As YPIA’s Regional Ambassador for Edinburgh, I feel I should first confess that I am not a local, nor am I even Scottish. However, I first visited Edinburgh in 2012 and quickly became captivated by its unique character. It wasn’t long until I knew I wanted to live here.
Old Town, most notably the famous Royal Mile, can feel like a relic from the Medieval times, comprised of compact buildings and narrow closes that rest in the shadows of Edinburgh Castle. New Town has a slightly airier feel. It was originally built in the late 1700s for the city’s wealthier residents. It is divided from Old Town not only by its uniform Georgian period architecture, but also by Princes Street Gardens – a long, lush garden that rests in the very centre of the city; an oasis amongst its urban surroundings.
Even after years living here, I continue to be surprised by the unique suburbs and green spaces that exist beyond city centre. From catching a sunset at Portobello Beach on a quiet evening, through to perusing Stockbridge’s plethora of charity shops or visiting Leith Links for a picnic in the park, there is plenty to visit and discover.
Things are a little different this year. Art galleries, museums and theatres either remain closed or are only just beginning to re-emerge from Covid’s lockdown, and for the first time since 1947, Edinburgh’s famous August festival season was put on hold. However as we look to the future there are seeds of optimism. A new, more isolated world has encouraged us to re-imagine what the arts sector can offer digitally. Many arts organisations across the city have found innovative ways to engage with audiences online, while others begin to welcome visitors physically, but in completely new ways. Below I’ve compiled just a few ways that Edinburgh’s famous cultural organisations have adapted to their new found situation.
Browse 100+ book-related online events
This year the 2020 Book Festival was presented online. The programme, made up of over 100 events for adults, families and children, offered both live and pre-recorded conversations featuring leading writers, poets and participants from around the world. Events were made free to view through the Book Festival’s website.
Visit an award-winning sculpture garden
Many venues catered more to the outdoors have already opened. Jupiter Artland, located just outside Edinburgh, is offering pre-booked timeslots that are available online. Founded in 2009, it is set over 100 acres of meadow, woodland and indoor gallery spaces and is home to over 30 permanent site-specific sculptures from artists including Phyllida Barlow, Charles Jencks, Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Antony Gormley.
Experience a series of 10 artist responses, online and around the city
While Edinburgh Art Festival’s 2020 edition was cancelled, ten artists from previous festival editions were invited to present work this August. The online programme is available to view via the festival’s website. There were a small number of projects appearing in public sites around the city.
Get lost in a world of plants
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has also recently opened its doors, where you can discover a collection of over 100,000 plants and a history dating back 350 years. Full info on booking during Covid here.
Enjoy the Fringe from your sofa
Following the announcement that Edinburgh Festival Fringe would not go ahead as planned in 2020, the Fringe Society unveiled alternative digital plans taking place in the summer, complementing a variety of activities planned by Fringe artists and venues. You can find the full programme on their website.
Explore Traverse Theatre’s virtual programme
The Traverse Theatre is a dynamic centre for performance, experience and discovery. Enabling people across society to access and engage with theatre. Despite their building being closed, they produced a free virtual programme, working with writers, artists, young people and the community. This included a free 16-week playwriting course, scratch performances for young writers, and Scenes for Survival - a new season of digital short artworks from Scottish creative talents.
Keep a digital creature alive!
While the National Museum of Scotland is still closed, there are lots of ways to explore collections and continue learning at home. One way the are doing this is through online games – exploring topics from Ancient Egypt to genetics and pop music. For instance, the game ‘GEN’ is an innovative strategy game where you can use biomedical objects from the museum collection to diagnose and treat a digital creature. You can find all their online games here.