Our work with Communities

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Think Global, Act Local

Patrick Geddes


Every year, the International Festival brings the best artists and productions to Scotland. A large part of our Learning and Engagement work is to make sure the people who live in Edinburgh and beyond are able to share in and experience all of the great work being put on. We work closely with a range of communities to help provide access to the programme, engagement and education in the arts, and the ability to participate in the International Festival.


Festival Favours

A man plays a banjo to a group of children and their mothers gathered in front of a colourful mural.

Oi Musica playing for families from Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre

Credit: Jess Shurte

This summer, Edinburgh International Festival is gifting 30 groups in the city their own piece of the Festival.

We're bringing artists and creativity to the communities of Edinburgh this summer. Thirty groups across Edinburgh will receive a celebration moment when an artist or creative visits them in person or connects with them digitally, bringing joy and creativity to the group’s participants and activities.

Through Festival Favours, we are reconnecting with and building new relationships with groups spread across the city, including charities, clubs and societies, as well as community centres, care homes and social spaces.

An outdoor rock concert for toddlers.

A drag performance forcharity workers.

An African choir sing-along for people with dementia.

A drumming workshop for the women of Leith.

A superheroes day for young carers.

More information on the project can be found here.


Classical Highlights CD

In December 2020, the International Festival worked closely with community partners to connect with older people across Edinburgh who have been socially and creatively isolated this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the Edinburgh International Festival had to reimagine its 2020 programme, we instead presented a number of classical music recordings digitally, some of which were broadcast through speakers in Princes Street Gardens, and all which could be enjoyed at home on YouTube. Many music lovers however, were unable to enjoy this experience either in person and/or online. This is where our highlights CD comes in.

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I wanted to extend the joy of the music made in The Hub over August to everyone in the city to help battle creative isolation.

Calum McDonald, the International Festival’s Community Engagement and Access Officer


The classical music highlights album is a collection of recordings from across the International Festival’s digital output from August 2020 and is available online to digitally stream. Thanks to Baillie Gifford Investment Managers, we have also been able to produce physical CDs which we have distributed to socially isolated older people across Edinburgh who are unable to engage with the Festival digitally. So far we have connected with a number of community groups including LifeCare, Home Instead Senor Care, Oxgangs Care, Caring in Craigmillar and Citadel & Pilmeny Development Project’s Intergenerational Group.

We also issued online callouts to community groups to volunteer individuals who could benefit from the CD, as well as working with care homes and day services to distribute copies further afield. It is hoped that the CDs will bring some of the magic of our musical offerings from 2020 into the homes of older generations who were unable to connect with us digitally or in person, and will lead to deeper engagement with more of the citizens of our Festival City.

To read more about the wider highlights album, you can read our blog about the CD here.


Making Memories

In partnership with The Fruitmarket Gallery and The Crannie, a new community space managed by Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust, Making Memories is an initiative inspired by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s Night Walk for Edinburghwhich premiered at the International Festival in 2019. The project delivered monthly creative workshops with older people with the aim of using object, stories, videos and photographs to trigger memories of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Disrupted by Covid-19, the project took a break between March and September 2020, and resumed predominantly over Zoom which led to participants recalling their personal experiences of the coronavirus pandemic, a portrait photography session and some poem writing about childhood. A short film has also been created highlighting some of the participants experiences of 2020 and can be found here.


Culture Club

Connecting communities to each other and the world through cultural experiences.

Culture Club is a community-based project which aims to bring different communities in Edinburgh together and provide them with access to a range of artistic performances inspired by the International Festival programme. People of all ages from communities around Edinburgh, both geographical and thematic, are invited to enjoy a shared meal, hosted in a different community hub each time, before traveling together to attend a cultural event.

So far, we have presented seven Culture Clubs across Edinburgh from Oxgangs to Craigmiller via Gorgie, Morningside and Leith, and have engaged a diverse range of community groups from across the city, offering the opportunity to attend a wide variety of performances, both as part of the International Festival and throughout the year.

If you are interested in your group being involved in a future Culture Club, please contact engage@eif.co.uk with an email telling us a little about you and your group.

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This was a wonderful opportunity to open the doors to Edinburgh Festival to people who would otherwise not see or experience any shows.

Culture Club Attendee

Global Communities

Through our Global Communities programme, the International Festival looks to expand the connections between the international artists performing at the Festival in August to the citizens of Edinburgh and beyond. The initiative seeks to explore a variety of elements of the International Festival programme through deeper engagement and participation, seeing artists and performances being taken into community settings, providing unique opportunities for artists and audiences to connect.

Further details on the different elements of our Global Communities work can be found below. If you would be interested in your group or community being involved in a future Global Communities initiative, please email engage@eif.co.uk.



World Music

In 2019, the International Festival worked with Tinderbox Orchestra, Canongate Youth Music Café and Lyra to explore World Music and the power of bringing together the musical traditions of different nations. The groups participated in workshops with musicians including saxophonist Tim Garland and members of Scottish Celtic-fusion band Shooglenifty, not only connecting with the artists but also with their peers in the other groups, before collectively attending Shooglenifty’s East West performance at The Lyceum during the International Festival where they were joined by Dhun Dhora from Rajasthan and Galicia’s Tanxugueiras.

Red Dust Road Community Project

In response to the World Premiere of Red Dust Road at this year’s International Festival, we have partnered with the National Theatre of Scotland on a bespoke community project that seeks to explore some of the key issues from the play including the sense of who we are as citizens of the world, where do we come from, and how do we tell the story of our journeys through life.

Over the Autumn, theatre maker and academic Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh will be engaging with a group from The Welcoming in Gorgie to explore such issues and work towards a creative response.

Cardiff & Miller

Inspired by Cardiff & Miller’s Night Walk for Edinburgh, and in partnership with the Fruitmarket Gallery, this intergenerational project will work with both teenagers and older people who live in Wester Hailes to explore their creative responses to the community within which they live. Marking 50 years since the creation of Wester Hailes, the project will culminate in the participants coming together to connect over their shared space in the city.

Pop Up Performances

The International Festival presented two pop-up performances in community settings during the 2019 Festival.

Performers from Nigeria’s Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk Truetook the incredible stories from their stage show at The Lyceum to the Culture Lounge Salon hairdressers in Leith where they gave the patrons an insight into their celebrated performance and its life-affirming call for female solidarity and empowerment. A space of female celebration, the Culture Salon came alive with colour, and by the end of the pop-up locals and performers were mixing over Afrobeats from the DJ and freshly cooked Nigerian cuisine. Experience it for yourself in the video below.

On the other side of the city, Quatuor Mona were delighting audiences at the Oxgang Neighbourhood Centre’s Fun Day. The string quartet who were in Edinburgh to perform as part of Sir James MacMillan at Greyfriars Kirk, treated the locals to an hour-long repertoire of chamber music which also included an opportunity for them to ask questions at the end. A smaller group from Oxgangs also received tickets and transport support to attend the Greyfriars Kirk performance, expanding their engagement with Quatuor Mona and classical music.



Previous Projects

Lau Land Big Tune Machine

As part of their Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside day of curated folk music at Leith Theatre, Lau collaborated with the International Festival on the Big Tune Machine. Bringing together players of all ages they created a folk music big band like no other. Rehearsals took place in June with Amy Geddes and Donald Knox of Fyne Fiddles, before the troupe came together at Leith Theatre to perform a brand-new composition. The afternoon culminated in an open session for those who wished to stay and play.

Youth Ensembles

As part of its 2018 Usher Hall season, the International Festival presented an extraordinary collection of hugely talented young musicians from all over the world.

As part of this celebration of young talent, the International Festival worked closely with communities throughout Edinburgh and beyond, to make sure that the young people of Scotland were able to see some of this incredible live music. Groups including Edinburgh Young Carers, the Welcoming Association, NHS Merchiston, WHALE Arts and a variety of ESL schools in Edinburgh received complimentary tickets and travel support to attend classic music performance.

Wayne McGregor

To coincide with the International Festival’s presentation of Autobiography, the latest work from Wayne McGregor, two dancers from Studio Wayne McGregor came to Edinburgh in June to present three days of workshops.

Working closely with Dance Base, the first workshop was presented to an intergenerational class of the Lothian Youth Dance Company and PRIME, the semi-professional dance company for over 60s, the first time the two groups had come together. The other two days of workshops took place at Broughton High School, working one day with a group of their dance specialist students, and the other day with pupils from the school who do not actively engage in dance.