Revival of Edinburgh International Festival could not be more timely - Brian Ferguson

When Fergus Linehan agreed to extend his tenure with the Edinburgh International Festival announcement seemed to set the event on a steady course for the run-up to its 75th anniversary.

Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 4:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 4:41 pm

The announcement, back in November 2017, that Irishman would be overseeing another three festivals ensured a crucial period of stability. Or so it seemed.

It is nearly two years to the day since the darkest hour of the EIF and its sister festivals, when they were forced to pull the plug on their planned 2020 programmes as the pandemic swept around the world.

Just a few weeks beforehand, the festival had been hoping to reveal its line-up. I was among the journalists already briefed on the line-up.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

It says a lot for Mr Linehan and his team, along with the reputation of the event, that the programme they have just announced is significantly more impressive than the one they were forced to abandon.

Last summer’s tentative revival for the EIF, the Fringe and some of the city’s other big events was a surreal experience for artists and audiences. There was huge relief at the return of live events, but much trepidation and caution. Edinburgh’s famous festival atmosphere was there in small pockets, but the city undoubtedly was lacking its usual round-the-clock electricity.

This year is the big comeback and all the indications are that Edinburgh will be largely back to its old self in August.

The EIF will start and finish in style, including a music, theatre and dance spectacular to kick off the festival inside Murrayfield Stadium and a huge free outdoor show from The Philadelphia Orchestra on the final weekend.

Elsewhere, there is plenty to fire fire the imagination, including a reinvention of The Jungle Book as a dance spectacular, Alan Cumming’s new Robert Burns-inspired show, a promenade theatre production being created with the help of staff and pupils at Leith Academy, a dazzling line-up to reopen Leith Theatre for gigs for the first time in three years, and the festival’s biggest ever showcase of Australian culture.

But 75 years after the event was instigated to bring people together in the aftermath of the Second World War, the EIF’s significant strand of shows exploring issues around refugees, migration, internationalism and identity could not be more timely or welcome.

Dancer Marge Hendrick helped launch the Edinburgh International Festival programme in Leith. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic