Edinburgh International Festival 2019: You Are Here

Posted on: 27th September 2019

Earlier this year Fergus Linehan announced the 2019 Edinburgh International Festival programme. This years festival line-up saw a lot of major changes, including the introduction of a new strand called You Are Here, curated by Edinburgh native, and Fuel’s director Kate McGrath.

“Our aim at Fuel has always been to produce the work of exciting artists, who are looking intensely at the world around them, and at how we relate to each other in it,” says McGrath, “and so when Fergus approached me and offered me the chance, to curate a strand of work that would raise the same kind of questions in the context of the Edinburgh Festival, it made every kind of sense. In a sense, I’ve been asking what ‘Edinburgh’ means – because I still have such a strong relationship with the city I grew up in, and the issues it faces – as well as what ‘international’ means in 2019, and what ‘festival’ now means, 72 years on from the first Edinburgh Festival; and I hope this year’s You Are Here programme is a statement of intent about how we start to explore those questions.”

You Are Here was made up of ten shows in total, four of which are dance-based and the other six are various types of theatre. Some of the theatre work has routes in England, Scotland, Belgium, North America and Nigeria. Ranging from the British premiere of Hear Word!, in which a group of powerful Nigerian women artists and performers speak openly about women’s lives in Africa now, to Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, a studio show that gives voice to the intertwined histories and legacies from the northern and southern extremes of Canada.

Also included in the programme was the European premiere of Roots, and the world premiere of the National Theatre of Scotland’s new stage version of Red Dust Road, Scottish Makar Jackie Kay’s memoir of her search for her Nigerian birth father. Accompanying this diverse programme was a series of debates and discussions which included a series of 18 Morning Manifestos for the future written by different international artists. Some of these discussions included Breaking Bread, which was a series of artist-hosted meals, and a residence by five emerging international writers from London’s Royal Court Theatre.

“It’s a really essential part of You Are Here to encourage people beyond the artists themselves to become engaged with this discussion,” says McGrath, “both Edinburgh people, and the amazing international community of audience members that arrives in Edinburgh every August. It’s all about how the festival was founded in a time of devastation, after the Second World War, as a creative response to that; and about what role art and culture can play now, in widening our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to others in this new time of crisis.”