21 Photos from '21

2021 Montage

Following the widespread cancellations of 2020 and the move towards online programmes, the year 2021 finally saw the return of live festival events across the city. In responding to challenging and changing circumstances, our festivals showed themselves to be agile but also fragile - cultural flowers which, with careful support, bloom in to extraordinary experiences. And here we take a look across 2021 in 21 images.

Childrens - Unicorn1. Following months of planning the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival was the first of our festivals to return in May. To complement their online offer, the Festival programme included Family Encounters, a series of free pop-up artistic encounters, walkabout characters and sound trails happening in outdoor spaces across Edinburgh, including the Botanic Gardens [Photo credit: Ruth Armstrong: "The Unicorn" by Nudge Puppets).

Jazz - Filming2. Like all our festivals in 2021, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in July presented a mix of online and in-person events, with small socially-distanced audiences welcomed to Assembly Roxy over the ten days of the festival. A feature of such concerts – and at many events in our other festivals – was the presence of all the latest technology to allow us to stream and record shows for online broadcast.  

Film - Forth3. Organised by the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Film Fest on the Forth screenings were staged in an outdoor area accommodating up to 260 socially distanced film fans at Port Edgar Marina, located at South Queensferry on the banks of the Firth of Forth overlooking the three iconic bridges. And when showing the above pictured film, one audience member was heard to shout: ‘we’re going to need a bigger screen.

Science - STEM Murals4. A number of large scale murals were painted on buildings and boards across the city, as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival. The giant art trail featured nine portraits of women whose knowledge and passion have greatly contributed to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) – and was a visual representation of the festival’s focus on women in STEM this year, where over 60% of the guest speakers were female. [photo shows artist Shona Hardie putting finishing touches to a portrait of Natalie Duffield]

EIF - opening5. The BBC Symphony Orchestra launched the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival’s orchestral series. Taking place in one of the Festival’s specially created outdoor pavilions, and with an audience attending their first live classical concert in 16 months, ‘the occasional distant calls of gulls and oystercatchers – hardly disturbances – only served to make the experience even more extraordinary’ according to the Scotsman.

Fringe - Multistory26. Fringe venues Gilded Balloon, ZOO, Traverse and Dance Base collaborated to create MultiStory, a brand-new festival hub based at the NCP Castle Terrace Car Park. The programme boasted both Fringe mainstays [Sunshine On Leith from Captivate Theatre], Fringe debuts including legendary Edinburgh drag queen Alice Rabbit, and shows from the Traverse Theatre including Aye, Elvis by Morna Young.

Book - new site7. The Edinburgh International Book Festival started its new life at the Edinburgh College of Art in August, with a thought provoking in-person and online event ‘Culture in a Time of Crisis’. Across poetry, song, stories and polemics, the evening was an introduction to the 2021 Book Festival and a defiant, unapologetic, jubilant celebration of the fact that in times of crisis we need culture more than ever.

Childrens - Buff and Shine8. During the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, Buff and Sheen - a comical roaming dance performance about two imaginative window cleaners – toured Edinburgh in a series of private shows for children with ASN [additional special needs] living across the city, with children interacting with the performers through a closed window, joining in with dance moves and laughing at the general shenanigans.

Science - In Memoriam9. Luke Jerram’s In Memoriam was presented as part of this year’s Edinburgh Science Festival at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The installation was a temporary memorial for the public to visit and remember all those we have lost from the COVID-19 pandemic. In Memoriam was also made in tribute to all the NHS health and care workers who have been risking their lives during the crisis. [Photo Credit: Duncan McGlynn]

Fringe - Sweet FA10. Continuing a long tradition of stagingshows in unusual locations, Tynecastle Stadium, home of Hearts FC, was the setting for Fringe show Sweet F.A. dramatising the little known truth about what happened to the women's game during and after the First World War – with a stage projecting from the main stand on to the edge of the pitch. 

Art - St Giles11. obuyile was a new composition for four cellists, created as an intervention in the urban landscape by Thulani Rachia – invited by the Edinburgh Art Festival as part of curator Tako Taal’s six new commissions for public and digital spaces. Spanning a week, fragments of the composition were heard over six days combining to create a full score on the seventh day in the city’s St Giles Cathedral.

Film - The Road Dance12. The Audience Award for best film at the 2021 Edinburgh International Film Festival went to The Road Dance - whose cast joined us for the world premiere in Filmhouse, home of the Festival. Inspired by a true story, the film offers a believable window on the rhythms of Hebridean life at the turn of the twentieth century as it tells the story of a young woman coming of age in a small island community.

Jazz - Mark Hendry13. During the year Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival commissioned one of Scotland’s rising stars Mark Hendry to write a new work – Symbiosis - about the threats to our environment focusing on the human connection to the natural world. Using a mixture of filmed footage, abstract animation, archive footage, and CGI, the music was accompanied by stunning projections of the natural world and premiered at the festival in July.

EIF - Field14. Directed by Christine Devaney and featuring an ensemble of Edinburgh-based performers, Field was a durational outdoor dance-happening conceived in a physically distanced world for the Edinburgh International Festival. With the majestic Arthur’s Seat as a backdrop, performers responded to the surrounding landscape and each other by following a series of movement and live sound scores.

Storytelling - Studio15. The premier of the film Spàrr – Rivet took place in October as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, which commissioned the work as part of their Imagine programme. Several excellent artists came together to create an extended story based on several traditions from the Isle of Lewis and the oral history of Govan, with illustration, storytelling and music. [Photo Credit: Mike Vass]

Book-  Sturgeon Stuart16. Douglas Stuart’s life was turned upside down when his debut novel Shuggie Bain and in August the Edinburgh International Book Festival welcomed him home for his first live, in-person discussion about the book that has won a million readers’ hearts – interviewed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who continued her annual tradition of interviewing a leading writer at the Book Festival.

Fringe - Phoebe WB17. The multi award-winning actress, writer and producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge was in Edinburgh during the summer in her new role as President of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. Famous for her stage and television show Fleabag – which began as a one woman show at the Fringe in 2013 - Phoebe came to town to help with the recovery of the Fringe, meet the Fringe Society team and take in a number of shows.

Art - Isaac Julien18. This European premiere of Isaac Julien’s exhibition Lessons of the Hour – a 10-screen filmic environment at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art - was one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Art Festival and focused on the life of the emancipated slave Frederick Douglass, said to be the most photographed American of the 19th century, who first travelled to Scotland in 1846 as part of his campaign for the abolition of slavery.

Storytelling - Statues19. The Scottish International Storytelling Festival’s latest project Talking Statues saw a Scotland wide call to action, asking the public to research and to imagine who should be on a plinth 'as it’s time to tell their story'. These stories were shared as part of a special event led by storyteller Mara Menzies, with an online discussion on social media taking place using the hashtag #TalkingStatues. 

Science - Giant Tentacles20. As part of the Year of Coasts and Waters, the Edinburgh Science Festival encouraged people to delve deep into our seas and oceans in a multi-sensory exploration at the National Museum of Scotland. Showcasing work from Scottish and international artists, Marco Barotti and Matthew Rimmer, Pale Blue Dot encouraged everyone to discover more about the waters that surround us.

EIF - Fergus Hands21. And at the end of the year Edinburgh International Festival Director Fergus Linehan was chosen to receive the prestigious Edinburgh Award. In recognition of his innovative contribution to the arts and Edinburgh’s cultural heritage, Fergus was presented with an engraved Loving Cup from the Lord Provost and had his handprints set in stone at the City Chambers.

So that was 2021 and none of it would have been possible without the support of our many funders and partners - in particular the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, Creative Scotland and VisitScotland - and our audiences, in-person and online. And we now look forward to what we hope will be an extraordinary 2022, being the 75th anniversary of our first festivals in 1947.

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