Edinburgh festivals will go ahead, onsite and online

Published Thu, Apr 15, 2021 · 05:50 AM


THE Edinburgh International Festival, a showcase of international dance, music and theatre, will go ahead in front of audiences this August, the festival's organisers said on Tuesday.

The festival, which normally floods the Scottish capital with tourists, was cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But events will be staged from Aug 7-29 in three pavilions across Edinburgh, Fergus Linehan, the festival's director, said in a telephone interview.

The pavilions will be specially built to maximise air flow and allow social distancing, he added.

The festival's programme will be released in June, Mr Linehan said. The organisers are still waiting for a decision from the Scottish government about how many people will be allowed to attend. But the ongoing pandemic and the limits it has placed on international travel mean it will have a different flavour from normal.

"In terms of the people onstage, we're not going to be flying in a big dance company from the US or an opera company from Paris," Mr Linehan said. "But there are individual artists coming." The festival, which began in 1947 with the aim of uniting people through culture after World War II, is known for large-scale performances, especially of big classical and operatic works. The 2019 festival, for instance, featured the Orchestre de Paris performing epic pieces by Beethoven and Berlioz, as well as several presentations by the Komische Oper Berlin. That will also change this year.

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"We can't have that many musicians onstage, and we can't have those big choral bits," Mr Linehan said, but he insisted that smaller works would be just as exciting and innovative.

Free streaming for international audiences

Many performances will be streamed for free for international audiences, he added.

A spokeswoman for the scrappy Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which normally features thousands of small theatre and comedy shows, said in an email that organisers were working toward an event from Aug 6-30. It was still unclear if the Fringe would be "digital, in person, or both", she added.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival will also proceed on Aug 14 with in-person events "if circumstances permit", a spokeswoman said in a telephone interview.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a popular series of parades involving bagpipe performances by armed forces from around the world, is also set to go on. It started selling tickets in October but has not provided any updates since. On Tuesday, organisers did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Linehan said he hoped the International Festival's announcement would give confidence to other events to press ahead with plans. His festival will not make any money, he said, but that doesn't matter.

"This is a really momentous moment for us," Mr Linehan said, adding: "It's really important we get back to live performance." NYTIMES


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