BIG ISSUE NATIONAL VENDOR WEEK
LEARN MORE
Art

Edinburgh International Festival set to bring light at the end of the tunnel

August is traditionally the time when Edinburgh becomes the cultural capital of the world. Roy Luxford, programme director of the Edinburgh International Festival, explains how you run one of the biggest arts events in the time of Covid

Summer is here, the schools are on holiday and Covid restrictions are easing, and although the date for the removal of all government restrictions in Scotland is still planned for August 9, many are still managing the challenges of Covid-19

At the Edinburgh International Festival we are preparing to mark a return to live performance on August 7, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra performs at Edinburgh Academy Junior School – but the road to this point hasn’t been straightforward. 

When we said farewell to our artists, audiences and festival staff at the end of the 2019 Festival, we had no idea that it would be two years before we would be able to present a programme of live performance again. It was a year of uncertainty for everyone in the organisation, the arts and the country as a whole. 

However, just as the International Festival was born out of a period of adversity in 1947 with the understanding that arts and culture can inspire and create connection during times of division, we again saw an opportunity to support artists, the arts industry and the city of Edinburgh on the path back to live performance.

Managing the risks has been at the centre of festival planning over the past year. We made the choice to primarily programme UK-based artists, our global celebration coming in the form of invitations to a small number of international conductors, soloists and principals as well as through our free At Home digital programme in partnership with abrdn, which is available globally on our website. 

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

Safety of the audience and artists was also of primary concern – particularly as we took a pioneering position of returning live performance to Scotland. To do this we settled on outdoor structures, placed in three geographically diverse areas of the city: Edinburgh University’s central Old College Quad, Edinburgh Academy in the New Town and Edinburgh Park in South Gyle.

Within these venues we have seating bubbles, from one to four seats, that are set metres apart, offering visitors an opportunity to attend an entire performance while remaining outside and at a distance from other audience members. We’ve dipped our toe into putting audiences into indoor venues as well, beginning with ludicrously small capacities for theatre performance such as the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s new play Medicine or Scottish Opera’s performance of Falstaff.  

Those who have managed to get tickets for these events are in for a treat, but it is also an important step in bringing live performance back to these fantastic stages. 

Normally we share the stage in August with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh

Tattoo (both early offshoots of the Edinburgh International Festival), Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Edinburgh International Art Festival. This year looks to be very different. The Tattoo won’t be able to take place and the rest of us will all be working with reduced programmes.

Despite this, I feel incredibly excited about the performances planned this August and look forward to artists, audiences and residents all enjoying the light as we emerge from the end of this tunnel.

Roy Luxford is programme director for Edinburgh International Festival

National Vendor Week 2024

A celebration of people who are working their way out of poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Women of Ukraine displaced by war rebuild their lives in striking new portrait exhibition
Ukraine photo exhibition
Photography

Women of Ukraine displaced by war rebuild their lives in striking new portrait exhibition

Meet the proud blind man who overcame homelessness to live his dream as a renowned artist
Clarke Reynolds blind braille artist
Art

Meet the proud blind man who overcame homelessness to live his dream as a renowned artist

Celebrating the career of Yoko Ono – a resilient artist who's so much more than John Lennon's wife
Yoko Ono retrospctive
Art

Celebrating the career of Yoko Ono – a resilient artist who's so much more than John Lennon's wife

Stunning portrait of Big Issue vendor 'shows the power of art' to tackle homelessness
Shane Record's painting of Big Issue vendor Raheem Ahmed
Art

Stunning portrait of Big Issue vendor 'shows the power of art' to tackle homelessness

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know