EIF al fresco 2021
A concentration on outdoor events has been announced by the Edinburgh International Festival as it promises a full programme from August 7 to 29, to be unveiled at the start of June.
Although no artists have yet been revealed, artistic director Fergus Linehan said that most would be UK-based, “a lot of them Scottish”.
“Large ensembles coming in from overseas is not possible, so ensembles are likely to be UK-based. Individuals are still able to come in, but not a company of 250 Italians,” he said.
Likewise, the socially-distanced audience that will be accommodated in three specially-constructed pavilions is expected to be made up mostly of local people. The Festival will have an on-line element to cater to those further afield.
“There will be a programme of online running throughout, but it is primarily a live festival. What we are doing online is mostly recorded relays of the live events,” said Linehan.
Some small outdoor events are planned, but most will be staged in three locations, where a canopy will protect the stage and audience. One of those remains unconfirmed, but the other two are at Edinburgh Park, close to the Edinburgh Park Central tram stop, and at the Old Quad of Edinburgh University, on South Bridge.
Linehan said he was keen to take the Festival out of the city centre, and the Edinburgh Park pavilion, in the city’s commercial development on its western edge, has “excellent transport links and unlimited parking”.
“The Quad should be beautiful”, he added. That venue provides a link with the cancelled programme of 2020, when the Festival had planned to erect a Spiegeltent in the space, hosting a long series of musical events.
“We offered everyone a return visit and a few of those things have survived,” said Linehan. “We can’t really do anything with an ensemble bigger that 40 or 50, we can’t have very long evenings and we can’t do anything with a lot of brass and wind. And a lot of that would be our bread and butter programming in the Usher Hall.”
Nonetheless, music is expected to form the bulk of the programming announced at the start of June. Concerts will be shorter, and some will be repeated to allow another audience to attend. Public booking will open on June 11 and tickets will be strictly allocated, either to individuals, couples, small groups or families. EIF Executive Director Fran Hegyi said that everything was being planned in accordance with current government guidelines on social distancing and face coverings, and the possibility of so-called “Covid passports” was not part of the discussions.
She added that considerations were “not just artistic ones, but also our role in having as many people working on the Festival as possible. We have been really conscious over the past 12 months of the responsibility that we have that the industry has work to do, because that is the workforce that has to come back.”
Linehan said that the 2022 Festival is acquiring increasing significance, beyond its existing status as marking the events 75th anniversary.
“It may be the first time that we are able to have unfettered mass gatherings again. So that is not just about concerts in the Usher Hall, but about every choral group and every dance group – all those ways in which we come together as communities that have had to come to a halt. There will a huge surge of activity next year that we will have to think about, and beyond what we normally do.”