Edinburgh International Festival to return in August with virtual shows for first time

Organisers have announced the 2021 programme which includes international online viewing

The Edinburgh International Festival is set to return in 2021 with a number of online performances. Unsplash 
The Edinburgh International Festival is set to return in 2021 with a number of online performances. Unsplash 

After a year off, the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) is officially making its comeback, with three weeks of dance, music, theatre and spoken word performances in venues around the Scottish capital.

The newly announced programme includes performances from Scottish-Italian violinist Nicola Benedetti, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Laura Mvula and more.

Due to run from August 7 to 29, the festival will include a total of 170 performances. For the first time, there will be a virtual hub, showing 21 of the performances online, accessible for audiences globally. Organisers have not yet announced ticket prices for the virtual performances.

An artist's impression of one of the outdoor pavilions. Edinburgh International Festival
An artist's impression of one of the Edinburgh International Festival's outdoor pavilions. Courtesy Edinburgh International Festival

To comply with Scotland's Covid-19 safety measures, this year there will be smaller crowds, a number of outdoor venues, and social distancing measures in place, as well as the online programme.

We are thrilled to announce our reimagined festival, marking the return of live performance to Scotland’s capital city after over a year of silenced theatres and concert halls

Edinburgh International Festival organisers

"We are thrilled to announce our reimagined festival for 2021, marking the return of live performance to Scotland’s capital city after over a year of silenced theatres and concert halls. The 2021 International Festival will use bespoke, temporary outdoor pavilions in iconic, easily accessible spaces throughout the city to safely reunite our artists and audiences to rediscover the magic of live performance," organisers announced in April.

"Our temporary outdoor pavilions, found at three locations including Edinburgh Park and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad, will feature covered concert stages and socially distanced seating to create a beautiful setting for audiences to safely enjoy live music, opera and theatre once more."

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, or The Fringe, runs parallel to the EIF annually. Organisers are yet to announce measures in place for The Fringe, but have said that the 2021 festival will take place from Friday, August 6 to Monday, August 30.

Swedish comedian Olaf Falafel has won the title for this year's funniest joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Swedish comedian Olaf Falafel won the title for 2019's funniest joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Unlike the EIF, The Fringe arts and comedy festival is open access, with no jury selection, which means anyone can perform.

The festival's official programme categorises shows into theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events categories. Comedy, however, is what The Fringe is best known for.

Every year, television channel Dave runs a Funniest Joke of The Fringe competition. In 2019 it was won by comic Olaf Falafel, with the harmless culinary pun: "I keep randomly shouting out 'broccoli' and 'cauliflower' – I think I might have florets."

Of the 2021 return of the festival, Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe chief executive, said in April: "I recognise that any eagerness to restart the Fringe must be tempered by a sense of caution and responsibility. We continue to work closely with Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council, and keep a close eye on official guidance as it emerges and develops, using it to inform every decision we make."

Festival organisers have also announced the first Fringe Artist and Venue Recovery Fund, with five venues and 15 shows to be awarded a share of a £75,000 ($106,330) fund to support return to the Fringe in 2021 and 2022.

Updated: June 3, 2021 06:47 PM

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