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What is the Spirit of ’47?

In this blog we’re taking a closer look at the Spirit of ‘47 programme co-curated with the British Council, a co-founder of the International Festival. We go back 70 years to track the beginning of that partnership, as well as find out more how the international collaboration in today’s world is celebrated this August in Edinburgh. Let’s kick off by waching the video below to hear from some of the performers and creators who are part of the Spirit of ‘47 programme.

A platform for the flowering of the human spirit

Spirit of ‘47 is a special 11-day programme of work to mark the 70th anniversary of the International Festival and celebrate 70 years of international cultural collaboration, created together with the British Council which was there since the very beginning of the International Festival, continuously supporting to make it happen. But how has it all started?

Conductor Bruno Walter

In 1947, after the devastation of World War II, the founding vision of the International Festival was to reunite people through great art and "provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit". In these historic early moments, people overcame the post-war darkness, division and austerity in a blooming of Festival Spirit. That phrase may sound nebulous, yet in reality, it's anything but. Festival Spirit manifests itself in courageous decisions, generous acts and joyful moments.

A prime example of that, when asked why he had accepted the invitation to appear at the first International Festival, celebrated conductor Bruno Walter replied: “It was just after the end of the war [and] it was of the utmost importance and most to be desired that all the ties which had been torn should be re-united.

International collaborations in today’s world

In the coming weeks, we’ll be heading to the airport to pick up artists from countries such as Ukraine, USA, Lebanon, Cuba, China, Jamaica, Palestine, Chile, Argentina, Syria, Portugal, Germany, Iran, Pakistan, India and more to join us in these spirited 70th anniversary celebrations. Hopping from one Spirit of ’47 event to another you can travel around the world and discover fresh and thought-provoking international perspectives. Let’s take a look at some programme highlights that truly embody the Festival Spirit and get you inspired to fill your schedule for August.

MINEFIELD is on 6-9 August

MINEFIELD unites on stage veterans from both sides of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict. Here, Bruno Walter’s words have resonance 70 years on: “The war was an interruption of very harmonious personal relationships, and when we met here for the first time after this interruption it was really a meeting of old friends who did not know if they were still friends. But they were.”

For more theatre, you should try New and Now series of play readings by some of today’s most exciting writers, presented by the Royal Court Theatre. Over six mornings, we will travel the world, bearing witness to the issues affecting people in Chile, China, Cuba, Lebanon, Palestine and Ukraine.

For a truly diverse international collaboration, join us for New European Songbook, a concert series of songs written by established European artists and musicians recently arrived in Europe. Highlights include a Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst joining forces with Basalt, a Syrian trio who have migrated to Conchita’s home country of Austria. These concerts remind us of Bruno Walter’s 1947 concert, in which he was reunited with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Following Nazi persecution in the lead up to war, Walter fled Europe. When he finally met the Orchestra again at the Usher Hall, he found many of his colleagues missing, having been killed by the Nazis.

Keep on exploring

There’s much more to discover in the programme: Anoushka Shankar transporting the sound of sitar into pop and electronica; Mercury Prize-winning singer-songwriter Benjamin Clementine; an invitation to pop in to Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed’s residency; a keynote event with writer Paul Auster presented by Edinburgh International Book Festival; an Iranian theatre play Voicelessness; a series of talks and discussions and more.

Discover the full Spirit of ’47 programme here.

Anoushka Shankar / Martin Creed / Benjamin Clementine

Are you not in the Festival city this August? Don’t worry, you can still experience the Spirit of ’47. Thanks to BBC Arts Digital, we will be live streaming some of the events to global online audiences, extending the reach of Spirit beyond the city walls of Edinburgh - something which audiences in 1947 could never have imagined! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with our news.


Read more:

Martin Creed | International Festival Portraits 
Anoushka Shankar | International Festival Portraits
Get to know Benjamin Clementine 
Listen to Spirit of ’47 playlist