Historic canal to be transformed by artists for 75th anniversary of Edinburgh's festivals

Edinburgh's historic canal is set to be transformed by artists and performers for the city's summer festivals season for the first time.

Two hundred years of the Union Canal and 75 years of the festivals will be marked with special commissions, projects and performances along its banks and waterway.

Sites between the Lochrin Basin at Fountainbridge and Wester Hailes will be deployed for the festival, which has revealed plans to expand to the canal just days after its hosted celebrations to mark its 200th anniversary.

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The month-long Edinburgh Art Festival will feature everything from a community raft and choir singing to sound installations, dance performances and sails inspired by the people who live, work and play on the canal.

The Union Canal will be transformed by artists for this summer's festivals season. Picture: Julie Howden

Jeanne van Heeswijk, Ruby Pester, Nadia Rossi, Nadia Myre, Emmie McLuskey, Hannan Jones, Janice Parker, Amanda Thomson and Maeve Redmond will be among the artists using the canal to inspire work tackling issues around the natural environment, migration, trade, capitalism and gentrification.

WHALE Arts, in Wester Hailes, and Edinburgh Printmakers, in Fountainbridge, are among the arts organisations working on the canal-based strand of the art festival.

The 18th edition of the visual art celebration, which combines special commissions with the major exhibitions running in Edinburgh over the summer, will feature work from more than 100 artists this year.

The National Museum of Scotland will playing host to a 90ft-long inflatable recreation of E.coli, said to be around five million times bigger than the actual bacteria, which artist Luke Jerram has created in collaboration with the world’s biggest hot air balloon manufacturer.

Artist Sarah Kenchington helps a young artist steer a float on the banks of the Union Canal. Picture Julie Howden

Yan Wang Preston's work at the Royal Botanic Garden will chart the changing life of a love-heart-shaped rhododendron bush.

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John McLean's exhibition at the Fine Art Society will be inspired by the landscapes of the North American prairies, Ashanti Harris will be drawing inspiration from West Indian carnivals for her show at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and Saoirse Amira Anis will draw on her dual heritage in her exhibition at the French Institute, which using materials and plants from Moroccan and Scottish cuisines to explore rituals of sharing.

Work by Tracey Emin, Barbara Hepworth, Will Maclean, Alan Davie and treasures from Buckingham Palace will be on display throughout the festival, which runs from the end of July till the end of August.

Jane Connarty, the art festival’s programme manager, said: “A celebration of the unique ecology of visual arts in our city, our 2022 programme brings together independent galleries, world class collections, production spaces across the city to present the work of more than 100 artists from around the world.

Dancer Janice Parker will be taking part in this year's Edinburgh Art Festival. Picture: Sally Jubb
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"The 2022 commissions programme invites artists and audiences to explore the site and histories of the Union Canal and includes projects in Wester Hailes developed from close working and co-production with local residents.”

Joan Parr, director of culture at Edinburgh City Council, said: “I’m very excited about this year’s programme and look forward to the full

return of artists from all over Scotland and the world showcasing their work in Edinburgh’s art galleries and unusual exhibition spaces.

“The has a long history of promoting the value of culture and as we mark the 75th year of our August festivals, this programme will celebrate contemporary art across our ancient city.”