Edinburgh International Festival: 10 highlights to look forward to this summer

The Edinburgh International Festival has unveiled a programme of more than 170 events which will be staged across 10 venues in August.

By Brian Ferguson
Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 11:53 am

Here’s a few highlights to mark in your diary ahead of tickets going on public sale on 11 June.

Night Light, Royal Botanic Garden, 6-8 August: The Edinburgh International Festival is due to return from its enforced hiatus with a free fire show which will see French arts collective Carabosse transform the much-loved attraction, which will also be filled with the sound of live Scottish traditional music.

Dido’s Ghost, Edinburgh Academy Junior School, 20-22 August: South African soprano Golda Schultz leads the cast of Dido’s Ghost, a new opera from Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen, which will incorporate Henry Purcell’s 17th century tragedy Dido and Aeneas.

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Nicola Benedetti, Edinburgh Academy Junior School and Edinburgh University Old College, 14-21 August: The celebrated Scottish violinist is creating three new shows, including a performance exploring the history of her musical instrument and a new version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.

Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age, Edinburgh University Old College, 28-29 August: The New York-based Scot and firm EIF favourite makes a return to the event with his brand new cabaret show, which is billed as “a joyful and mischievous exploration” of the ageing process.

The Snuts, Edinburgh Park, 11 August: Just a few months after releasing their debut album, the West Lothian indie-rock outfit have landed a headline show at the EIF’s contemporary music strand, alongside Damon Albarn, Anna Meredith, Kathryn Joseph, The Unthanks, Nadine Shah, Tide Lines, Moses Boyd, and Mercury Prize winners Black Midi.

Medicine, Traverse Theatre, 4-29 August: Irish stage and screen star Domhnall Gleeson, best known for his roles in the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies, leads the cast of Enda Walsh’s new play exploring how mentally ill people have been treated in recent decades.

Courtney Stoddart, Patricia Panther and Saskia Ashdown will star in Lament for Sheku Bayoh.

A Great Disordered Heart, Old College, 13-14 August: Edinburgh-based fiddler, composer and producer Aidan O’Rourke, who is best known for his work with the award-winning trio Lau, has drawn inspiration from the impact of lockdown restrictions on the city’s Old Town for three shows which will also draw on its historic links to Irish heritage. Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O’Maonlai, Scottish pipers Brighde Chaimbeul and Allan Macdonald, Irish singer Lisa O’Neill and rising Gaelic stars Sian will all feature.

Lament For Sheku Bayoh, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 25-28 August: Two years after Hannah Lavery’s play was performed in workshop form at the festival, Saskia Ashdown, Patricia Panther and Courtney Stoddart will take to the stage of the Lyceum to perform the piece inspired by the death in police custody of 31-year-old Sheku Bayoh in Fife and the ongoing inquiry into the case.

Field – Something For The Future Now, Holyrood Park, 22 & 29 August: Dance company Curious Seed will stage two free performance running for around four hours each against the backdrop of Arthur’s Seat. The event, which is billed as “a durational outdoor dance-happening conceived in a physically distanced world, will be free and unticketed.”

In The Tradition, Old College, throughout the festival: The EIF has joined forces with Glasgow’s Celtic Connections and Edinburgh’s Tradfest events, as well as Edinburgh University, for a major showcase of Scottish traditional music, including the bands Rura, Talisk, Fara and Breabach.

Dance company Curious Seed will be staging free outdoor performances in Holyrood Park as part of the festival. Picture: Lucas Chih-Peng Kao

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Neil McIntosh

South African soprano Golda Schultz will be one of the biggest draws in the opera programme. Picture: Diego Acosta


Cellist Su-a Lee visited the Royal Botanic Garden, which will host a free fire-walk event in August, to launch the festival programme. Picture: Ryan Buchanan
Rising Scottish indie-rock outfit The Snuts will be part of the EIF's contemporary music strand this year.
Irish stage and screen star Domhnall Gleeson will be starring in the play Medicine at the Traverse Theatre. Picture: Alex Sapienza