Edinburgh International Festival: School sports fields to host classical music concerts this August

School sports fields will play host to three weeks of Edinburgh International Festival shows this August under plans to take the event outdoors.

A pop-up venue will be created at Edinburgh Academy’s junior school, in the Inverleith area, for a series of classical music concerts.

The site, near the Royal Botanic Garden, will effectively replace the Usher Hall, which the EIF has ruled out using this year due to uncertainty over what restrictions on live events will be in place in Scotland this August.

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Work on the new pop-venue at Edinburgh Academy, which has hosted Fringe shows in its theatre in previous years, is expected to get underway on site on 12 July, with the EIF’s shows due to run from 6-29 August.

Although the Usher Hall has a seated capacity of 2200, the EIF plans to stage up to three show a day at Edinburgh Academy, running from 12 noon till 9.45pm on some days.

The pavilion will be able to accommodate audiences of just 670, based on two metre social distancing, which the Edinburgh festivals have been told to plan for this August.

Edinburgh Academy’s site will house one of three large-scale EIF pavilions this August after organisers decided against using indoor venues to give the 2021 event the best chance of going ahead. Two other sites have already been been confirmed – at Edinburgh Park and Edinburgh University’s Old College Quad.

The festival’s line-up of shows and performers is due to be unveiled on 2 June, with tickets expected to go on sale on 11 June.

The Edinburgh International Festival plans to create three pop-up outdoor venues across the city in August.

Plans lodged with the city council by EIF programme director Roy Luxford state: “By creating a bespoke outdoor venue as a departure to our usual indoor locations, we will provide a truly unique audience experience as well as giving comfort to both licensing authorities and the public.

“The festival has worked hard to determine how to present a safe and successful season of events in August 2021.

“The guiding principles of our planning process are to present safe events in a COVID-secure environment, to minimise the risk of having to cancel all or significant parts of the 2021 programme, allow the presentation of live activity with all the consequent opportunities for employment and support of the supply chain, and to contribute to the mental health and wellbeing of citizens.

“We hope that that the nature of the performances being presented at the venue will provide an enjoyable acoustic experience for properties neighbouring the site.

The Edinburgh International Festival has submitted plans to the city council showing what the pop-up venue will look like.

“The concerts form the principal classical music programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, that in normal years would be presented at the Usher Hall.

“The performances will take place from 6–29 August, mainly at 6pm and 8.30pm when there are two concerts per evening and at 7.30pm when there is only one concert. There will also be four days of afternoon performances, the earliest starting at 12 noon. There will be no interval during performances.

"All performances are ticketed and we anticipate the majority will be sold in advance of the performance. Audiences will gain access to the venue through the existing access to the school. All seats are allocated and audience members will be seated in their social bubbles.”

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