Summerhall has officially launched their programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, marking its eighth year at the festival. Once again, the year-round art venue promises to continue its commitment to creativity, innovation and collaboration while also showcasing a verisimilitude of theatre, music and visual arts from across the world.
As Summerhall approaches its second decade as a Fringe venue, it is doubling down on its commitment to enhancing diversity, as well as green initiatives and fair-work policies. The programme (totalling 148 shows) will showcase work from 14 countries, including Taiwan, Switzerland, Canada, and Egypt, and aims to explore a multitude of themes from parental relationships to homelessness to migration as well as numerous other socio-political issues; something which Summerhall is known for, especially having played host to Pussy Riot last year.
Moreover, the venue aims to not only continue its reputation as a host of avant-garde and deeply personal work, but also to create partnerships with artists. The introduction and inclusion of a number of awards and initiatives, including “the Eclipse Award, Fringe of Colour, Autopsy Award and a series of annual artist in residence positions see Summerhall actively supporting artists making new work and responding to our world”.
Of note, the theatrical programme is set to feature a number of award-winning shows including Daddy Drag – the most recent recipient of the Autopsy Award for boundary-pushing performance work. The show sees Leila Josephine take a deep dive into the world of paternal relationships and how they shape us in later life, all through the medium of drag and the witty performance style she is known for. There will also be a run from My Best Dead Friend, a comedy about grief, death, and unfulfilled love that was the winner of the Melbourne Fringe Summerhall award – a reciprocal award which sees one show from each festival selected to perform at the other.
For a fifth year, Summerhall’s music programme, Nothing Ever Happens Here, will take over the Dissection Rooms. Having “grown from an idea to bolster Edinburgh’s music scene, to become one of the best places to see exciting, live music in the city” during the festival, the programme continues to go from strength to strength. The artists featured will include award-winning singer and musician, Kathryn Joseph who will perform her 2018 album, From When I Wake The Want Is; as well as New York art-rockers Bodega, and Rachel Sermanni who will be launching her new album So It Turns at the venue, inspired by Sermanni’s own experiences studying and volunteering at a Buddhist monastery. Summerhall’s programme refuses to make too much of a distinction between types and genres of music, instead operating off the assertion that “if it’s good enough, it has a home here”.
Never one to shy away from political affairs, Summerhall’s Visual Arts programme will once again see a host of artists “taking a stand in the public debate on the challenges we face” as a society. Notably, climate-change activists Extinction Rebellion will be taking over two spaces in Summerhall’s basement to curate a month of visual art, film, and performance, with the aim being to engage the audience to engage with the groups demands. Of similar note, Jane Frere – the artist behind the chalk drawings which adorn Summerhall’s foyer – will return with “EXIT – 100 Days of Khaos”, an art piece made in response to Brexit.
Summerhall as a performance venue for the Edinburgh Fringe promises to keep innovating and pushing the boundaries of what a festival venue should and shouldn’t be, embracing its responsibilities to both the artists it hosts and the community around it. The performance programme will see more women appear than men across the 22 performance spaces, and the visual arts and music line-ups will feature work from numerous cultures and walks of life.
Here’s to hoping that Summerhall’s programme can once again live up to expectation.