The picturesque capital of Scotland will once again make a comeback for festival-goers next week, while the summer jamboree in Edinburgh returns to lively performances following a pandemic last year. But organizers did not give up the pivot for digital that kept the world-famous cultural events alive during Covid.
This year’s festivities, ranging from high-profile opera and literary criticism to impromptu street performances, will be a “hybrid” mix of live audience and digital distribution after organizers said the experience of only online events in 2020 demonstrated how they ‘ a larger audience can engage the world.
‘It really made us look at digital and in a a much more serious way, ”says Fergus Linehan, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, an art jamboree founded in 1947 and starting on 7 August this year. ‘. ”
The Edinburgh Fringe, the more free open access festival also created 74 years ago that kicks off this coming Friday, has unveiled a digital Fringe Player for remote viewing of programs alongside online platforms for artists and professional artists.
“You really have to think to get positive out of the whole Covid experience, but I think it’s one of the most exciting,” says Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy. “It was amazing how quickly this kind of tool developed.”
Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which begins on August 14, said the embrace of digital technology has made it more accessible, not only to the outside world, but also to anyone who could not attend it for financial or health reasons.
“We fully intend that the hybrid model of online events and events with a personal audience will be the model for the book festival in the years to come,” Barley said. Each festival has its own pricing model for digital performances.
Digital will be especially important this year because audience numbers will be severely limited. The detached Scottish Government was considerably more cautious about the release of coronavirus restrictions on cultural performances than the British Government was in England.
Not everything goes forward. In May, the organizers of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo announced the festival stalwart would be canceled for the second year in a row concerns about the possible cost of being forced to cancel by a change in public health policy.
Last month, the directors of 11 Edinburgh festivals, including Linehan and McCarthy, claimed that the Scottish Government is reconsidering its physical distance rules and complaining that cultural opportunities have been unfairly subject to much stricter controls than football or the hospitality sector.
The Scottish Government has reduced the distance for cultural events to one meter this month to suit the rules for pubs and restaurants, before hoping most restrictions will be lifted on August 9, but most long-planned festivities will continue. ‘ have a limited capacity and many are detained in temporary outdoor locations.
Linehan said the international festival’s three bespoke outdoor pavilions, each with a capacity of hundreds of socially segregated seats, are equipped with technology aimed at repeating the intimate sound of a classical concert hall, while also providing the offers potential pleasure from summer winds. unusual places.
“If we accept that we can do the acoustics – and of course we have incredible musicians – it might just be great,” he said.
Performances will be shorter to remove the need for intervals when Covid-19 can distribute and there will be far fewer contestants from abroad, but Linehan insisted that his penultimate Edinburgh festival could accommodate outings before Covid-19.
Scottish Opera will perform Verdi’s Falstaff; the violinist Nicola Benedetti is in the residence and Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra. “There is no dilution of quality at all,” Linehan said.
While organizers may hope that coronavirus restrictions will not be a problem for the next festivities, the climate crisis has caused a broad reconsideration of the carbon emissions due to the annual transformation of the capital of Scotland into a center of global cultural activities.
Sorcha Carey, director of the Edinburgh Art Festival, said digital technologies that helped it through the pandemic could provide new opportunities for artists and for international collaboration. “These are new ways of working that we will try and develop to reduce our carbon footprint,” she said.
Linehan, McCarthy and Barley said there will be a shift to ensure that travel overseas is more carbon efficient for their festivals, and that participants are expected to do more performances per trip.
The Fringe will only use electronic tickets this year and abandon a printed program, without returning to the phonebook style guide that previously helped audiences find their way between a multitude of performances about theater, music, comedy and more. .
McCarthy said the need to ensure sustainability means Fringe Society, the central organizing body of the famous anarchist festival, may need a stronger role in ensuring that participants have a shared set of values.
It could mean that ‘just a little more teeth are needed to hold the festival to account’, McCarthy said. But she stressed that while administrators and audiences can be expected to limit travel in the future, artists and storytellers should be freed from this pressure.
The prospect of increasing online festivities may please the people of Edinburgh who like it complained before the pandemic of summer overcrowding, while others in the city enjoying the annual invasion are concerned.
But Linehan said digital technology would satisfy the demand of artists and audiences to come together in person in Edinburgh. “The city is half the experience,” he said. “The convention is at its core.”