An overview of the 2010 Edinburgh Festivals and their directors

This article is from 2010

The Directors

From left to right: Jonathan Mills, Kath Mainland, Joanne Brown, Roger Spence and Nick Barley.

What to expect from Edinburgh in August

Over this coming month, Edinburgh stages, galleries, halls, esplanades and night air will be filled with a feast of sights, sounds and colours to satisfy all tastes. Brian Donaldson introduces the main strands and Nicola Meighan talks to some festival bosses

Nowhere does a festival quite like Edinburgh, and even with the film folk having long moved out of August, there is more than plenty going on for lovers of art, literature, comedy, theatre, kids entertainment, music, dance and military displays.

The Art Festival is now a major player, and the 49 exhibitions, from Turner Prize-winners to the icons of impressionism and surrealism, and highly dramatic public art, will have the city buzzing. With a new director on board and fresh visions being driven through, the Book Festival is set for an exciting new era. Night-time treats, online stories and guest selectors as well as the usual array of Children’s Laureates, Noble Prizewinners and Booker victors make this another spectacular bookish month.

The Fringe has opted not to get any smaller (nor even stay the same size) making it impossible to walk down the Royal Mile without rubbing shoulders against a comedian, playwright, actor, dancer or puppeteer. The sheer breadth and depth of shows and performances (some costing as much as nothing) makes this Fringe the finest in the world.

The USA, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Mexico and Scotland are among the nations represented at this year’s International Festival with themes of diversity, exploration and imagination key to an astonishing selection. Plus the EIF’s £20 INcrowd card for those in their 20s and 30s offers unbelievable benefits.
There are centenaries to be marked, a French jazz theme to be enthralled by and excitement to be had c/o the Scottish Jazz Expo, all of which maintains the reputation of the Jazz & Blues Festival as one of the major events of the summer. For those into a bit of marching and piping, the Tattoo will continue to give the punters what they want while the Festival of Politics delivers debates and discussions as heavyweight politicians and household names head our way. With such an array of talents and spectacles to look forward to, it won’t just be the sky that’s filled with fireworks throughout August.

Hail to the chiefs

Nicola Meighan chats to those running five of the festivals and gauges their mood ahead of the big August kick-off

Jonathan Mills - Director, Edinburgh International Festival

What are your hopes or expectations for EIF 2010?
I’m looking forward to joining our audiences on a journey of discovery. Our focus on the contemporary cultures of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand is bringing lots of fresh faces to the festival, and the UK, for the first time. And the programme is hot!

Do you have any fears, concerns or challenges?
I have an irrational fear that no one will turn up to see the shows, but we know that’s just not true because ticket sales are already strong across the programme.

What’s your must-see event from one of the other festivals?
My job is quite possibly the best in the world, but it has one drawback: my schedule means I won’t get to events at the other festivals. Given that it runs before EIF gets going, I’d recommend the Jazz & Blues Festival events around Django Reinhardt’s centenary celebrations.

Kath Mainland - Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

What are your hopes or expectations for EFF 2010?
The Fringe doesn’t have a curator; that’s part of its enduring success. Anyone with a creative idea can be part of it, and first-timers arrive with the same spirit of hope and determination as seasoned celebrities. So we don’t know what we’ll encounter: expecting the unexpected is part of the thrill.

Do you have any fears, concerns or challenges?
There’s no doubt that staging a show in Edinburgh is an incredible part of an artist’s development. What happens here can change lives, and making the most of that opportunity is a challenge for all of us involved.

What’s your must-see event from one of the other festivals?
It would be wrong of me to pick out one event when there’s so much to choose from. It’s the combination of the festivals that take place here that make Edinburgh such an incredible place.

Nick Barley - Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival

What are your hopes or expectations for EIBF 2010?
This is my first year as director of the Book Festival, and I believe we’ve put together a programme that brings in plenty of exciting innovations, as well as building on the strengths of the festival that people recognise and love. I’m expecting that our new evening mini-festival, Unbound, will create an intriguing new place to hang out. Equally, I’m hoping that our adventurous audience will embrace our new Readers’ First Book Award.

Do you have any fears, concerns or challenges?
My only fear is that we’ll have used up this year’s allocation of gorgeous weather before the end of July.

What’s your must-see event from one of the other festivals?
The Traverse Fringe programme looks particularly exciting: even more than the Martin Creed ballet, or Grid Iron’s re-staging of Decky Does a Bronco, I’d recommend the stage version of Richard Milward’s debut novel, Apples.

Joanne Brown - Director, Edinburgh Art Festival

What are your hopes or expectations for EAF 2010?
I’m delighted there’s a lot more from individual artists, curators and artist-led groups this year – and more arts writing and performative events – in addition to our star commissions. It’s really exciting. Hopefully, the Art Festival provides a narrative, running through all the different artforms, where people have enough information to make exciting choices, but also have a sense of security – and trust – in our programme.

Do you have any fears, concerns or challenges?
The Art Festival’s growing at such an extraordinary rate, and with every big step forward you wonder how people are going to react, so that’s always nerve-wracking. Stamina’s the big one though.

What’s your must-see event from one of the other festivals?
I am desperate to get my hands on tickets for Porgy and Bess [EIF]: it’s driving me bananas! I think that production will just be phenomenal.

Roger Spence - Producer, Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

What are your hopes or expectations for EJBF 2010?
We expect the music to be great! We hope musicians and audiences take some risks, challenge themselves, and enjoy it. Our audiences are always going to get something special and unique: the festival thrives on spontaneity and excitement.

Do you have any fears, concerns or challenges?
The Jazz & Blues Festival has so much on-the-spot creativity that there are risks everywhere, from musicians playing together for the first time, or a ‘special guest’ sitting in, to a late-night jam session or the premiere of new music. But what happens if audiences stop being interested in surprise? It’s the end of jazz. And art!

What’s your must-see event from one of the other festivals?
It would have to be a must-hear event: seeing can get in the way of the best music. I’d suggest the brilliant Bellevue Rendezvous [Fringe] or Llyr Williams [EIF].

Edinburgh Art Festival
29 Jul–5 Sep
Full Art Festival listings

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
6–30 Aug
Full Fringe listings

Edinburgh International Book Festival
14–30 Aug
Full Book Festival listings

Edinburgh International Festival
13 Aug–5 Sep
Full International Festival listings

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
30 Jul–8 Aug
Full Jazz & Blues Festival listings

Edinburgh Military Tattoo
6–28 Aug
Full Tattoo details

Festival of Politics
17–21 Aug
Full Festival of Politics details