinitely.

If we are honest, this pause does allow us all to get off the roller coaster and think differently about how the Fringe should and could operate. Sky high accommodation, absurd venue hires, so-called PRs, questionable producers. It was also reaching fever pitch and coming in for regular criticism from audiences and critics alike.

Artists have been saying that the event was becoming increasingly unsustainable and increasingly elitist unless there was a fundamental change to the business model.

Indeed, McCarthy herself said that complacency over the event’s success was the biggest threat to its future.

Kasia Kaminska

Kasia Kaminska

After years of rising costs, hyper-demand and expansion, a new, more cautious fringe landscape could emerge.

Longer term, the big venues won’t be rubbing their hands, tickets will not be sold. Edinburgh Fringe has never been a level playing field and in an era when money for producing and promoting shows is tight, hit shows productions are increasingly programmed by many venues.

Is talk of resilience optimistic?

In this regard, fragile economies like the Fringe and the tireless theatre-makers that prop it up could take years to recover, with anxieties about Covid-19’s legacy and the combined blow of Brexit could prove tricky to rebound before the landscape returns to pre-pandemic health, though.

But as we have learnt in just a few short and cruel weeks, the devastation of this global health crisis on the world, let alone the wider theatre ecology, from Broadway, to the West End have been very difficult to predict and the effects will be no easier to foresee when we eventually do emerge from it.

So where does this leave the Fringe?

The knock-on effects of this will probably last two years, and I believe that this particular period of despair and pent up lockdown demand will prove a healthy trial with a surge of bold, dazzling new work to follow.


Edinburgh Festivals Diary – Day 3

To Assembly Hall for a very special EIF performance. Ian McKellen is celebrating his 80th birthday by performing extracts across his career, from Gandalf to Shakespeare and a brilliant revival of his panto dame Widow Twankey. 

The actor has already performed at 80 venues, raising £2 million for theatre charities by the time the current run ends in Orkney.

All profits from the tour will be used to support regional theatres and local drama provision. In Edinburgh, proceeds will support a bursary for an Edinburgh resident to study performance, as well as contributing to the refurbishment of the Drama Studio at Leith Academy, as part of the International Festival’s residency partnership with the school.

The show is a ebullient love letter to theatre and it is fifty years since McKellen last trod the boards at this somewhat intimate setting. 

If that wasn’t enough, next month he starts an 80-date west end run at the Harold Pinter theatre, raising funds for theatre charities. It was an unforgettable afternoon of recital, high jinks and reflection. 

Sir Ian McKellen shaking his bucket

Sir Ian McKellen shaking his bucket

As well as donating ticket sales, McKellen collects funds in a bucket after every performance  and wherever he goes, donates the takings to a cause specified by the organisation. 

I spot him on the stairs with collection bucket and hand over my loose change.

‘Carl! You get everywhere…’ said the octogenarian. 

‘Like dry rot?’ I suggested, smiling.  

‘Well, yes,’ he laughed, ‘but don’t worry, I still like you. Now give me your bloody money!’ 

Later, I head to Summerhall for Moot Moot.

You sometimes wonder what the second house Friday night at Glasgow Empire would have made of today’s Fringe acts and in Moot Moot’s case the answer is probably ‘torn to shreds’.

Moot Moot 

Moot Moot

It’s not entirely deserved, because their presentation is stylish and their creation of the world’s dullest radio chat show hosts ‘Barry and Barry’ are useful idiots, but their point about the futility of the format for meaningful discussion is made in the first five minutes and doesn’t survive even an Edinburgh hour.

After lunch I head to the Lyceum for Hard To Be Soft. Cast across fifty minutes and four episodes, the piece looks behind the masks of violence and masculinity to the inner lives of Belfast people.  

Hard To Be Soft, Lyceum Theatre

Hard To Be Soft, Lyceum Theatre

Belfast street life and religious ritual collide with liturgical dance and verbatim performance. Choreographer Oona Doherty exudes a powerful authority in this EIF-show that ranges from solo interludes, to electric all-female hip hop crew to solo rooted in pitiless vastness. Quite something. 

Taking time out from a relentless schedule is crucial. As is hydrating. I use the early evening to unwind, before heading back to Summerhall. 

Gavin Jon Wright and Daniel Portman star in Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair's Square Go

Gavin Jon Wright and Daniel Portman star in Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s Square Go

Square Go, one of a number of shows this year exploring toxic masculinity, revels in a charged, fun and occasionally demented adolescent energy as the Roundabout becomes a wrestling ring. Gary McNair and Kieran Hurley’s two-hander returns and it really is a highly entertaining and brilliant hour of Scottish banter.

My WhatsApp pings – a message from Park Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director Jez Bond. 

‘Right so tonight I will be at Abbatoir after my last show – about 11pm. Wanna join?’ 

‘Absolutely. See you later – don’t get too excited.’ I replied. 

So, I walked to the Underbelly’s members bar at George Square – you need a shiny black card to slip in after dark – to be greeted warmly by Jez and his colleague Mark Cameron. The place is a kind of Soho House style for performers and industry folk in Bistro Square

I have a large glass of white wine and stand outside on the terrace – on my best behaviour, of course. My eyeballs usually freeze spending time in these kinds of places. But it was good to meet and chat with the cast and crew of fringe hit Four Woke Baes and see Jez. 

Anyway, I’d rather scratch my eyes out than see a show at 11.55pm. But Richard Gadd’s intense 65-minute Baby Reindeer, also at Summerhall, was a hot ticket. This was one of thing several additional late night performance added due to demand. Jon Britain’s production is angry, revelatory and visceral. 

Baby Reindeer. Photograph: Andrew Perry

Baby Reindeer. Photograph: Andrew Perry

It tells Gadd’s shocking experience of being stalked by a woman he met while working in a bar in London. Gadd delivers blistering insights into the horrifying failures of the police system. 

(The police said they were unable to help.)

A transfer to Bush Theatre was announced in the wee hours of Friday morning – lucky London. 

Ian McKellen On Stage runs from 20 September to 5 January 2020.

Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer is at the Southbank Centre on 11 October. 

Baby Reindeer runs at London’s Bush Theatre, from 9 October to 9 November.

Edinburgh International Festival Opens Friday 2 August

Principals dancers from Scottish Ballet prepare for the world premiere of The Crucible at the opening weekend of the 2019 Edinburgh International Festival.

The Edinburgh International Festival launches this week for its 73rd edition, bringing the best of theatre, music and dance from across the world to Scotland’s capital. The Festival will once again be a meeting place for the world’s creatives as 2,800 artists arrivefrom 41 countries including Australia, Nigeria, Canada, Belgium, China, Mali, Holland, South Africa, France, Germany and India as well as 800 artists from Scotland. The International Festival programme features 155 events, with 293 performances, attracting audiences from 80 countries to see the world’s greatest performing arts festival.
The International Festival launches with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event – a special free concert for 15,000 people at Tynecastle Park from the renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic led by legendary conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Other highlights include Peter Gynt, a raucous new work starring Scotland’s rising star James McArdle co-produced with the National Theatre of Great Britain; and Sydney Theatre Company’s first visit to Edinburgh with the multi award-winning staging of Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River, which takes an unflinching look at Australia’s dark history.

Two of Berlin’s opera houses return to Edinburgh: Komische Oper Berlin with Tchaikovsky’s best-loved opera Eugene Onegin, created by the company’s Director Barrie Kosky, and Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles leads the orchestra and chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin in a concert version of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Leonard Bernstein’s revelatory West Side Story brings together a young and diverse cast of singers from the USA and Scotland including members of the National Youth Choir of Scotland and a hand-picked selection of American students from music schools in Chicago, Baltimore and New York.

In a work of unimaginable scale and artistry, Sir Andrew Davis and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra reunite with a sensational international cast of soloists to conclude the festival’s four-year Ring cycle with Götterdämmerung. Beyond this the great talents of the classical music world take to the stage at the International Festival including Yuja WangSheku Kanneh-MasonJoyce DiDonatoAngela Hewitt,Jeremy DenkLawrence BrownleeAlisa Weilerstein and Colin Currie.

The International Festival also returns to Leith Theatre with some of today’s most original voices in contemporary music including Jarvis Cocker,Anna CalviNeneh Cherry, Sharon Van Etten and Teenage Fanclub.

Dance fans will be delighted as Scottish Ballet celebrates its 50th anniversary with a world premiere of The Crucible based on a play by Arthur Miller, and with a new version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring by Chinese choreographer Yang Liping and design by Oscar-winning artist Tim Yip(Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

In a brand-new programme of more than 80 events, You Are Here offers fresh thinking on class, gender, human rights, racism and climate crisis, questioning the status quo and offering suggestions for future paths. Works by spoken word artist Kate Tempest, choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly, author Jackie Kay as well as new writing from the Royal Court Theatre make up the exceptional programme.

Also lighting up stages across the city, 1927 presents Roots in their unique blend of visual theatre, animation and live music; Sir Ian McKellen recalls seminal moments from his career, marking 50 years since his landmark performances at the 1969 International Festival; and Stephen Fry performs Mythos: A Trilogy (Gods, Heroes, Men), three gripping performances based on his best-selling book that bring to life the classic stories of ancient Greece. All of Scotland’s national companies contribute to 2019’s programme including the National Theatre of Scotland with Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road and the European premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves by Scottish Opera, based on the Lars von Trier film of the same name.

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said: 
The eve of Edinburgh’s festival season is very special time. The world’s great orchestras rehearse in school halls and churches, tents pop up in every square, the Tattoo rehearsals blast out into the night sky and flats and hotel rooms fill up with performers who are both at the very top of their career and those who are taking their tentative first steps.

“The artists are the real heroes of our festivals.  So to the pipers, the dancers, the actors, the poets, the playwrights, the novelists, the painters, the sculptors, the directors, the choreographers, the acrobats, the comedians, the designers, the conductors, the singers and the players – thank you for making Edinburgh the only place I ever want to be in August.

Last tickets for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: LA Phil at Tynecastle released tomorrow!

Jessica Cunningham and Annie Clark (both 9 years old) of Craiglockhart Primary School hold their Walk of Fame stars alongside Gary Locke, former Hearts football team captain. Credit Ryan Buchanan, Festival Photographer
  • Final tickets to Edinburgh International Festival’s opening event available from 10am on Friday, 26 July;
  • This family-friendly event will see the legendary Gustavo Dudamel conducting the world-class LA Phil at Tynecastle Stadium, performing Hollywood’s biggest film scores, including Harry Potter series, Star Wars and Casablanca;
  • Edinburgh International Festival’s ambitious community engagement programme includes Gorgie’s very own Walk of Fame celebrating local children’s talents.
  • Edinburgh International Festival is delighted to continue the sponsorship partnership with Aberdeen Standard Investments and to have the ongoing support of EventScotland.

On Friday, 26 July Edinburgh International Festival releases its final wave of tickets for the completely free 15,000 capacity Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: LA Phil at Tynecastle. The tickets are available from 10am at

The Opening Event sees the LA Phil, one of the world’s leading orchestras conducted by the legendary Gustavo Dudamel, perform some of the best-loved film music in front of a vast crowd at the iconic Tynecastle Stadium, home to Hearts football team.

Due to an earlier start time, informal environment, world-famous and widely accessible musical programme, and significant capacity, the concert is expected to attract a mix of families, music lovers, and first-time classical music audiences.

To accompany this world-class event, the Festival’s Learning and Engagement team has devised an ambitious community engagement programme. It saw the team working with local community groups and primary schools to help break down the barriers to attend the concert and engage with the event.

Through one project in Gorgie and Dalry, local primary school pupils had the opportunity to design their own stars in the style of those in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, each celebrating the individual children’s talents. These will be unveiled in Tynecastle Stadium’s concourse on 2 August. Gustavo Dudamel himself has a Walk of Fame star which was unveiled in January 2019 in the presence of composer John Williams.

The photo marks the final release of tickets for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event at Tynecastle Stadium, home of the Hearts football team. Jessica Cunningham and Annie Clark (both 9 years old) of Craiglockhart Primary School are joined by Gary Locke, a former star of Hearts football team who, as the club captain, won the 1997-1998 Scottish Cup. Gary is also the Heart of Midlothian FC Club Ambassador.


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

Sally Hobson

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.