SCOTLAND’S national theatre, dance and opera companies have performed new work for a special television programme that will be screened tonight to mark what would have been the opening of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival (EIF).

Edinburgh 2020: My Light Shines will be shown on the BBC Scotland channel and streamed simultaneously around the world on the EIF website.

The capital’s festivals were cancelled for the first time in their 73-year history due to concerns around the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers said the hour-long television special, presented by Kirsty Wark and classical musician Su-a Lee, would feature new work by the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Ballet, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Opera.

World-class writers, comics and musicians will also look back on some of their legendary appearances.

Ms Wark said: “Every year, at this time, people from all over the world are attracted to Edinburgh -- it means an enormous amount that this year it isn’t forgotten.

“I think the International Festival wanted to make something happen, and this is a single programme for everybody who adores the Festival in all its forms -- whether they usually come to see comedy, street theatre, orchestras, opera, dance or storytelling.

“What is incredibly moving is that, front and centre, it reminds you just how extraordinary the Edinburgh Festival is. It is a worldwide phenomenon -- there is no other festival like it in the world and next year there will still be no other festival like it in the world.

“By getting all the national companies together, plus speaking to people for whom the Festival is incredibly important -- plus doing wonderful performances -- everybody has really just stepped up to the plate.

“It’s very much in my DNA to go to the Edinburgh Festival, and I think this will ensure it remains at the forefront of so many people’s minds.

“The people who were excited -- all the people who had made plans and preparations, had started to think about what they might perform or where they might go -- this will give them some hope and remind them of what a wonderful thing the Edinburgh Festivals are.

“What is great is, the Festival attracts people from all over the world, but this is the Festival going out to everybody in the world that can’t come to us. It’s is an incredibly moving programme.”

Cellist Su-a said: “I am thrilled that the Edinburgh International Festival has put so much into preparing this wonderful film, which I believe really encapsulates the spirit of all the Festivals.” 

Meanwhile, guerilla artist Heather Marshall will be working with young people to help them express their ideas as part of Army@TheVirtualFringe, a special programme of more than 40 free events.

She said: “This is the first time that we have had so many restrictions on our lives.

“As adults it’s hard but for young people it’s incredibly frustrating – they should be finding their freedom and using their voices.

“I’ll be hosting workshops where families can work together to create their own pieces of guerilla art to share their thoughts and hopes with the world.”

Army@TheVirtualFringe replaces Army@TheFringe, a series of live shows that normally takes place in a drill hall during the Edinburgh Fringe.

It kicks off on Monday with a film shorts night featuring Royal Marine turned filmmaker Phil Spencer and a session with Corporal Rebecca Brown, who became the Army’s first female photographer of the Year in 2019.

On Wednesday, there will be a chance for aspiring actors to pick up tips from Paisley-born Mark Rowley, famous for his role in TV historical drama Last Kingdom.

Among the other highlights will be the online premiere of 10 SOLDIERS, a contemporary dance production, which will be followed with a panel discussion whose guests include double Olympic gold medallist Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes.

There will also be live-from-home theatre performances, readings, workshops and discussions celebrating everything from theatre, film and dance to photography and music.

Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Mackenzie, the Army’s head of engagement in Scotland and a driving force behind Army@TheFringe, added: “It’s four years since we opened a venue at Edinburgh’s Fringe to allow theatre to be a catalyst for conversations about who we are and the values important to us.

“Despite coronavirus we have more partners and interest than ever, and our fully-packed virtual programme means we can support artists and maintain public interest while we prepare for a physical return in the future.”

l Edinburgh 2020: My Light Shines On” is on BBC Scotland, tonight at 9.30pm.