Love them or hate them, Edinburgh’s festivals have a huge impact on our city. Whether you are refreshing your browser to get the best seats for the Wagner concert, grumbling about over-priced pints and nightly fireworks, or just frustrated that you can’t walk anywhere in town without being given a flyer, it is unmissable.
In turn, the University of Edinburgh is intimately connected with the festivals. The University acts as host, participant, landlord and backdrop for the thousands of visitors and locals. Indeed, the history and success of the Edinburgh festivals would not be the same without the support of the University.
So what happens to the University’s role when a global pandemic shuts down the world’s leading festival city? The University’s Festivals, Culture and City Events team continue to lead the discussion – by hosting the Edinburgh Culture Conversations.
The 10-week series of events, chaired by Janet Archer our Director of Festival, Cultural and City Events, are designed to stimulate debate on how the arts and creative sectors can help society recover for the effects of Covid-19. Each event poses a different question, with a new panel designed to get artists, academics, cultural leaders and the public talking.
The aim of the series is to explore the value of culture and creativity, not only to the arts and artists, but to society and the wider economy. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic where the sector itself is under tremendous pressure, and the city prepares for an August without the largest arts festival in the world, these questions come at a crucial time.
The first three events have already seen guests as diverse as Fergus Linehan, Jess Brough Hanna Tuulikki, and Chitra Ramaswamy discuss internationalism and interculturalism, planning for the future and responding to the pandemic. Upcoming events include Robert Softley Gale, Artistic Director and CEO Birds of Paradise, Cliff Hague, Chair of the Cockburn Association, Dr Bridget McConnell, Chief Executive Glasgow Life, Leonie Bell, Lead Future Paisley/Director Designate of V&A Dundee and David Greig, Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre.
You can find out who else is speaking, and on what topics – each of the events begin at 6.00pm on a Monday. You can also reserve a free place for the online event, and watch back the old events.
Watch Event 1: How can we keep the festival spirit of internationalism and interculturalism alive? Jess Brough, founder of Fringe of Colour; Fergus Linehan, Director of the EIF; Chitra Ramaswamy, award-winning author and journalist; James Smith, VP International, University of Edinburgh; Kenneth Tharp, Director of The Africa Centre; Farooq Chaudhry, co-founder and producer of Akram Khan Company.