Edinburgh Science Festival to be delayed by several months and focus on outdoor events under radical reboot

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One of Edinburgh’s biggest festivals is to be put back by several months and pivot towards outdoor events to help bring it back safely in 2021.

The "Mini Maker Faire" at the Edinburgh Science Festival. Picture: Chris Scott
The “Mini Maker Faire” at the Edinburgh Science Festival. Picture: Chris Scott

The Edinburgh Science Festival is to be put back from spring to summer and moved out of its main indoor venues.

Organisers say the dates shift, which is only expected to affect next year’s festival, will “maximise” their chances of being able to stage a “world-class” event in 2021.

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The science festival, which was first staged in 1989, has now revealed it will be focusing its 2021 programme on outdoor exhibitions and installations, and walking tours and trails.

Curator Emily Raemakers at the launch of an outdoor Edinburgh Science Festival exhibition on Scotland’s seas and coasts which was able to go ahead this year on Portobello Promenade. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The event, which is normally staged across two weeks to coincide with Easter holidays in Edinburgh, is due to go ahead in a new “hybrid” format in June and July, which will also see it stage digital-only event.

It will also overlap with the Edinburgh International Film Festival for the first time next year.

New outdoor spaces will be deployed by the festival next year, on top of some of those which have featured in the event in previous years, which have included The Mound, Festival Square, outside the Scottish Parliament, the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh Zoo, Portobello Promenade and Our Dynamic Earth.

However the festival has ruled out a return to its two main indoors venues at the Pleasance and the City Centre next year as part of its rethink.

The Edinburgh Science Festival has used the grounds of the Scottish Parliament in previous years. Picture: Ian Georgeson

This year’s festival, which was due to feature more than 250 events, had to be called off less a month before they were due to get underway, although a programme of online events was later created.

Organisers have issued an open call for ideas for the 2021 festival, saying they have a “particular interest in outdoor and experiences” for next year.

The call-out states: “We’re keen to innovate in both our planning and delivery to ensure a safe and quality festival experience for everyone, and are focusing our energy and efforts on doing things differently to achieve this.”

Amanda Tyndall, the festival’s creative director, said: “The world is changing and we are changing with it.

The City Art Centre has been one of the main venues for the Edinburgh Science Festival in recent years. Picture: Aly Wight

“Given the lack of certainty in the wider world, next April feels very soon so we’ve taken the decision to move from the Easter to the summer holidays for 2021.

“We want to maximise of our chances of being able to deliver the kind of amazing, world-class science festival we’ve become known for and that our audiences expect.

“And of not only being able to deliver things digitally – although we’ll be doing that too – but to work with partners around the city and beyond to do things a bit differently.

“This new hybrid model will inhabit some of the physical spaces they have in the past, but will add new venues and formats that respond to changes in wider world circumstances, attitudes and behaviour – where we will continue to ensure the safety of each festivalgoer,

scientist and our core team – and new virtual ones through which we can together explore our themes and provide unique programming to audiences not just in Scotland, but around the world.

“We can’t predict exactly what the world will look like next June but we’re rising to the challenge, adapting and taking the opportunity to innovate in an uncertain world.”

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