Future of the Festival
The new Director of Edinburgh International Festival - Nicola Benedetti - shares her thoughts on the future of the Festival.
This role is the honour and responsibility of a lifetime. The support I have received from colleagues, friends and all our wonderful employees has been deeply moving. Everyone’s pride in the Festival’s achievements is tangible and infectious, both with respect to its long history and traditions, and in more recent times with the enormous success of its 75th anniversary year under Fergus Linehan. I am grateful and energised to work alongside such dedication and expertise.
Over the coming years I will be committed to providing the deepest possible experience, through the greatest level of art, to the broadest possible audience. We will sit in the centre of these objectives, each one compelling us to honour its importance. Even as a child, I never believed the greatest things were for keeping to ourselves.
Because I didn’t grow up attending concerts, theatre, ballet or opera, it is not difficult for me to understand why people don’t feel comfortable or ‘in the know’ enough for these environments.
Even after getting deep into the world of classical music, many a time I have left a performance wishing I had been a little better prepared to absorb the completeness and depth of what was in front of me.
One of our biggest challenges will be to communicate clearly and consistently with people, and to take care of their complete experience with us. We will harness our storytelling power and strive to make our festival as relatable as possible to any and everyone, from all walks of life.
Though each nation’s customs, values and cultural identity reveals the stubborn, nuanced and unpredictable diversity of humankind, we find, at the base of all that difference and colour, a streamlined, common core. Our DNA, no matter which corner of this earth you, your parents or your grandparents were born, is 99.9% identical. This speaks across time and place as fact. When addressing the invisible but essential parts of our existence, the parts we cannot see or touch, the same is also true. With love, hate, birth, death, greed, hunger, envy, loss, and so many other intangible things, this core of accumulated shared experiences binds us the world over. The Arts speak a symbolic language that brings us to a more profound understanding of these collective truths. Our festival has the honour and privilege of using this language to change people’s lives.
I have been speaking to a lot of people with strong ties to the Festival’s early days and can tell you unequivocally that their ambitions were inextricable from their dreams for humanity. With such close proximity to the Second World War, upholding values of reconciliation was as serious as one’s own life. With the increasing tensions we see all over the world, we too have a pressing moral responsibility to our audiences, to the wider public and to the traditions of this institution.
Edinburgh International Festival has international as its middle name. The outward-looking curiosity and discovery necessary to embody internationalism and universality will require a consistent and renewed commitment. We have and will continue to live up to our name. But we are also Scottish. We are deeply proud of the city and country we represent, and will seek and celebrate the stories that lie within our nation’s identity.
This is a time to be bold and creative. This is a time to commit ourselves to community. This is a time for us to imagine ourselves into a more urgent and deliberate future, that conquers cynicism and apathy. I take this duty seriously, as do all of us working at the Festival. Partnership, collaboration and increased empathy are hard-fought values, and to that end, we will boldly manifest the principles this festival was founded upon.
As we now build towards Festival 2023, I look forward to all we can achieve together.