News Story

Creative Learning Officer Emma Hay introduces us to the vibrant, inspiring world that is Creative Learning at the Edinburgh International Festival...

One day, I’m sure of it: I will look back and this will be the best job I ever had.

Since Fergus Linehan came on board as Artistic Director, the Creative Learning department at the Edinburgh International Festival has changed considerably. Formerly devising a range of Festival talks and insights alongside a year-round programme of workshops for schools, the team is now charged with a wider remit: to incorporate the voices of Edinburgh’s young people into the fabric of the International Festival, and to produce large scale engagement events for communities during August.

We are a two person team that extends to many, with a pool of project managers, singers, musicians, writers and visual artists that shape and support our work.

We are, and should be, a reflection of this evolving, spirited festival that we are a part of.

The philosophy that underpins the work we do is simple: leading from within. We aim to liberate passion and potential that already exists in people and present it in a new light, or sometimes just give existing lights new bulbs.

No year – or day, for that matter – is the same. This week alone I’ve been brutally murdered (for the purposes of a student film project), covered in paint in workshops, sent invitations to local groups to join a community project and created a schedule for an International Festival jury of young people in August.

From recital workshops, to public art installations, one-to-one mentoring and arranging for twelve pop up brass bands to play simultaneously along the Water of Leith, creativity takes many forms. We spend a lot of time eating cake and thrashing out great artistic and philosophical concepts; we find this combination ultimately drives the highest quality experience for our young people, participants and audiences.

In 2015 we started a three year residency programme with Castlebrae Community High School, in the southeast part of the city. To the best of our knowledge, a model for how one arts organisation works with one secondary school intensively over three years doesn’t exist.

The students at the school have participated in a number of arts workshops: knitting, dance, classical music, photography and media literacy, general literary and visual arts. They’ve been given the chance to see International Festival performances and feel a stronger sense of belonging to this Festival City.

At the beginning of this year, we initiated a bespoke work experience and mentoring programme with senior students at the school that offers them the opportunity to be mentored by an International Festival staff member. These same students will become the International Festival jury mentioned above. In turn, these experiences will develop the students’ cultural awareness, social and communication skills and employability. The International Festival mentors gain the same.

Engagement with the arts should offer us a way of understanding and exploring the world around us and allow us to articulate complex ideas. It’s about empowerment, opportunity and so often in the world of creative learning – sheer joy.

Emma Hay
Creative Learning Officer
Edinburgh International Festival

Photo Credit:

Castlebrae Launch © Aly Wight