Our Work with Young People

Year-round and during August, we work with a number of young people on projects that range from explorations of the artforms and international artists we present on stage through to opportunities to participate and perform at the International Festival, connecting at all times to relevant curriculum learnings.


Lament for Sheku Bayoh

Two women stand on stage with emotional expressions, with a guitarist in the background

Lament for Sheku Bayoh

Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Following inclusion in the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival programme, we have teamed up with the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh to bring schools across Scotland access to Hannah Lavery’s Lament for Sheku Bayoh.

Suitable for upper secondary school, Lament for Sheku Bayoh is a poetic reflection on grief for the human behind the headlines and a non-apologetic reflection on racism in Scotland today. Available via the National Theatre of Scotland’s new education portal, teachers can get access to a film of the full production of the play as well as an in-depth teachers’ resource that explores the themes of the play and how to tackle them in the classroom, as well as a creative writing workshop from Hannah Lavery.

Teachers can sign up for the NTS’ Education Portal here.

Sugar Army

Oona Doherty’s acclaimed work Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer was presented as part of the 2019 International Festival. The performance is split in four chapters, with chapter two entitled ‘Sugar Army’ and featuring a troupe of young female dancers performing a warrior-like hip hop routine representing the harsh yet made-up girls Doherty faced as a teenager growing up in Belfast.

As is Doherty’s practice, an Edinburgh Sugar Army was created, with the International Festival recruiting Ashley Jack and her House of Jack troupe to assemble a group of 13 young female dancers to perform as part of Hard to be Soft at the Lyceum Theatre. The dancers, who ranged from 14 to 17-years-old, came from across Edinburgh and performed in all four performances on the Lyceum Theatre stage as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Opera Project 2019

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“The workshop beforehand is highly entertaining - a superb introduction to the whole genre as well as the specific work in the EIF programme. It is highly accessible to a wide variety of pupils.”

Previous Teacher Attendee

The International Festival’s Opera Project is an annual initiative that seeks to make the artform of opera accessible to young people, breaking down barriers and perceptions. Using an opera from the forthcoming International Festival programme, we present an English-language, potted version to Secondary school pupils, introducing them to the specific work as well as to song and singing techniques being utilised by the composer.

We are looking to present our next Opera Project in November 2021.

Herald Young Critics

Olivia looking at and holding her trophy while smiling

Winner of 2019's Wee Cherub Award, Olivia Campanile

Credit: Gordon Terris 2019

Running for over 15 years, Herald Young Critics is the International Festival's critical writing project. It brings young people from across Edinburgh to see performances they may not normally engage with and seeks their critical responses.

Partnering with The Herald newspaper, all responses are published online, with one review from each school selected to be printed in The Herald. One of these printed responses is then chosen as an overall winner and receives the Wee Cherub Award as part of the Herald Angels awards. The 2019 Wee Cherub Award winner was Olivia Campanile from Holy Rood RC High School for her review of Night Walk for Edinburgh.

You can read all the pupils’ critical responses over on our Herald Young Critics blog.


Young Musician's Passport

Every year some of the world’s finest musicians, orchestras and ensembles come to perform in Edinburgh at the International Festival. With a Young Musician’s Passport we offer our younger audiences the chance to see them for free!

This year, with Covid-19 restrictions and smaller venue capacities, we have worked on a special ballot system to allow over 150 young people the opportunity to attend classical music events in the Festival for free. This has been made possible through the generous support of the Turtleton Charitable Trust and The Pirie Rankin Charitable Trust.


Previous Projects