Just two indoor venues will be used after organisers delayed this year’s festival by more than two months and decided to stage events, exhibitions and workshops in open-air sites in an around the city to give the best chance to going ahead during the pandemic.
The Royal Botanic Garden, Holyrood Park, St Andrew Square, Blackford Hill, Calton Hill, the Water of Leith, Leith Links, The Mound, Portobello Promenade and George Square Gardens will all be deployed for the festival, which was forced online last year when events were shut down just a few weeks before it was due to be held.
Arts centre Summerhall the Leith Community Croft, the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s garden, Fisherrow Harbour in Mussellburgh, the Scottish Seabird Centre and the East Beach in North Berwick, and Inch Park.
Major themes of this year’s festival include a series of events focused on the climate crisis, which will be staged months before the global COP26 summit is held in Glasgow, a celebration of women working in science, technology, engineering and maths, and the efforts to tackle Covid-19 around the world.
More than 220 different events, tours, talks, workshops and experiences will be part of this year’s festival, which will run from 26 June-11 July.
Highlights include the creation of a trail of large-scale graffiti portraits around the city to honour women, who will make up 60 per cent of the festival’s guest speakers.
They will include Dr Kathy Sullivan, first American woman to complete a spacewalk and the first woman to travel to the bottom of the ocean, Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman, Scottish campaigner, writer and commentator Talat Yaqoob, Dr Helen Senn, head of conservation and science at Edinburgh Zoo and climate change trainer Zarina Ahmad.
Artist Luke Jerram’s large-scale work of art commemorating lives lost to Covid-19, which has been made out of flags created from NHS bed sheets, will be unveiled at the Botanics.
An outdoor exhibition at the Our Dynamic Earth attraction will chart the evolution of marine science in Scotland.
St Andrew Square Garden will host a sound and light installation, which will see audiences of all ages urged to play with giant crystal blocks, while Portobello Promenade will host an outdoor photography exhibition.
The National Museum of Scotland will be hosting Pale Blue Dot, an exhibition exploring the science, beauty and mystery of the world’s oceans.
Festival guests include Professor Linda Bauld, one of Scotland’s leading public heath experts during the pandemic, epidemiologist Tim Spector, conservationist and adventurer Sacha Dench, astronautical engineer Cassandra Mercury, Yvette Hopkins, head of the Shetland Space Centre and Mya-Rose Craig, one of Britain’s leading young racial quality & climate and environment campaigners.
Festival director Amanda Tyndall said: “It is an understatement to say that it has been an exceptional year, a year that has shown us just how intimately interconnected our world is.
“We share one world and need to innovate and collaborate to tackle global challenges and embrace the opportunities ahead. In in a spirit of optimism, resilience and hope – our 2021 festival explores new ideas and formats that ensure audiences can safely get their science fix this summer.”