IT may be 4000 miles away, but Edinburgh residents will soon be able to have a taste of Iran on their very own doorstep.
The 11-day Edinburgh Iranian Festival is arriving in the Capital on Friday and promises to offer an authentic taste of all things Persian.
From sampling renowned Iranian cinema and fashion shows to learning calligraphy and how to play traditional Iranian instruments, the hands-on festival has been designed to appeal to all tastes and age groups.
From its humble roots as a student-led project, the festival – which takes place every two years – is returning to the Capital for the fourth time, and is even bigger and better than before.
“Our festival director, Sara Kheradmand, set up the festival when she was a student at Edinburgh University, where she also set up the Persian Society,” explains the festival’s communications coordinator, Mona Vaghefian.
“The difference between the first year and this year is incredible. It’s really exciting. Every time we run the festival it’s amazing the way in which people embrace it. We have people who are already interested in Iranian culture but also it’s exciting to get people involved who have just come across the festival who have never experienced any Iranian culture before.
“The joy of putting things on in places like the museum is that people will be exposed to it because they happen to be at the museum at the time.”
The festival kicks off with an opening ceremony on Friday at St John’s Church in Princes Street which includes poetry and live music.
The festival boasts a variety of events, including fashion, cinema, contemporary art, cookery classes and music.
One of the highlights is a fashion show at the National Museum of Scotland a week today which aims to show
Iranian fashions in a different light. It will showcase womenswear and accessories by contemporary Iranian designers, and a Scottish designer inspired by Iran. The event will be set to Iranian music, and will be followed by a panel discussion on Iranian fashion pre- and post-Islam.
“From a broad point of view, people tend to associate fashions and dress in Iran with Islamic dress so this is a really nice opportunity to show some of the more creative and fun fashion as well,” explains Mona.
“People will get to see Iranian fashions with a western twist and all the fashions on show will be available to buy on the day.”
An Iranian film season will start at the Filmhouse in Lothian Road from February 8, with a film being screened each night of the festival.
At the screening of The Desert Fish – a film about a young boy who wants to unravel the mystery of his dead mother who still comes to him in his dreams – there will be a Q&A afterwards with director Mohammad Ghorbankarimi.
Summerhall arts centre will play host to an art exhibition called Perception as part of the festival.
Forty artists were selected out of more than 250 submissions from around the world and the opening night next Saturday will see live music by Azadeh, talks, a drinks reception and a £1000 prize for most promising submission.
Festival founder Sara Kheradmand says: “I am privileged to have seen this festival grow over the past five years from a modest, student-run project to the wide-ranging and hugely exciting programme we have on offer today.
“It is thanks to the open-mindedness and curiosity of the Scottish public that we continue to grow and diversify.
“With over 5000 Iranians currently living in Scotland, and given the celebrated tradition for cultural events in the Capital, Edinburgh really is a natural home for this festival.”
She adds: “I am delighted that this year we are showcasing fashion for the first time, and I can’t wait to share the wealth of talent we have curated across art, cinema, music, and many other disciplines, with the residents of Edinburgh and beyond.”
Stephen Allen, head of learning and programmes at National Museums Scotland, says the museum is delighted to be involved with the festival.
“The Grand Gallery will be a wonderful setting for a great line-up of events next Saturday,” he says. “With live music, a fashion show and the chance to see Persian textiles from our collections, there will be lots to see, hear, learn and enjoy.”
• For a full list of events, visit www.ediranfest.co.uk. The Edinburgh Iranian Festival runs from February 6-16.