We’re almost half-way through January and the shortest days are behind us at last! Here are eight cultural recommendations to carry you through the month and into the next. We've highlighted some free exhibitions for you to enjoy, as well as fantastic performances from Scottish artists and beyond. There are also a few birthday celebrations in order...
Enjoy the new Scottish Galleries at the National
Situated just off Princes Street lies the National, home to world-class International and Scottish art from 1300 – 1945. In September 2023, the new Scottish Galleries opened to host key works from the nation’s historic art collection, offering more than double the physical display space as well as new trails and activities. With spectacular views over Edinburgh, this warm gallery right in Edinburgh’s city centre is a great way to spend a windy January afternoon.
They have BSL and audio described introductions as well as audio and visitor guides.
Turner in January: a uniquely Scottish annual tradition
Every January the National Galleries of Scotland bring a special collection of paintings out of storage for all to see. William Turner’s famous watercolours are only on display in January as this is when natural light is at its lowest. As a result, the watercolours still possess a freshness and an intensity of colour, almost 200 years since they were painted!
The collection has been exhibited at the National almost every year for over a century, forming a uniquely Scottish January tradition. The bright vitality of the watercolours is the perfect free exhibition to brighten up darker January days.
The exhibition is wheelchair accessible.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra's 50th Anniversary Concert – £6 tickets for Under 26 & Students
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. They have curated a programme for their anniversary which will be sure to make you laugh or raise a wry smile. The SCO performed The Magic Flute in concert at the International Festival in August 2023, and was praised as “terrific playing” by The Times. Their 50th concert promises to be a wonderful evening, what better way to celebrate a birthday? £6 discounted tickets are available for under 26’s, students and registered unemployed. Under 18’s go free.
Cinders: A playful new production by Scottish Ballet
As part of their UK tour, Cinders comes to Edinburgh in January before continuing in Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle. This twist on the classic ballet Cinderella has a surprise in store each night for audiences as the curtain rises. On some nights, Cinders will be a woman, swept off her feet by her Prince, and on others, Cinders will be a man, swept off his feet by his Princess.
With an art-nouveau-inspired set and costumes, and music by Prokofiev played live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, Cinders is a familiar romantic fairy tale made sparkling and new.
Celtic Connections is Glasgow’s annual festival of folk, roots and world music, curated to celebrate Scotland’s relationship with global cultures. For 18 days, over 2,000 musicians from around the world bring an extraordinary array of music to Glasgow. With over 300 events at venues across the city, including concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops and free events, there is a full programme to be explored.
Chris Thile and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
The anticipated celebration of the start of Celtic Connections features the staging of the European premiere of ATTENTION!, a symphonic work by Chris Thile. Hailed as the ‘the best mandolin player in the world’ by Billboard Magazine, Thile performed with his band Nickel Creek at the International Festival last August. For this special performance in Glasgow, Thile joins forces with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, as well as vocalist Rachel Sermanni, who have both delighted International Festival audiences in the past.
Celebrating the life and legacy of Robert Burns, the Scottish poet and lyricist, Burns&Beyond returns to Edinburgh with an exciting programme of free and ticketed events. Featuring International Festival favourites including Anna Meredith, Aidan O’Rourke, and Nadine Shah. Burns&Beyond 2024 hosts a feast of fun including a Big Burns Ceilidh at the National Museum of Scotland. More details about their programme, booking and accessibility are available on their website.
New public sculpture in St Giles’ Cathedral
This year marks the 900th anniversary of the founding of St Giles’ Cathedral, which sits on The Royal Mile just five minutes from our base at The Hub. Throughout 2024, St Giles’ is hosting a series of events to commemorate their anniversary. At the end of January, in collaboration with Burns&Beyond, St. Giles’ Cathedral will become the focus of a new public sculpture created by German artist Michael Pendry. Pendry was the creative talent behind Les Colombes, an installation where a floating flock of more than 2,000 paper doves were hung in the nave of St Giles.
His new exhibition ‘HEART’ will make its UK premiere, lighting-up the cathedral with a new three-dimensional work measuring five metres tall. Tickets for the first illumination are soon to be announced...
From the Edinburgh International Festival, we wish you a Happy New Year and good wishes for the year to come. What events are you most looking forward to in 2024? Tag us on social media @edintfest.
Our 2024 International Festival programme will be announced on 7 March and tickets on public sale 21 March. To book tickets before they go on sale to the public, you can become a member.