Edinburgh International Festival: Adopting a welcoming attitude

Meet Josephine Jay, co-founder of the Whatever Next? community project, a forum and podcast for adoptees to exchange ideas and information.

In the spirit of gratitude to all those whose hard work, encouragement and friendship supported the Capital’s festival community down the years, Edinburgh International Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary by shining a light on Festival Heroes – people who have selflessly opened their hearts and homes, and welcomed the world to Edinburgh.

Josephine Jay, 25, is a co-founder of the community project Whatever Next? which she established in January 2021, alongside her friends – and fellow adoptees – Adaline Bara and Hannah Feben-Smith.

Whatever Next? seeks to challenge and expand existing narratives around adoption, creating a space for adoptees to connect. Josephine says: “We wanted to start having these conversations about adoption, so that it is not this big taboo subject.”

Josephine Jay, co-founder of the Whatever Next? community project

After initially recording their discussions about adoption as a form of personal time capsule, and interviewing both friends and family, the group began sharing these recordings online, and later developed them into a podcast series.

Josephine describes the project as a “labour of love” and balances her role alongside her full-time job responsibilities.

For their role in creating Whatever Next? Josephine and her co-founders were awarded the Creative Edinburgh Student Award last year.

In addition to helping to establish an online and offline community within Scotland, through regular social meet-ups at Edinburgh restaurant Noodles and Dumplings, Josephine has also contributed to expanding the discussion

around adoption in the US, alongside Hannah and Adaline.In 2021, Josephine worked as a staff counsellor for child sponsorship and adoption agency Holt International, and was a guest speaker and workshop host at a Culture Camp in Wisconsin for Vietnamese adoptees and their families, run by the Catalyst Foundation, a humanitarian organisation that helps build communities in Vietnam to fight against human trafficking.

Last Saturday, Edinburgh International Festival staged Thank You Edinburgh, a free concert at The Playhouse featuring The Philadelphia Orchestra, which was streamed live into Princess Street Gardens and enjoyed by thousands.

Keep in touch with Edinburgh International Festival on social media using @edintfest.