Seventy years ago, in a world looking for a new post-war identity, the scenic city of Edinburgh seemed like a perfect place to experience arts. The idea of a festival spread through its ancient streets, and in 1947 the first edition of the Edinburgh International Festival became real. The mission was clear from the beginning: to reconcile people after the war by using the arts, a powerful tool to transcend all political and cultural boundaries. With some of the old artistic hubs in Europe destroyed, Edinburgh had become a home for artists and audiences across the globe. The debut edition of the festival was only made possible thanks to the efforts of locals who cooked meals, hosted visitors at their houses and decorated the streets with flowers and flags.
The city was excited to welcome the world – and over the years, more and more arts enthusiasts arrived in Edinburgh to get together and be part of concerts, operas, theatre and dance shows. A free-spirited anarchy was part of it from the very beginning: during the International Festival in 1946, a group of uninvited artists decided to stage their own shows away from the official programme. This was the starting point of the Edinburgh Fringe, a festival that still today showcases the boldest performances across multiple art forms. Scotland became known as a world centre for the arts, expanding the International Festival and the Fringe spirit to other venues, wider audiences and new festivals.
Edinburgh was also a leading centre of innovation and remarkable moments. The city was awarded the first UNESCO City of Literature and it was also here that the world’s first ever female film festival director was nominated. In 1999, the wish to develop a tool to connect people with the festivals and their programme and schedules has led to the first mobile app ever created and a new vision about technology and the arts. The Edinburgh Fringe is also known as the world’s greatest platform for creative freedom and enables thousands of famous or unknown performers to present shows that challenge attendants to see new art forms - dance for example, which has a chance in Edinburgh to reach new audiences and demystify the idea that it is a niche activity.
Through the years, the original values of the festivals remain the same. The purpose is still about bringing people together, transcending borders, and ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’. This is probably the biggest lesson we can take out of the Edinburgh festivals - art is made by people for people. That is why here at The Place we strongly believe in the festivals and in their positive impact on both communities and the arts sector.
This year, the International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe welcome a wide range of avant-garde dance performances and we are happy to be part of the festival again this year, presenting artists who are part of our community. We encourage everyone in Edinburgh to discover Juliet & Romeo, by Ben Duke’s Lost Dog and The Forecast, by Amy Bell. Have a great Fringe!