Edinburgh Festival 2024 Shows Focus on Dialogue, Healing and Community Outreach

Submitted by webmaster on Fri, 24 May '24 12.43pm
Isabella O'Sullivan, Heiyi Lok, Alex Wishart and Summer Williamson from Oi Musica perform outdoors at Usher Hall to announce details of the Healing Arts Scotland Opening Celebration as part of EIF 2024.

The Edinburgh International Festival today announced details of a series of community outreach strands to its August programme and new events for this year's Edinburgh International Festival which are on sale today.

Three gigs have been added to the contemporary music lineup this year. Declan McKenna, Nadine Shah and Lisa O’Neill join an enticing array of performers that includes Cat Power, Jordan Rakei, Chilly Gonzales and Bat for Lashes.

In Festival Director Nicola Benedetti’s second year at the helm there will be a renewed focus on dialogue and debate with a new series of keynote talks from leading voices calling for change including Former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Gordon Brown, rapper and activist Akala and Caroline Criado Perez, best-selling author of Invisible Women. 

Cast additions for several International Festival staged shows include The Fifth Step, where Sean Gilder joins Jack Lowden in the world premiere play at The Lyceum from 21-25 August; and Isis Hainsworth, Paul Brennan, Ros Watt and Alison Fitzjohn join the cast of The Outrun, which also makes its world premiere in August at the Churchill Theatre from 3-25 August. 

Former Scottish Opera emerging artist Shengzhi Ren takes centre stage as Oedipus, King of Thebes, in the cast of Oedipus Rex. Joining him in this promenade opera staged in the National Museum of Scotland’s Grand Gallery are Kitty Whately, Roland Wood, Callum Thorpe and Emyr Wyn Jones. Additional tickets for the production are now available.

Space @ The Broomhouse Hub

As part of the International Festival’s ambition to become "cultural convenors" in neighbourhoods and healthcare settings across Edinburgh, a range of events will bring artists into new spaces across the city. 

Space @ The Broomhouse Hub becomes the International Festival’s inaugural Community Connections Hub, following a city-wide call-out to community centres to engage in ongoing collaboration during festival season and throughout the year. After interest from 22 community spaces from across the city, the first partnership with Space @ The Broomhouse Hub will see events and activities take place across the next 18 months, with an ambition to collaborate with more of these spaces in the coming years.

During August, Space @ The Broomhouse Hub hosts a free VR experience from 2024 resident orchestra the Philharmonia which runs from 19 – 24 August. This 360° experience of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending makes its UK premiere and features Festival Director Nicola Benedetti as the solo violinist. In Virtual Reality, viewers are placed right at the heart of the orchestra to experience the performance.  

Audiences can also experience the performance live, as part of a relaxed Family Concert on Sunday 25 August at Usher Hall. The Family Concert is also live captioned and BSL interpreted by deaf musician Paul Whittaker, who will interpret the pieces of music as well as spoken text.

Neil Hay, CEO, Space @ The Broomhouse Hub called the Community Connections Hub initiative "fantastic news for Broomhouse and Southwest Edinburgh".

"This partnership will open up the Edinburgh International Festival to new audiences, allowing local people and families to enjoy cultural experiences our communities don’t normally access. We look forward to seeing all the exciting things the partnership will bring this summer and the coming year,” said Hay.

Healing Arts

The first-ever Healing Arts Scotland also launches as part of the Edinburgh International Festival this year, a week-long celebration of arts and health events highlighting the joy they bring to those who take part, and their importance to the nation’s physical, mental and social health.

It is the first ever countrywide Healing Arts Week, following previous city-wide celebrations around the world, including New York, Paris, London, Venice and Jaipur, and is led by Scottish Ballet as part of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab’s global ‘Healing Arts’ campaign, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.  

The Healing Arts Scotland Opening Celebration event takes place on Monday 19th August at the Scottish Parliament as part of Edinburgh International Festival, featuring over 250 performers and participants from across Scotland in an energetic celebration of music and dance that captures the spirit and healing power of coming together through the performing arts. Ensembles featured include Scottish Ballet, National Youth Pipe Band, TRYST, Oi Musica and SambaYaBamba Youth Street Band.

Ballet in the community

Scottish Ballet will present a specially commissioned dance piece featuring an ensemble cast of community performers, including Scottish Ballet's Youth Exchange company, NHS staff, Dance Base's PRIME Elders Dance company and Dance for Parkinson's Scotland group. The work will be performed to the song Mackay’s Memoirs by the late Scottish Celtic fusion artist Martyn Bennett, which celebrates its 25th anniversary – it was originally commissioned for the opening of the Scottish Parliament building on 1 July 1999.

2024 International Festival artists are also performing across Edinburgh in four NHS hospitals in August. In partnership with NHS Lothian Charity: Tonic Arts, the performance series brings Festival artists into Edinburgh hospitals, creating bespoke moments of musical and creative connections. Every Friday during August, artists will perform in hospitals including the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, delighting audiences who may not be able to experience International Festival performances in traditional venues. This is part of a year-round programme of monthly music moments in hospitals across Edinburgh and Lothian. 

"Healing Arts Scotland 2024 will be an inspirational week-long celebration of the huge impact the arts has on the nation's health and well-being," said Scottish Ballet CEO/Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson.

"Scottish Ballet is proud to be leading on this global outreach project in collaboration with the WHO and a host of partner organisations such as Edinburgh International Festival. I’m really excited about the largescale participation performance taking place outside Scottish Parliament – it will be a true testament to all the wonderful arts health work that happens every day across Scotland."

In another outdoor series of performances, the Usher Hall takes the festival experience from the stage to the open-air, with pop-up performances across August. Groups such as Commotion (Edinburgh Women Samba Drummers), the Edinburgh Samba School’s TESS group, Rainbow Ukes and Southside Strummers ukelele groups will light up the Usher Hall forecourt, in a series of free encounters with music makers from across the community.

“The Edinburgh International Festival has always been proud to provide a platform for some of the most exciting voices in music, performance and thought leadership. Over 77 years, this original festival that started it all, has brought people of different cultures and viewpoints together to share, debate and exchange ideas through art, and this year's no exception,” said Edinburgh International Festival Director, Nicola Benedetti.

“Our inaugural Community Connections Hub, NHS Festival Fridays and the world-first Healing Arts Scotland week are a perfect example of the Festival bringing together communities and ideas in spaces and places outside of a theatre in August. Art has the power to transform, and I encourage everyone to seize this opportunity to come together and be thrilled, challenged, and discover something new.” 

More on the Edinburgh International Festival