Edinburgh-based student arts festival launches

On Thursday, the first Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (ESAF) was launched, a week-long festival run by students from five Edinburgh Universities.

Until 13 February, the ESAF will feature performances, talks, workshops and visual arts exhibitions by 250 student artists in three venues across Edinburgh: the Assembly Roxy, the Pleasance and Gayfield Creative Spaces.

In addition, the Festival will also be hosted at three satellite venues at Bedlam Theatre, Church Hill Theatre and Dundas Street Gallery.

Amongst the performances are the Edinburgh University Footlights production of the musical ‘Rent’ in Church Hill Theatre as well as performances by the Edinburgh Revue and the Modern Dance Society.

Creative Scotland and Creative Edinburgh supported the festival by sharing contacts to artists and local businesses and supporting the marketing team, but most of the organisation was done by Edinburgh-based students.

“We wanted to run a festival by students for students at a time of year when we are all here.” said Briana Pegado, EUSA President and co-chair of the festival committee.

Pegado continued: “Edinburgh is a festival city, but many of us aren’t here in August. It doesn’t make sense for us to be so much a part of this city culturally, but not be able to partake in the festival.”

ESAF is also meant to integrate Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students into the wider University of Edinburgh community after the two schools merged in 2011.

“I felt although the University of Edinburgh and the College of Arts merged, the ECA students didn’t necessarily feel part of the University of Edinburgh community.

“The festival is to bring our two campuses together, but also to bring together all universities and colleges in the city.” said Pegado.

In August, she took her idea for an entirely student run arts festival to the university principal and the various Edinburgh student unions.

Johnny Elmer, vice-president of the Queen Margaret Students Union, became co-chair in the festival committee. However, most of the planning only happened in the last few weeks.

The festival was supposed to take place at Summerhall, but the venue pulled out at the last minute, so the committee was forced to look for another venue in January.

Also, while the festival is supposed to bring together students from all Edinburgh universities, most artists still come from the University of Edinburgh and Queen Margaret University.

“Next year we will be much better, because we are going to get the word out.” says Pegado.

“It wasn’t easy and I think we have learned a lot of lessons about communication. Some artists dropped out because they felt there wasn’t enough communication.”

Despite these initial problems, Pegado confirmed the festival is planned to take place again next year: “We are still playing around about what this will turn into. I am committed to the longevity of this. And even in our first year we had hundreds of applications and it seems there is a real need for this.”

ESAF submissions are also open to students from Edinburgh College and Heriot-Watt University.

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