News Story

We are thrilled to share details of free events taking place across Edinburgh at the 2023 Festival, bringing the city together to capture the spirit of community and the joy of music making.

Our Opening Fanfare will take place on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 August, featuring brass bands and pipers, rappers and choirs, as over 300 young musicians from Scotland’s vibrant homegrown music scene assemble for an energetic weekend of music-making in Princes St Gardens.

On Saturday 5 August, Scottish youth and amateur ensembles take over three pop-up stages in the gardens, culminating in a final moment of joint music making at the end of the day. Sunday 6 August sees an epic set from the thrilling GRIT Orchestra as well as performances from three National Youth Companies, The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and National Youth Brass Bands of Scotland. In a truly memorable manifestation of the first week’s theme: community over chaos, GRIT Orchestra will also perform a world premiere work composed for the 2023 Festival, accompanied by over 100 young people.

At The Hub, the home of the Festival, an inaugural programme of afternoon sessions includes free artist conversations, performances and listening experiences, featuring artists from across the 2023 Festival. The Hub afternoon events are supported by long-standing Festival Partner, The University of Edinburgh.

From the 2023 theatre programme, writer Nat McCleary and director Johnny McKnight of National Theatre of Scotland take us behind the scenes of new Scottish play Thrown; Life is a Dream creatives Nick Omerod and Declan Donnellan of Cheek by Jowl discuss international collaboration in theatre, with Spanish interpreter Juan Ollero, an in-conversation with As Far As Impossible’s director, and director of Festival d’Avignon, Tiago Rodrigues, and an afternoon with Geoff Sobelle, award-winning theatre artist, clown and creator of immersive work FOOD.

From the 2023 music programme, a deep dive into the music and story of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhaüser, a performance and demonstration of Rachmaninoff’s stylings by British-Ukrainian pianist Alexei Grynyuk; and a discussion on musical innovation from experimental composer, DJ and producer Matthew Herbert around his world premiere album The Horse and its fascinating journey uncovering the musical potential within a horse skeleton.

We are also excited to host two special events in a new location, the Scottish Parliament, in a first-time partnership with the Festival of Politics.

The Debating Chamber will see two In Conversation events featuring two major creatives from the International Festival programme. Gustavo Dudamel, one of the world’s foremost music conductors, will be joined by Clare Adamson MSP, Convener, Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, on Friday 25 August. The world’s premier solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie OBE will be in conversation with the Deputy Presiding Officer Liam McArthur MSP on Wednesday 9 August. Both artists will discuss their careers as well as the key question posed by the International Festival this year: where do we go from here? A panel session exploring the future of the arts and culture will also be part of this series, on Thursday 10 August.

Other talks presented in partnership with the Festival of Politics will take place in The Hub and explore principles behind the International Festival’s 2023 programme.

Community over chaos is discussed by Nigel Osbourne OBE, composer, teacher and aid-worker pioneering music therapy techniques with war traumatised children, in conversation with Travis Alabanza, award-winning writer and performer known for their work surrounding gender, trans identity and race, chaired by Gemma Cairney.

Hope in the face of adversity and the power of creativity in adverse circumstances is explored by former Makar, or National Poet of Scotland, Jackie Kay and British-Iranian artist Fari Bradley, chaired by Jenny Niven.

A perspective that’s not one’s own is unpacked by author Dina Nayeri and cultural development specialist Fairouz Nishanova, chaired by author and journalist Chitra Ramaswamy.

On the final weekend of the Festival, the gardens at Charlotte Square will be opened to the public as a musical oasis, where a soundscape of recorded music from the 2023 Festival classical music concerts will play throughout the garden. The soundscape will also feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony alongside archival recordings.

A view of a sunlit grassy park, with trees and tenements visible in the background and one tree trunk in the foreground.

Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

© Stephen McKay for Geograph

From our stages to your home, audiences can also enjoy recorded music from across the 2023 programme on BBC Radio 3. A new series of audio introductions hosted by Nicola Benedetti and BBC Radio’s Tom Service will share further insight into music and theatre from the 2023 programme through conversations with creatives involved.

Nicola Benedetti, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said:

'Our free programming sees iconic spaces around Edinburgh come alive with some incredible artists. I’m particularly proud that there are opportunities like this for our audiences and community members to get closer to the artists across our 2023 Festival programme. It’s our audiences who play a key part in creating the magic of what takes place on our stages and upholding the wonderful standards of this world-class event. A festival is a place of joy and discovery, and I hope everyone will get involved and come together to experience some of this magic this August.'

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said:

'EventScotland is delighted to be supporting Edinburgh International Festival’s free-to-attend Opening Fanfare Weekend. The family-friendly event promises audiences an up-close and personal connection to Scotland’s vibrant music scene, all against the iconic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle in Princes St Gardens. Having events that appeal to both residents and visitors alike enables us to connect and share memorable experiences while showcasing Scotland as the perfect stage for events. We wish Nicola Benedetti, in her first year as Festival Director, and all of the extended team, performers and audiences a very special Festival filled with discovery and delight.'