The Departure Lounge is where it happens.
Here, in the rehearsal studio of Edinburgh’s Lyceum theatre, the public meet with writers, directors, musicians, choreographers and performers, sharing fresh perspectives and insights shaped by who and where they’re from.
A collaboration between Edinburgh International Festival, Fuel and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, it’s easily one of the most thoughtful, thought-provoking – and cheapest – things you can and must do in this year’s Edinburgh Festival.
Here, throughout the Festival’s three weeks, the Departure Lounge offers a space to explore ideas about where we are now and (as the Festival programme says), ‘more importantly where we are headed.’
11.00am ( approx. 1 hour 15 mins) free
Curated by Kate McGrath and led by David Greig and Sara Sharaawi, the aim of Morning Manifesto is to co-author a manifesto for the future inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The project started with Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem University who contended that Palestine has always been diverse and that we are all African. He said that we all survive by respecting diversity. Through dialogue with and among all of us, we arrived at the first declaration:
Thrive in diversity, perish in uniformity.
The second day had a provocation from Inuit author/performer/activist Laakuluk Williamson Bathory prompted by an Inuit story that started “It is said to be a part of our reality” with the tale a neat reminder that the human species is younger than the land which we inhabit.
Again, working together, participants came up with a second declaration which time prevented from being written up but in general we agreed: “Listen to Nuna (land) ^ its stories ^ its language ^ it’s people” – with triangles preferred to commas and the Inuit word for land preferred to the English.
These are stimulating sessions which – given the range of provocateurs –will obviously vary with each provocation: participating artists include Michael Morpurgo, Maya Zbib, Raja Shehadeh, Emma Dabiri and others.
Call and Response
2.00pm ( 1 hour 30 mins approx) £12.00
We get a chance to delve deeper with new work from the Lyceum, Fuel and Complicite in the Call and Response programme.
Lament for Sheku Bayoh, one of the works in progress, was a powerful piece that raised big questions about police racism in Scotland (not here surely?) and how the facts contradict the public image projected of Scotland. It was also a call to action to make change beyond posting an angry emoji on a website or Twitter feed.
This will become a full production at some point – soon I hope – as it forced all of us to face up to some uncomfortable home truths. It also set a high bar for the other work to come.
6.00pm (approx. 1 hour 30 minutes) £15.00
A meal hosted by a different artist each night where you are invited to think and talk together whilst Breaking Bread. Exactly what happens varies according to who is there at the table, but it a great idea which like the other strands gives parity to all.
This could get messy – like the meal hosted a few years ago by Scottee who threw cake at Rihanna and spat milkshake over Nick Grimshaw! Scottee’s meal in the Departure Lounge has still to come (16 August) but with other hosts including Hema Palani and Missy Mazzoli, a full range of the arts and beyond will be part of the menu.
11.00am (approx. 2 hours) free
Common People: Class, Community and the Arts (10 August) This has the bold aim of making sure arts and culture is accessible to everyone. It will be co-curated by David Loumgair of COMMON with artists Scottee and Bryony Kimmings. Whether it fulfils the aim of Mayakovsky’s ‘Order No.2 to the army of the arts’ will be up to all.
Comrades,Vladimir Mayakovsky ‘Order No. 2’
give us a new form of art—
that will pull the republic out of the mud.
Climate, Culture and Creativity (17th August) Posing the questions ‘How do artists and how does culture respond to Climate Crisis?’ this has all the promise of Augusto Boal. With provocations from Isabella de Menezes ( In transition, Brazil) and Sam Knights (Extinction Rebellion) the focus on action could see the aim of the previous session fusing with the work of this session.
Power, Gender and the Arts (24th August) Next question: ‘Can gender equality be achieved in the arts, on stage and off? A hot topic given the furore about casting at the Globe. With a range of speakers exploring how to make meaningful and lasting change – Catherine Meyer (Primadonna Festival), Emma Gladstone (Dance Umbrella) and Joyce Rosario (PuSH International Performing Arts Festival) – this final session is moved to the stage of Lyceum. Thereby taking the argument into the theatre itself .
All of this is part of the ‘You are Here’ programme of Edinburgh International Festival at prices that are cheaper than Fringe shows. Essentially, it is a democratisation of the arts and it could not happen at a better time. Miss at your peril.