Nicola Benedetti unveils first Edinburgh festival line up as director

The renowned violinist said she wanted the line up to be 'relatable' during the first year under her stewardship.

The Edinburgh International Festival’s first female director said she is hopeful audiences will show a little “bravery” as the programme for the event’s 76th year was unveiled.

Since her appointment in October, Nicola Benedetti has undoubtedly put her own stamp on the three-week celebration of arts which is staged in the Scottish capital every summer.

She said the programme was put together after a spark of inspiration from the Martin Luther King book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?, which she read last year prior to taking up the role.

The festival this year comes against a backdrop of “very real social and economic pressures”, Ms Benedetti said.

“As director, my vision for the coming years is to provide the deepest possible experience to the broadest possible audience.

“There are some things that are a little bit experimental, but I hope people will have the bravery to enter into what is the slightly different ways we are presenting a fairly traditional institution.”

Almost 300 events will take place between August 4 and 27 across Edinburgh, spanning music, theatre, dance and comedy, with the programme underpinned by three key themes: community over chaos; hope in the face of adversity; and a perspective that is not one’s own.

Audiences are invited to consider ideas of identity, community and resilience by artists from 48 countries and six continents.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra will perform four concerts across the festival and the London Symphony Orchestra will be in residence throughout the event.

John Cale, founding member of the band Velvet Underground, and singer Jake Bugg will be providing contemporary music.

Ms Benedetti said her role so far as director has been a “fascinating experience”.

But she is no stranger to the event, with the renowned violinist having performed at it in the past.

On her new role, she said: “It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before.

“There’s definitely been some strange moments for me, realising that I could really decide whether somebody comes to the festival or not.

“I’m so passionate about so many different artists who are out there, they are out there doing incredible things.

“I think it is a hugely collaborative effort. There are final calls that fall to different people.”

For her long-term vision, she wants to continue making the festival available to as many people as possible.

“It’s the first year and it’s been important for me to lay the foundations of certain principles I want to be a priority for us in coming years, and lay them out extremely publicly to start that dialogue both with audiences and within the festival itself, and really start to identify what are going to be our mainstay priorities over the next several years,” she said.

“For me, there are two things we are trying to hold in balance all the time: One is the depth and complexity and also sometimes the length of the art we present.

“A lot of these things require a real depth of investment from our audiences. So it’s to deepen that and protect that.

“Having been committed to music education my whole life and also being Scottish and having such care and feeling towards the people here, how can we put it in front of as many people as possible and how can we try to ensure in any way we can that when they do come in and see something, they have the highest chance of that really impacting their lives and how they feel?”

Tickets for the Edinburgh International Festival go on general sale on May 3.

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