Spirit of '47 for International Festival

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Spirit of '47, an 11-day season of very special events this summer celebrates the commitment to international cultural collaboration that has been at the heart of the Edinburgh International Festival since it began in 1947. 


The creation of the Edinburgh International Festival in the aftermath of the Second World War was intended as a way to help people and nations move on from the horrors of what had gone before. 

Founders Rudolf Bing, the first Director of the Festival, and Henry Harvey Wood, head of the British Council of Scotland, worked with leaders from across Edinburgh to foster a spirit of co-operation through art and culture that they hoped could lead the way to a better world. 

In the 70th anniversary year of the Festival that spirit of co-operation remains firmly in place and is to be marked by Spirit of '47 (6-16 August) a season of creative work co-curated by the Festival and British Council, and covered extensively by BBC Arts Digital. 

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Artists from more than 20 nations will take part, with work from Scotland, England, USA, Ukraine, Lebanon, Cuba, China, Jamaica, Palestine, Chile, Argentina, Syria, Portugal, Germany, Iran, Pakistan, India and more.

Fergus Linehan, International Festival Director, said: 

It has been an enormous pleasure to work with our colleagues at the British Council to realise a programme that captures the spirit of 1947 while expressing the diverse and collaborative spirit of 2017.  Whether it is looking forward to the playwriting voices of the future or looking back to post-war Jamaica, India and Edinburgh, Spirit of ’47 will, I hope, give a sense of how culture continues to flow and flourish across oceans, continents and borders.

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The Spirit of '47 programme includes: 

  • Internationally acclaimed documentary theatre piece Minefield, about and performed by British and Argentinian veterans of the Falklands War
  • Voicelessness, Iranian director writer and performer Azade Shahmiri's story of a dystopian future.
  • New and Now, a series of six morning play readings developed through the Royal Court’s International Playwrights’ Programme, with the support of the British Council, featuring work from Chile, Cuba, Palestine, Lebanon, China and Ukraine.
  • Two special New European Songbook concerts featuring collaborations between European musicians and artists who have recently moved to their countries. This major creative collaboration comes from broadcasters across the European Broadcasting Union and will be aired by BBC Arts Digital and BBC Radio 3.
  • Paul Auster at 70 sees a partnership between the Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival, as the septuagenarian star examines his life and career, considering the huge social, political and artistic changes in that time.
  • Anoushka Shankar performs with Pakistani Qawwali singer Faiz Ali Faiz with music in the devotional Sufi tradition, marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of India and Pakistan.
  • Mercury-Prize winner Benjamin Clementine performs a special concert showcasing the talent that took him from busking on the streets of Paris to comparisons with Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen.
  • Turner-Prize winning artist Martin Creed hosts Words & Music, a late night residency throughout the Festival inviting discussion on the nature of art itself.
  • Artists, writers and cultural commentators from Palestine, Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada and the UK come together for Spirited Voices, a series of talks exploring culture, conflict, internationalism and global citizenship.
  • Film screenings, Reflections on Syria and The World In One City share cultural stories and memories from the war-torn country and the history of the International Festival respectively.

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Graham Sheffield, Director Arts, British Council, said: 

The British Council’s mission – to build connections between the UK and the rest of the world - has always been closely linked to the vision of the Edinburgh International Festival, and I’m delighted that, 70 years after we established the very first Festival together, we are working together in a new spirit of collaboration.
The values that drove us to establish what is now one of the most successful arts festivals in the world are just as pertinent in today’s geo-political context as they were in the broken and war-torn Europe of 1947. In 2017 our horizons are global, the artforms more diverse, but the need for arts and culture is no less.
Spirit of ’47 will restate to a global audience in Edinburgh our strong belief that the arts can connect and inspire us in the most turbulent times.

Spirit of ’47 takes place from 6-16 August, during the Edinburgh International Festival, and is based at The Studio on Potterrow, with additional events at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, Festival Theatre and King’s Theatre.

Edinburgh International Festival takes place from Friday 4 to Monday 28 August and tickets are on sale now. For more festival information plus programme and ticketing links, please visit our festival page.

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