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EFI supports public debate on future role of arts and culture 

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The Edinburgh Culture Conversations will bring together members of the public, artists, academics and cultural leaders to debate the future shape and purpose of the culture sector.

EFI is to partner with the University of Edinburgh’s Festivals, Cultural and City Events team on a timely series of talks examing how the arts and creative sectors can help society recover from the effects of Covid-19. 

The Edinburgh Culture Conversationwill bring together members of the public, artists, academics and cultural leaders to debate the future shape and purpose of the culture sector. 

The 10week series – hosted by the University of Edinburgh – takes place against the backdrop of most of Edinburgh’s Festivals not going ahead as planned this summer. 

The online debates begin on Monday 13 July, with the first conversation considering the question How can we keep the Festival spirit of internationalism and interculturalism alive? 

Janet Archer, the University of Edinburghs Director of Festivals, Cultural and City Events, will chair the weekly conversations which will debate the value of creativity, not only to the arts, but also to society and the wider economy. 

The series’ distinguished panellists will includeFergus Linehan, Director of the Edinburgh International FestivalShona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe SocietyKarine Polwart, singer-songwriter; Hanna Tuulikki, British Art Show 9 artist and Jackie KayScots Makar. 

Members of the public are being encouraged to submit questions during the debates, which will be streamed live. The resulting recordings and transcript will be made available to stimulate further discussion. 

The Culture Conversations series is supported by The Edinburgh Futures Institute and will showcase some of the Institutes leading academics and experts including Professor Lesley McAra, Director of EFI; Professor James Smith, Vice Principal International and Professor of African and Development Studiesand Josh Ryan-Saha – Data Driven Innovation Lead for Tourism, Festivals & Infrastructure and Drew Hemment, EFI Chancellors Fellow, Experiential AI Cluster lead 

Dr Patricia Erskine, EFI Director of Community and Culture said:  

It is very apt that Edinburgh Futures Institute is involved in these cultural conversations. Festivals and Creative Industries are key areas for EFI and we know how difficult it is for our partners in these sectors just now. EFI colleagues will bring their unique perspectives and interdisciplinary expertise to the discussions. We will also be listening carefully, as we want to explore how culture can help us make sense of this extraordinary time and how we can move forward from here.   

The University, its students and staff play a key role in the Edinburgh festivals each year. In 2019, 1.2 million Fringe goers visited venues on the University campus, which hosted 65 individual theatre spaces, bars and offices. Edinburgh Futures Institute supports a range of creative projects and programmes involving University staff, students and external partners including the Edinburgh International Festival’s You Are Here programme of international events and conversations and Trading Zone at the Talbot Rice Gallery.  

Janet Archer said:

 “The impact of the pandemic is being felt by people around the world. The forced closure of cultural gathering spaces has had a devastating impact on artists, our economies and cultural existence. The Edinburgh Culture Conversations will provide a platform for the important debate on how the arts can be part of civic, emotional and economic recovery for the future.” 

The Edinburgh Culture Conversations run weekly from Monday 13 July. For more details or to sign up, visit 

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