Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) has announced that award-winning violinist, educator and arts and culture advocate Nicola Benedetti CBE has been appointed the event’s director designate with immediate effect and will become festival director on 1 October 2022.
Benedetti is one of the most influential classical artists in the world. She has been a regular performer at Edinburgh International Festival, including as resident artist at the 2021 event, in which she performed three concerts showcasing Baroque music. In taking up the role, she becomes both the first Scottish and the first female director in the festival’s 75-year history.
She takes over the position of director from Fergus Linehan, who in 2021 was awarded the Edinburgh Award for his innovative contribution to the arts and Edinburgh’s cultural heritage. During his eight-year tenure, Linehan’s festivals featured many of the world’s leading theatre, dance, orchestral and chamber music ensembles; he also expanded the programme to include large-scale, free events and music genres previously underrepresented at EIF.
“I am deeply honoured to contribute to the long and rich history of the Edinburgh International Festival and the cultural landscape of Scotland,” Benedetti commented.
“This festival was founded on principles of reconciliation and the ideals of art transcending political and cultural fracture. Following in the footsteps of the wonderful achievements of Fergus Linehan and his predecessors, I will uphold these values and greatly look forward to serving this festival, its mission of cultural exchanges and the people of Scotland.”
Established in 1947 as an arts and cultural event to bring together audiences and artists from around the world, EIF presents a varied programme featuring the finest performers and ensembles from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre. This year’s event takes place from 5-28 August.
Born in Irvine, North Ayrshire, Benedetti started playing the violin at just four years old. She studied at the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School and has since toured internationally with some of the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors. In December 2020, she formed the Benedetti Baroque Orchestra and regularly champions the commissioning of new works.
In 2019 she established The Benedetti Foundation with the aim of growing music participation at all levels, ages and stages by providing musical education through in-person workshops and online sessions for young people, students, teachers and adults.
Keith Skeoch, Edinburgh International Festival’s chair of the board of trustees, said: “It is such a pleasure to welcome Nicola Benedetti as both the first woman and the first Scottish director of the Edinburgh International Festival. In many ways she reflects the spirit of this festival; internationally recognised and respected but Scottish to her core, she’s dedicated to advocating world-class music making and innovating new ways to bring it to audiences.
“As an artist, her string of collaborators reads like a who’s who of the world of classical music and as an educator she has reached tens of thousands worldwide. I have no doubt that she will bring a wealth of new ideas to the organisation and build on Fergus’ exceptional work from the last eight years.”
Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland added: “The Edinburgh International Festival has a worldwide reputation for its excellent work in bringing world-leading artists together, celebrating the performing arts and promoting Scotland’s rich culture and heritage to an international audience.
“I welcome Nicola Benedetti’s appointment as director – especially as she becomes the first woman to ever hold the role. Her experience in promoting Scotland’s cultural scene to audiences around the world will be invaluable and I wish her every success.”
Violinist Nicola Benedetti has been appointed director of Edinburgh International Festival. The first woman to hold the post, she takes up the position in October 2022 (Franz Galo).