The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) is set to return this year with three new pavilions set up to allow for outdoor, socially-distanced performances.
Performance spaces will be created at Edinburgh Park and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad, with the third venue’s location yet to be confirmed.
The festival, which will run from August 7 to 29, will mark the return of live performances to the city after last year’s edition was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Organisers are working with the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and other authorities to put in place other Covid safety measures.
These will include shorter performances with no intervals, physical distancing, regular cleaning, and contactless ticketing.
The Edinburgh International Festival returns 7-29 August and goes outdoors for 2021.
— edintfest (@edintfest) April 13, 2021
Fran Hegyi, EIF executive director, told the PA news agency: “Just being able to work towards the festival has been really energising for everybody involved.
“It’s a real sort of cautious step back but we felt that coming back and doing live performance wherever we could was really important.
“What we’ve done is to plan something that we felt had the greatest chance of being able to go ahead given the guidelines at the time.
“What we’re planning is three large outdoor venues/pavilions that are seated, have got covering against the elements, but nevertheless enable people to come together in limited numbers, allow for the possibility of physical distancing within that as well, but are outdoors in great venues.
“They’ll be in use for the whole festival and we’ll be holding two/three performances there every single day so we can offer the programme to as many people as possible.
“Our planning time is months away from the event so actually, in some senses, we had to make decisions about what this August was going to look like at the turn of the year, around Christmas time.”
The Festival Fringe, Art Festival, International Book Festival, and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo were also cancelled last year.
Between them, the five August festivals host more than 5,000 events across Scotland’s capital each summer featuring more than 25,000 artists, writers and performers from 70 countries and attract audiences of 4.4 million.
However, EIF turned to digital offerings with performances filmed in closed venues such as the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, the Usher Hall and the Queen’s Hall.
Ms Hegyi added: “It’s been fantastic because it’s been over a year since we had to cancel the 2020 festival. I think people are longing to get together and have that communal experience that arts and culture can bring.
“While people have enjoyed the digital that we’ve been able to put on, there is no substitute for that live performance coming together in an audience and being able to just be there in the moment.
“Most of the programme will be music-based because I think it’s easier to do those and less of the sort of dance and theatre pieces that people have seen in the past.
“We’re looking at companies much closer to home so you’ll see more Scottish acts and UK-based performances as well.
“One of the silver linings perhaps of the last year is the extent to which all of the festivals, and the venues, and all the other cultural players in the city, have come together. As for collaborations with other festivals you’ll just have to watch this space.”
Full details of the 2021 EIF programme: including opera, orchestral and chamber music, theatre and contemporary music, is set to be announced on Wednesday June 2 with general booking opening on Friday June 11.
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