The Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (ESAF) is back for the second year running, bringing an assortment of arts and events to Edinburgh. The festival was established last year as Scotland’s first student-run arts festival, bringing together education institutions across the city and enabling young artists to show off their talents with their own multi-media creations.
ESAF describes its visions in three words: “connect, community, platform”. The committee aims to increase the access to arts in Scotland so that young people can fulfil their true capacity as artists. The inclusion of all types of art in the exhibitions and at the performance venues allows this to be an open starting point for a creative career.
Further inspiration can be found in the events hosted by the festival that might allow a connection to the professional art world, exploring “what creativity means to our society”. To maximise this potential, ESAF partners with various bodies such as Creative Edinburgh and On the Rocks Festival, thus ensuring that the students involved have the widest possible access to Edinburgh’s creative community.
Briana Pegado, former president of EUSA and founder of ESAF, began thinking about the festival as a way to involve Edinburgh College of Art students in the wider university experience. Often the art college feels disconnected, despite the merger with the university five years ago. Now the festival seems to be more a way to connect all higher and further education bodies in Edinburgh together, and even though this is for just one week of the year it is done boldly.
The festival features over four hundred emerging artists, from the University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret, Heriot Watt, Napier Univeristy, and Edinburgh College. These young talents are exhibiting, performing and selling their work across six venues: Summerhall, the City Art Centre, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Gayfield Creative Spaces, the Biscuit Factory, and Assembly Roxy.
The festival also offers a number of awards after the week’s run. Last year, ECA’s Olivia Norris won the prize for best visual artist, for her transformation of a space “combining wall painting, sound, sculpture and performative video”, giving her the opportunity for a further exhibition. The duo Dual Cellos won an award for best performing artist for their selection of rock and pop music on the cello, enabling them to perform at St Andrews’ On the Rocks Festival. These prizes will be repeated again this year, with nominations judged by a panel of six. They will reflect on the originality, effectiveness and mastery of the artistic practice, as well as the degree to which the artist encompasses the festival’s vision.
According to the founder, the highlight of the festival last year was the performance programme, which this year took place at the weekend. However, the rest of the festival week promises alluring visual arts across four venues, as well as events at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, from comedy and creative writing workshops to book making, and a mock auction with Lyon and Turnbull.
Edinburgh seems to be a perfect place for such inspiring start-ups to grow, especially in the creative sector. To Briana, Edinburgh is “a bubble, but it’s a beautiful bubble” and that is what makes the city such a safe and encouraging environment for student artists. This week is bound to be stimulating and exciting, and it will be interesting to see how the festival grows in the years to come.
Image Credit: Ellis Main