To many of those who live in Edinburgh it can seem as though, outside the month of August, there is really not so much going on in Scotland’s capital city. During this important month, there can be a slight sense that the city is being overpowered, that the force of the talent coming from across the world during the International Festival and Fringe overshadows the local artists, musicians and other creatives who reside here year-round.
Hence, the purpose of Edinburgh Student Arts Festival is two-fold: to enliven Edinburgh’s cultural calendar in a way which is completely unconnected to August’s famous festivals and to nurture the local talent which is emerging from the city’s universities and colleges. ESAF will bring together a creative community of students and recent graduates in a series of events, exhibitions and performances beginning on the 12th of February and ending on the 19th of the same month.
However, we at ESAF are aware that there are various other festivals and events taking place in the city throughout the year - some of which are very close to our heart, due to the great work they do with regards to promoting the arts throughout the city. Hence, we’d like to present you with a list of what we’d consider some of the highlights of the forthcoming year.
Returning for a third time, the Cowgate Pop-Up Market is scheduled to take place on Sunday the 10th of April 2016. The market transforms the Cowgate from an area of Edinburgh which, being filled with nightclubs and bars, doesn’t open its doors until the late evening, into a hub of day-time activity. Bringing together various venues and the staff that work there with local designers and makers helps to create more of a community feel and connect the Cowgate with the rest of the city. Furthermore, the emphasis on artisan goods and unique pieces encourages the public to buy locally and from independent sellers in an age when Amazon is coming to dominate the way we shop.
Another event which is concerned with the rejuvenation of urban space is the Hidden Door Festival. Launched a year ago, the festival showcases spoken word, music, theatre and art in an unusual setting — the Secret Courtyard off of Kings’ Stables Road, a renovated street lighting depot. The festival is ultimately about collaboration: promoting cooperation within different branches of the arts and bringing together things old and new. A multitude of artistic disciplines are simultaneously displayed in the one space and the choice of the Secret Courtyard as a venue acknowledges Edinburgh’s historical past while giving a platform to new and emerging acts and artists, as well as some better-known names. If this sounds like it’s up your street then keep some time free from the 27th of May 2016 to the 4th of June 2016.
To a more well-established Edinburgh haunt now, the Filmhouse is offering screenings of queer classics and other LGBTQ+ film-based events on a monthly basis, starting with Basil Dearden’s 1961 Victim - the film in English which used the word ‘homosexual’ for the first time and which addressed issues concerning the persecution of gay men at a time when films did not present anything other than heterosexuality. Their new programme, Over the Rainbow, forms part of the growth in LGBTQ+ friendly events in and around Edinburgh. While there could still be a lot more content of this nature, the situation is gradually improving and the Filmhouse should be commended for becoming a part of this positive change.
Turning to something different now, the British Art Show is set to hit Edinburgh from the 13th of February to the 8th of May 2016 and is exhibiting in Inverleith House, the Talbot Rice Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. A touring exhibition which occurs every five years, presenting in four different cities, the British Art Show serves as something of an overview of the developments in the UK art scene. As a free exhibition which pulls together the work of 42 leading artists, its fundamental importance in opening up access to the arts for people who do not live in London or other large cultural centres, or who are not exposed to much contemporary art or art education, cannot be understated.
In short, 2016 looks set to be an exciting year for the creative community in Edinburgh with the events listed above all contributing to promoting and supporting artistic endeavours in Scotland, as well as helping to expose more and more people to the arts, encouraging wider sections of the population to get involved — either through their appreciation or their own creative contributions.