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Global Cultural Fellows Build on Festivals' Promise

Artists from around the world gathered in Edinburgh as part of a new project using the city’s festivals to explore how the arts can connect people and cultures.

The inaugural Global Cultural Fellows programme brought 33 people together to experience the 70th year of the summer festivals and to discuss cultural interests and values. Over eight days they attended shows at the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, whilst debating the underpinning values that saw Edinburgh become a festival city.

Diverse Backgrounds

Organised by the University’s Institute for International Cultural Relations, the Fellows came from all regions of the world and included cultural activists, artists, performers, and entrepreneurs. The group featured a dancer from Cambodia, the head of the National Theatre of Nigeria, an Australian opera singer, a Malaysian chef, and a magazine editor from Sweden, to highlight just a few.

Curated Programme

The Fellows attended events at the festivals linked to specific themes – such as anger and anxiety, empathy, and culture wars – before gathering to discuss their reactions. They saw a variety of shows including Mark Thomas performing stand-up at the Fringe festival, Alan Ayckbourn's new play, The Divide, at the Edinburgh International Festival, and author discussions at the Book Festival.

"The organisers have been genius in how they have curated this programme. It has been really rewarding and it will stay with me for a long time. The variety that the Fringe has to offer does not exist in Latin America. It’s like coming to another planet. It’s been a once in a lifetime chance. I’m glad to be here."

Consuelo Hidalgo ( Cultural Director at the Ecuador – United States Binational Center)

Shared Values

In light of recent fractious global events, the Fellows also discussed whether the idea of universal and shared values for humankind still persists, and whether the arts can help different groups to understand each other.  

"It’s been amazing. For the first time we have had a global conversation about what the festival does. It has been a celebration of the festival’s 70 years and its original intention – to explore cultural interests. We have created new, useful public knowledge. It’s a unique kind of knowledge. It didn’t come from scholars writing. It came from 33 people from around the world talking. All of the University should feel proud of what we have done. I hope that Rudolph Bing, the first festival director, would be proud of what we’ve done here."

JP Singh (Director of the Institute for International Cultural Relations)

Collaborations Born

Upon returning to their home organisations and institutions, the 33 fellows will undertake projects over the course of their year-long appointment. 

Already, networks and collaborations are appearing. Fellows from the Phillipines and Mexico are discussing creating a work based on a seventeenth century trading route between their two countries.

"What will come next will be because we are making friends as well as professional networks. We’re having all these shared experiences and exploring them together. It’s not how most professional conferences go. We are in the thick of it. And any collaborations that do come out of it, come from a place of mutual trust and a shared experience, which will make it a much more fruitful enterprise."

Douglas Lonie (Senior Consultant, BOP Consulting)

Further Information

More outputs frm the programme can be found on the IICR's Cultural Conversations blog.

Further information on the Edinburgh Festivals can be found on the Festival City website.

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