What To See at Edinburgh International Festival 2021
  • HOME

What To See at Edinburgh International Festival 2021

The Scottish capital is coming alive this August

The Edinburgh International Festival 2021 (EIF), the world’s leading performing arts festival, is sure to make its mark this year. Running from 7 – 29 August, the festival will feature all sorts of music, dance and theatre genres, brightening up our summer in various venues around the beautiful city of Edinburgh.

In an effort to rebuild the performing arts sector and create opportunities for artists, musicians and performers to grow, the EIF is hoping to make a splash. Showcasing rich Scottish and international culture, and encouraging engagement in the arts, this festival brings together performers from classical, contemporary and traditional music; musical theatre and cabaret; operatics and dance. The 2020 Edinburgh International Festival was cancelled for the first time in its entire history (over 70 years) due to the pandemic – so now it really is its time to shine.

The festival covers the length and breadth of Edinburgh, taking place in various theatres and bespoke outdoor venues at Edinburgh Academy Junior School, Parabola’s Edinburgh Park and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad.

Read on for some highlights.

Edinburgh International Festival 2021 Highlights

Contemporary Music

In the contemporary music section, head over to Edinburgh Park and get lost in Laura Mvula‘s honey-dipped voice as she presents her new album Pink Noise. Fatoumata Diawara, The Staves and Richard Dawson are just a few more wonderful acts ready to fill the city with their music.

Laura Mvula

Classical, Operatic and Chamber Music

With quartets and orchestras coming out of Edinburgh’s ears, the EIF has a splendid lineup of classical offerings. These include Sir Simon Rattle conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and members of the Edinburgh Festival chorus. Mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato joins Italian period-instrument ensemble Il Pomo D’Oro for her chosen opera aria, My Favourite ThingsDon’t miss the Chineke! Orchestra with dynamic mezzo soprano Andrea Baker performing the trailblazing song cycle woman.life.song, featuring influences of pop, blues and jazz.

For your Chamber music fix look no further than Patricia Kopatchinskaja & Fazil Say as they bring us the romantic, stormy Third Violin Sonata by Brahm. Nicola Benedetti performs a new multimedia concert, journeying through the musical history of the violin from Bach to the present day. The award-winning Munich-based quartet, Golmund Quartet makes its International Festival debut with Schubert and Haydn.

Members of the Chineke! Orchestra

Traditional Music

Prepare to be blown away by the folk and country music reverberating around the Old College Quad. With Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal performing a unique blend of West African troubadour songs and Baroque music, the University of Edinburgh’s Folk Song Sharing and fiddle player Duncan Chisholm‘s authentic Highland music, there is just so much to take in.

Master kora player Ballaké Sissoko and cellist Vincent Ségal


If it’s dance that tickles your fancy, feast your eyes on a stunning series of films by four of the world’s most acclaimed choreographers: Gregory Maqoma, Omar Rajeh, Janice Parker and Alice Ripoll. Each choreographer will reflect on their relationship with their home cities and respond to the events of the past year. With the backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, an ensemble of Edinburgh-based performers is prepared for an immersive, uplifting piece of dance called Field: Something for the Future Now.

Theatre and Spoken Word

In the Old College Quad, spoken word poetry rings out around the stunning architecture from A Toast to the People sharing their visions of a ‘brave new world’ – personal or political, celebratory, speculative, comfortable or dangerous. Domhnall Gleeson features in the world premiere of Edna Walsh’s Medicine at the Traverse Theatre. This dramatic work examines social responses to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance. 

A Toast to the People, Francesca Beard

Main image: Dancing in the Streets: Gregory Maqoma. Photo credit: Moeletsi Mabe


Where to Eat in Edinburgh / The CTH Guide to Edinburgh