Just Festival is the little sibling of Edinburgh’s big August festivals, and though it may be dwarfed by the Fringe, it shouldn’t go overlooked. With its central theme of international social justice, it has tackled some big issues over the years – conflict, refugees, racism, austerity, death – and this year, much the same applies. Those who’d like to see a better, more tolerant and peaceful world should find their spirits raised, determination bolstered and minds expanded by what is on offer.
The Festival has two bases, both beautiful, historic buildings – St. John’s Church at the end of Princes’ Street, and the Quaker Meeting House on Victoria Street – and this year is marking three historical anniversaries – 100 years of the Balfour Declaration, 70 years of Indian Independence and 500 years since the Protestant Reformation – and examining the impact they’ve had on the world around us.
On the first of these, John Molleson and Colin Cooper will be giving a dramatised reading of letters exchanged 100 years ago between the British, Palestinians and Zionists, in which, headed by Arthur Balfour, the then Foreign Secretary, the British promised the same land to three different peoples. Legacy of Balfour is a free photography exhibition which shows what’s happened since…
The Indian link can be seen in performances by Ragamala Dance Company’s Nocturne, which combines Western aesthetics with an Indian ethos. There’s also a chance to hear the first-hand stories of sex work, trafficking and surviving in Mumbai’s Red Light District in Lal Batti Express, a performance by the young women of Kranti (“Revolution” in Hindi).
Meanwhile, over in Germany 500 years ago, some bloke nailed some paper to a church door and revolutionised religion across Europe for centuries to come. In the Festival Pulpit series, speakers from in and outside the church will examine where we are now five centuries on from Martin Luther. Rt Rev Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Bavaria kicks off the series on Sun 6 Aug.
Elsewhere, Just once again plays host to talks from the Death on the Fringe series. Dr Mark Taubert manages to combine David Bowie with his work in hospices in Rebel, Rebel on Thu 17 Aug, while Professor David Clark is in conversation about his book on the history of palliative care on Thu 24 Aug.
There’s much more to be explored in the wider programme and it all kicks off on Fri 4 Aug.