Edinburgh International Festival announces 2021 programme

Nicola Bendetti / Credit: Simon Fowler

The summer festival returns with performances from Nicola Benedetti, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Laura Mvula, Anna Meredith, Kokoroko and more

The Edinburgh International Festival has announced it will return from Saturday 7 – Sunday 29 August with a total of 170 performances spanning theatre, dance, music and spoken word, with 15 newly commissioned works making their debut at the festival.

Of course, things will look a little different this year. Smaller crowds, more outdoor venues, social distancing and online programme offerings are among the ways EIF organisers plan to bring the festival spirit back to Edinburgh whilst still adhering to public health measures.

A wide array of the UK's best orchestras and musicians will be performing at new bespoke outdoor venues at Edinburgh Academy Junior School and Edinburgh University's Old College Quad this year, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dalia Stasevska, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra led by Thomas Søndergård and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Kazushi Ono.

Other highlights from the classical programme include a residency from Nicola Benedetti, who will perform with the Benedetti Baroque Orchestra, an ensemble for Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale, and her own solo show The Story of the Violin.

Lament for Sheku Bayoh / Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Covid-secure performances will also be held indoors, subject to shorter performances with no intervals and audiences sitting in designated bubbles. As part of the extensive theatre line-up, the National Theatre of Scotland will present the debut of Hannah Lavery's Lament for Sheku Bayoh in a special collaboration between the EIF and the Royal Lyceum Theatre, and the Traverse will be home to the world premier of Enda Walsh's Medicine.

Also featured is Sara Shaarawi's Niqabi Ninja, which combines street art with audio performances and will require audiences to embark on a walk through Edinburgh. The piece, being displayed across five Scottish locations this summer, is a reaction to mob sexual assaults which took place in Cairo, Egypt from 2012 and highlights the privilege of walking free of fear through public spaces.

Meanwhile, an extensive contemporary music line-up will see the likes of Caribou, Laura Mvula, Anna Meredith, black midi and Black Country, New Road perform, with a first-time Scottish performance from London-based jazz band Kokoroko.

Kokoroko / Credit: Danny Kasirye

Fergus Linehan, EIF's Festival Director said: 'The programme we are announcing today represents a carefully organised return to live performance. It is a collaborative effort between those who live in our city, our artists, the team at the festival, our donors and stakeholders and all who will be coming along to our performances.

'While so much has been written and said about the challenges of the past 15 months, it is now time to look to the future and to the brilliant musicians, actors, dancers and poets who are getting ready to perform in Edinburgh this August.'

The new EIF online hub will also make its debut this year, hosting 21 festival performances for audiences to stream for free around the world.

Visit eif.co.uk for more information on this year's EIF programme, running from Sat 7 Aug – Sun 29 Aug.