August 2020: Ten moments from Week Two
1. Strange Times
The 2020 Book Festival has arrived at a time when the need to share and revel in stories has never been greater, and the mechanism for sharing has never been more complex. But there’s nobody more equal to the challenge of enabling us to understand, survive, navigate and thrive in these strange times than artists. Our writers write and rewrite our world for us — illuminating, dissecting and unlocking — as we make our way in the dark. So what do they make of where we are, of what it means, and where we can go? On the opening night of this year's online festival an eclectic line-up of our finest wordsmiths — Bumi Thomas, Sharmaine Lovegrove, Roger Robinson, Karine Polwart, Helen Macdonald, Adania Shibli — turned their pens to the present moment, in a night of stories, song, reflections and confessions to pay tribute to these Strange Times.
If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise. Or in this case, the Gardens – Princes Street Gardens. Starting this week leading soloists and chamber ensembles have been giving specially recorded performances from The Hub, as part of EIF’s Soundscapes, with those exquisite sounds relayed to speakers scattered across the Gardens, livening up lunchtime for listeners. One highlight of the week was leading pianist Steven Osborne’s performance of Schubert (Impromptu No.1 in F major D.935), Rachmaninov (Nunc Dimittis from All-Night Vigil Op.37 transcribed for piano) and Beethoven (Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor Op.111) – with train horns from nearby Waverley Station acting as an unexpected brass section.
Take a walk past Meadowbank or down Calton Road, and you’ll come across a work of art speaking to one of the great issues of our day – climate change. Artist and activist Ellie Harrison – who launched her book The Glasgow Effect at the 2019 Edinburgh Internationla Book Festival - presents her graph showing the Tonnes of carbon produced by the personal transportation of a ‘professional artist’ at two city centre poster sites as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. Created through the meticulous analysis of the 3,988 journeys she has made over the last 17 years, Harrison makes connections between literal and social mobility and highlights the consequences of our travel choices for our climate, which have come into focus in all our lives during lockdown.
4. Ghost Light
As a part of the EIF online programme, the National Theatre of Scotland has created Ghost Light, a filmatic journey that audiences can enjoy from their own homes - evoking moments from Scottish theatrical performances past, present and future with works from writers including J.M. Barrie, David Greig, Rona Munro and Jackie Kay, and original composition by Patricia Panther. As we follow the single ghost light on the empty stage of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, it reveals plays and performances that remain alive in the memories of the audiences who loved them, as well as new works reminding us of theatre that will soon return to stages. As Thom Dibdin said in The Stage: ‘This is something of a triumph, eschewing nostalgia to celebrate successes and hinting at the ones to come.’ [image credit: Peter Dibdin]
5. That Friday Feeling
This Friday saw nine acts - including Jaye Adams, Reuben Kaye, Craig Hill, and Abandoman - take part in the AJ Bell Fringe on Friday, a digital variety show which will happen every Friday at 9pm during August. This new digital event will showcase the festival across a range of genres, including comedy, cabaret, theatre and music. Fringe fans can buy tickets through individual artist and venue fundraising pages, with 100% of the proceeds going to the artist or venue in question. They can also buy tickets from the Fringe Society, with all money raised going towards a central artist and venue recovery fund, which has already been boosted thanks to the support of AJ Bell. So that’s your Friday sorted.
Every year the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo usually graces the Castle Esplanade and the screens of the BBC. This year is obviously different but the BBC decided this week to fill the gap in their schedules by screening past editions of the Tattoo. Starting with last year’s celebration of the kaleidoscope featuring colourful talent from around the world, the programme also went behind the castle ramparts to meet some of the cast and characters. Amongst the highlights were the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra, the Lyon-based Musique de l'Artillerie plus displays of the best of British military music. Wonderful music, heritage and spectacle were all packed into this highlights programme. Haste ye back in 2021.
7. Metaphorocal Hugs
Following her 2019 Art Late performance at Dovecot Studios, Tamara MacArthur has created a new online performance for this year's Edinburgh Art Festival investigating our desire for closeness and contemporary methods devised to simulate human contact in a time of social distancing. For It’s All Over But the Dreaming, the artist performed from an elaborate set built in her studio, holding close a hand-made life-size doll, to explore themes of loneliness, yearning and futility in relation to the isolation we have experienced since Coronavirus. As the interplay of a brief 1-2-1 interaction makes clear, the doll is more flesh and blood than you might think in what is essentially a metaphorical hug of the sort thats been all but lost over the last few months.
8. Platinum Edition
The Tattoo stands on the Castle Esplanade are a summer feature of Edinburgh’s streetscape and though they may be missing this year, the Tattoo does have a presence in the city – in the real world, not the virtual world. On Princes Street, just next to the Scottish National Gallery, is a special showcase highlighting a vast collection of rare photographs which have been taken in the last seven decades. Originally planned as part of the celebrations to mark the Tattoo’s platinum anniversary, the free outdoor photography exhibition has gone ahead in Edinburgh city centre and showcases the gentle evolution of the show and some of their most memorable moments.
9. Fringe Central
This week Staging Change, The Greenhouse by Boxedin Theatre, Somewhere and The Sick of the Fringe came together to discuss all things #FutureFringe as part of the first Fringe Central virtual hub. Designed to capture the welcoming, collaborative atmosphere of the physical Fringe Central run by the Fringe Society, the virtual hub allow artists to come together to connect and collaborate with each other, or simply drop by and talk to a member of the Fringe Society team in real time. And in partnership with industry experts, a series of over 30 digital events explore pertinent topics such as digital skills development and touring post-pandemic, and wider industry themes such as the under-representation of creators of colour and how to make performances more accessible. The events and resources are open and completely free to all artists.
10. Ground Breaking Voices
Book Festival The first ever online Edinburgh International Book Festival opened this week and, as part of its Ground-breaking Voices in Literature series, welcomed Hilary Mantel, More than a decade in the making, Hilary Mantel’s masterpiece is now complete with the publication of the final part of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and The Light. But Mantel’s novels are about so much more than one fascinating, complicated man and in this event Guardian chief culture writer Charlotte Higgins also talked to the double Booker Prize winner about her subtle depictions of women including Anne Boleyn, and about the vivid, nuanced and compelling re-creation of a 16th century world from a 21st century perspective. Also appearing during August as part of the Ground Breaking Voices theme are Maggie O'Farrell, Jenny Offill, Linn Ullmann, Colm McCann, Philippe Sands, Yoko Ogawa, Maryse Condé, Adania Shibli’s, Sebastian Barry and Yiyun Li and Ali Smith.