Where do we go from here?

A woman wearing a green dress leans forward onto a white pillar, resting her hand in her chin and smiling at the camera.

Nicola Benedetti, Edinburgh International Festival Director

“Even as a child, when asked about my biggest inspirations, I would never give the expected list of virtuoso violinists. For some reason, I always found my way to figures who galvanised people around an idea, and whose tie to hope was so strong, they made the unthinkable happen.

It’s early April 2022, and I’ve just closed the final page on Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? With every insight, I am moved by the power and urgency of his mission, philosophy of non-violence, fierce compassion, and uncompromising internationalism in the face of brutality, irrational hatred, and closed-minded certitude. Under unimaginable and constant pressure, he never stopped believing in people’s capacity to unite and elevate around an exalted purpose.

A festival is simply a celebration of having a great time being together. It provides an annual reason to revel in collective play and barely regulated human interaction that help us beat back the demons of boredom, drudgery and loneliness. But it also asks us to consider timeless transcendent possibilities, to dream beyond our ordinary lives. That is the exalted purpose of the arts, and it is the cause that binds audiences around the world to the rituals and traditions of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Over the last six months I have spoken to many people connected to the origins of our festival and they all express a common sentiment with an identical pride; ‘in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, our founders’
creative ambitions were inextricable from their aspirations for humanity.’

Shared belief and collective action resulted in change that reshaped British society forever, with a decisiveness that comes only with such close proximity to mass pain and destruction.

Though our own times don’t resemble much of post-war Britain, the stressors on our ability to work with each other are forever present. There is always a fierce urgency to right now, and where we go next is best determined when we participate together in its trajectory.

Here, in Edinburgh each August, we come to re-establish connections. We all need to feel a part of something much larger than ourselves. What better cause than uniting strangers in mutual curiosity. We have searched for connection and commonality across a broad spectrum of the arts, of cultures and of artistic collaborations to create a programme that offers a fresh perspective on what binds and defines us. Now we deepen this search alongside you.

Our programme has carefully considered the Festival’s founding vision of internationalism and openness alongside the questions posed within Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s book. It encompasses the following three invitations to you: Community over chaos; Hope in the face of adversity; and A perspective that’s not one’s own.

Powerful, contemporary and historic voices will grace our stages including Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, Cécile McLorin Salvant’s Ogresse, Tan Dun’s Buddha Passion and Wagner's Tannhäuser. And our very own home, The Hub, will house explosive collaborations with an organic informality.

We invite you deeper into the identity of our visiting orchestras from London to Caracas, Oslo to Budapest. We also offer engaging theatre and dance-making from Korea, Senegal, Brazil and Switzerland.

And in striving to deepen our culture of listening, we have new initiatives to bring you closer to us and closer to our artists: impromptu collaborations, the reimagining of our venues, less formal presentations, a breaking down of barriers between audience and artist, along with a richer contextualisation of our programmes.

In August, we will experience tales of love, hate, birth, death and forgiveness. We will all interpret each tale in our way, and will forever share, debate and relive these moments. Where do we go from here? Above all, we go to you, and with you. This is your festival. It’s you, our audiences, who will create its spirit of joy and discovery. I am excited to go on the journey with you in August.”