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My Light Shines On: A Celebration of the Festival City

The lights of the Festival City burn bright in a spectacular celebration of artists, audiences and Edinburgh’s enduring spirit.  

In 1991, Scottish rock band Primal Scream released Movin’ On Up, a euphoric hymn to the power of hope in difficult times. It’s central lyric ‘My light shines on’ is one of popular music’s most optimistic anthems – a gesture that seems more important now than ever before.   

This August, for the first time in 73 years, Edinburgh’s theatres, concert halls, churches, halls and parklands will be without the light and life brought by Edinburgh’s Festivals. Artists, stage managers, box-office and front of house workers will stay home, as will the thousands of workers who support the Festival City. Yet Covid-19 has not dimmed the creativity of artists, nor the enduring spirit that keeps Edinburgh’s festivals thriving. In an act of optimism and solidarity, My Light Shines On celebrates a spark that still burns bright. 

While our artists have continued to create work over the past few months, they have been physically isolated them from each other and from the venues they call home. For the first time since lockdown orchestras, ballet companies, traditional musicians, theatre ensembles and designers have come together to perform in and light up the venues they love. This has been achieved with great care to ensure the safety of all involved.  

On 8 August, we marked what would have been the opening weekend of the 2020 festival season. A specially commissioned one-hour film presented by journalist Kirsty Wark and cellist Su-a Lee features new work from leading artists across genres, including Scotland’s major national companies. The film features famous faces from festivals across the years, including Alan Cumming, Fiona Shaw and Akram Khan, as well as collaborations with Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This unique broadcast launched a series of new My Light Shines On recorded activity, which will take place throughout August. 

The evening culminated with Edinburgh’s venues turning their lights back on in an awe-inspiring display. Beacons of light visible across the city marked out famous festival venues and settings after dark from 8–10 August. Scottish lighting designers Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes were inspired by the tradition of ghost lights, a single light that is always left illuminated in theatres. It is a symbol that, though the stage is empty for now, the building will be filled with laughter, tears and applause once again. In 2020, we honour this tradition on a grand scale, with a hopeful reminder of what is still to come. 

Watch on our YouTube channel or on BBC Scotland to celebrate a spectacular reunion for the festival community to light up the skies together.


This video is captioned

My Light Shines On Film 
An IWC Media, a Banijay company, production for Edinburgh International Festival 2020
Presenters Kirsty Wark & Su-a Lee 
Title track Movin' On Up, Primal Scream
Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes, Robert Young
By kind permission of SonyATV and Universal Music Publishing/Complete Music Limited 

Video content contributed by Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre of Scotland, Aidan O'Rourke and Honeyblood

My Light Shines On Display 
Lighting Design by Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes of Lightworks 
Original artwork by John Byrne 

With thanks to Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Art Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the University of Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland, Proprietors of Charlotte Square, Collective Gallery, Usher Hall, The Queen's Hall, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Leith Theatre, King's Theatre, Summerhall and The Stand Comedy Club 


8-31 August 2020

This event was part of a previous International Festival and is therefore unavailable to book or watch. The 2021 programme will be announced in June.