The return of the Edinburgh International Festival heralds a bright future for Scottish arts and culture – Fran Hegyi
The support the event has received from the city has always been outstanding.
Since the very first held in 1947 – when locals opened their homes to visiting artists, cooked hundreds of meals and gave up their coal rations so Edinburgh Castle could light up the night sky – the International Festival of Edinburgh has always thrived on the support of the city. .
This year, despite some challenges, we have felt the benefits of this support more strongly than ever before.
We have launched a free program dedicated to those who have helped us welcome the world to Scotland’s capital over the past 75 years. The appetite for these free events was truly heartwarming, with the majority of the 35,000 free tickets sold out within hours.
Around 15,000 people joined us at BT Murrayfield to launch the Festival with Macro – an impressive performance featuring Australian contemporary circus company Gravity & Other Myths, First Nations dance company Djuki Mala, the National Youth Choir of Scotland and a traditional Scottish music group. the musicians.
Today, over 3,000 people will attend ‘Thank You, Edinburgh’ at the Edinburgh Playhouse. This free concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is given as a big thank you to the city.
The concert will also be shown live at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens today, so we hope to see more people head to the gardens to experience a world-class orchestra for free.
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One of the highlights of this year’s Festival was the concert by the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra.
In a gesture of solidarity with the victims of war in Ukraine – particularly poignant as Edinburgh is twinned with Kyiv – we have partnered with the Scottish Government to host the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra for a free historic concert at Usher Hall.
This special performance saw invitations extended to the Ukrainian community in Scotland and organizations leading resettlement efforts for Ukrainian refugees, as well as those supporting those affected by the conflict.
This year’s Festival also highlighted the lasting cultural legacy that migration and displacement have left in Edinburgh – inspired by Rudolph Bing who co-founded the Festival in 1947 and was a refugee himself.
Refuge, a season of theatre, dance, visual art, film and conversation, was created in collaboration with the Scottish Refugee Council and featured artists from countries including Palestine, Iran, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and Taiwan.
As well as the huge waves of support we have received from audiences in the city enjoying the Festival for the first time since 2019, this year’s Festival has also cemented the fact that creatively and artistically Edinburgh has a very beautiful coming.
The 2022 International Festival has been a remarkable edition for Scottish artists, including our national performing companies.
Highlights include: the world premiere of Scottish Ballet’s technological version of Coppélia; the National Theater of Scotland with Liz Lochhead’s Medea; and Alan Cumming with a new version of Scotland’s Bard in Burn; the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with a superb solo appearance by new Festival director Nicola Benedetti; and tomorrow night the Royal Scottish National Orchestra will close the Festival at Usher Hall with Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.
Leith Theater has once again become the center of Edinburgh’s music scene, bringing a selection of pioneering musicians to one of our city’s most creative areas. It was particularly exciting to see Falkirk indie rock duo Arab Strap make their International Festival debut as part of the lineup.
It was also a pleasure to work with some of Edinburgh’s brightest artists, including multi-award winning company Grid Iron.
Based in Leith itself, Grid Iron were commissioned to create a performance to mark the culmination of our four year residency with Leith Academy which would take place in the school itself. Muster Station: Leith took the audience on a highly immersive journey through the school, from the staff room to the gym and even the swimming pool.
Leith Academy students also contributed to the production, both creatively in the form of a beautiful quilt unveiled in the final scene and in the form of paid indoor positions, supported by our learning partner and commitment, Baillie Gifford Investment Managers.
The return of Edinburgh’s summer festivals after three years has raised questions for many. How would they be? Would the public and the artists return? Could the city sustain and host the scale of festivals again?
While some questions remain and the road to recovery is not without uncertainty, I believe the tremendous support we have received from the City of Edinburgh this year speaks volumes and the strong return of the Festival heralds a future radiant for Scottish arts and culture.
All that’s left for me to say is ‘Thank you, Edinburgh’ – we look forward to celebrating with you again in 2023.
Fran Hegyi is the Executive Director of the Edinburgh International Festival