Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2020

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit, delivered in partnership by the British Council, Scottish Government, UK Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Edinburgh International Festival, normally welcomes people from around the world to the Scottish Parliament in August, to chime with the Edinburgh Festivals. The current  crisis dictates that it cannot be presented in that format this year.   

Adapting to the situation, the Summit will launch a Special Edition, entitled The Transformational Power of Culture, online on 22 August in which a range of contributors, such as artists, economists, educationalists, strategists, architects, medical scientists, philanthropists and Ministers of Culture from around the world, will bring their voice and expertise to three areas of discussion – Culture and Education, Culture and Social Cohesion and Culture in Vibrant Communities.

In a series of films, podcasts and interactive panel sessions, the Summit will consider ideas and perspectives embedded in our cultures that can support new ways of life required to deal with Covid-19 as well as examining the challenges to culture across the world and how access to artistic practices and spaces transform peoples and nations.

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said, “The Edinburgh International Festival was founded against a backdrop of global upheaval. It proposed that our problems were best solved collectively and that creativity and an understanding of each other’s cultures were key to this. August 2020 will be the first summer in 73 years that our city will not play host to our annual festivals. We are delighted, therefore, that, through its digital edition, the Culture Summit will be celebrating the values of co-operation, friendship and creativity that we all aspire to.”

The three strands, Culture and Education, Culture and Social Cohesion and Culture in Vibrant Communities, will be attended respectively by Assal Habibi, Assistant Research Professor of Psychology, University of Southern California; the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles; Sistema Scotland; Dr Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Psychobiology & Epidemiology, University College London; Andy Haldane, Chief Economist, Bank of England; and Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and Executive Chairman, KIND & Empatico;   David Strathairn, Performer of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, Georgetown Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics; Cynthia Schneider & Derek Goldman, Co-founders of Georgetown Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics; Dr Leah Pisar, President, The Aladdin Project; Andrew Gilmour, Executive Director, Berghof Foundation; The Trojan Women Project; Elif Shafak, Author and  Dr Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, The Library of Congress; Farrokh Derakhshani, Director, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Aga Khan Trust for Culture; Cameron Rashti, Director, Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Aga Khan Trust for Culture; Clara Miller, President Emerita, Heron Foundation; Tristram Hunt, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum; Rahul Mehrotra, Architect and Professor, Harvard University.

In addition to the themed areas of discussion, the Summit Special Edition will also share Special Messages from Venezuelan superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel; Secretary General of the European Festival Association, Kathrin Deventer; Brazilian choreographer Deborah Colker; the Egyptian Founding Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new Library of Alexandria, Ismail Serageldin; and Bulgarian politician and the former Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

Culture Secretary of the Scottish Government, Fiona Hyslop said, “The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for people across the globe but the power of culture to connect even in the most trying of circumstances is still compelling. As artists face enormous challenges around the world, the Edinburgh International Culture Summit can still meet virtually and bring people together in a digital format.  

“Scotland’s cultural reputation is recognised on the world stage and our power to convene is a great asset. Hosting the fifth edition of the Summit digitally will provide a much needed platform for international participants to discuss the challenges of these uncertain times and be heard by an audience from across the globe…”  

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit is available digitally to everybody with free online access from 22 August 2020.

Irene Brown

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