East Neuk Festival takes a leap into the future inviting audiences to relish a musical adventure on the Scottish coast this summer – online, on air and in Fife

In the face of continuing uncertainty, ENF2021 offers al fresco performances, pop-up events, digital performance, art installations, community-led projects, & radio broadcasts, to make the 17th East Neuk Festival the most adventurous and innovative yet!

  • Scotland’s East Neuk Festival (ENF) will take place Thursday 1 July-Sunday 4 July 2021 across live and recorded, in-person and online performances brought to audiences from this breathtakingly beautiful eastern stretch of Scotland’s coastline
  • Outdoor events, online ‘festival visits’ and BBC Radio 3 recordings across four days promise a rich festival experience for audiences in Fife and beyond
  • From Adès to Zacharias: visiting artists include Thomas Adès, Rihab Azar, Benjamin Baker, Castalian String Quartet, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sean Shibe, The Tallis Scholars, Llŷr Williams and Christian Zacharias with repertoire ranging from Josquin, Bach, Janáček and Debussy, to Cage, Steve Reich, the UK premiere of Francisco Coll’s Turia, and works by Adès performed by the composer himself in his first visit to the festival
  • ENF’s new and customised ‘Band in a Van’ will travel around the East Neuk giving pop-up performances for local audiences with further al fresco concerts to be announced as details regarding the easing of Covid restrictions are confirmed
  • A large-scale labyrinth inspired by the contours of the Fife Coastal Path route will be created in the grounds of the National Trust for Scotland’s Kellie Castle whilst Yorkshire sand artists, Sand In Your Eye, also return to ENF to create new and immense beach drawings
  • ENF’s award-winning ‘Big Project’ series returns to invite the local community to create a ‘Big Picture’ of the East Neuk in vision and in sound culminating in an online/in situ realisation as circumstances allow
  • In light of the Scottish Government’s announcement yesterday (16 March) regarding the reopening of outdoor and indoor events & performances with audience, ENF will continue to closely monitor the evolving situation and will make further announcements about festival events over the coming weeks

Scotland’s East Neuk Festival (ENF) will return 1-4 July 2021 with a bespoke offering of both live and recorded, digital and in-person festival experiences including outdoor pop-up performances and art installations on the ground in Fife, a curated digital concert programme, an online community project, and BBC Radio 3 broadcasts which promise to bring the beauty and magic of the chamber music festival to audiences at home in Scotland and beyond.

Founded in 2004, the summer festival presents classical, world and roots music as well as film, literature and art from locations along the picturesque coastal area of Scotland known as the East Neuk of Fife. Tucked away at the eastern tip of the ‘Kingdom of Fife’ in Scotland, just north of Edinburgh, the ‘East Neuk’ stretches from the fishing villages of Elie & Earlsferry to Crail, Kingsbarns and St Andrews. Once the heart of the east coast of Scotland’s fishing trade, the East Neuk’s sandy beaches, rich birdlife, coastal walks and rolling countryside, make it one of Scotland’s hidden gems and form the stunning backdrop of the East Neuk Festival – a unique marriage of beautiful place and wonderful music – curated and run by Artistic Director, Svend McEwan-Brown.

Following the unprecedented events of the past year, and in keeping with the festival’s ethos of evolution, the East Neuk Festival hopes to take the very challenging situation imposed by the pandemic and turn it into an opportunity to move in new directions and seek different ways of meaningfully engaging with new and existing audiences in Scotland and beyond. The festival has always striven to be both local and international in its outlook, inviting the world’s finest artists from across the globe to its rural home whilst also commissioning and presenting work rooted and embedded in the local community. Over the past year, ENF’s online activities, including recordings made with guitarist Sean Shibe and violinist Benjamin Baker in Fife in November 2020, have reached audiences across the globe, and so in 2021 the festival will expand this digital offering and for the first time present a proportion of the East Neuk Festival programme online, making it possible for audiences across the UK and internationally to make a daily visit to ENF without leaving their home. The festival knows that its existing audiences enjoy travelling to Fife to watch varied events over the course of a day whilst also enjoying and experiencing the natural beauty of the area, and so it hopes to capture some of that magical and unique festival experience in four carefully curated films featuring performances from oud player Rihab Azar, violinist Benjamin BakerCastalian String QuartetScottish Chamber Orchestra, guitarist Sean ShibeThe Tallis Scholars and pianist Llŷr Williamswhich will be released daily from 1-4 July at eastneukfestival.com.  Each digital release will include contextualised editorial including features and interviews, offering both existing and new audiences a rich online experience of the festival. The Tallis Scholars will mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Josquin with a performance of his Missa Ave maris stella alongside music by GibbonsByrd and Tallis. The Castalian String Quartet will play Beethoven’s late String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 alongside Janáček‘s The Kreutzer Sonata whilst Llŷr Williamswill perform Chopin’s 24 PréludesDebussy’s Reflets dans l’eau, and Mozart’s Sonata No. 13 in B flat major, K333. Additionally the films will include ‘reports’ from the ENF Retreat artist development programme, dropping in on the work being undertaken by Benjamin Baker and Sean Shibe as part of their ongoing residencies. These daily digital ‘festival visits’ will be available free of charge for four weeks after the festival with audiences invited to make a donation to support the festival as it prepares for a full return in 2022.

BBC Radio 3, a regular presence at ENF, will in 2021 collaborate with the festival on four concerts. Ranging from Adès to Zacharias, the performances will be recorded on Saturday 3 July and Sunday 4 July for future broadcast, helping to bring the festival to a global audience and offering another outlet for audiences to experience the festival. Musicians from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and guitarist Sean Shibe will be joined by composer and conductor Thomas Adès who, in his first visit to the festival, will lead musicians through a performance of two of his works – Court Studies from ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Habanera’ from The Exterminating Angel – along with music by PoulencDe FallaJanáčekand the UK premiere of Francisco Coll’s Turia for ensemble and solo guitar.  Pianist Christian Zacharias returns to Fife to perform a programme of BachHaydn and Schubert’s Sonata in G, D894 – a work he performed by candlelight in his first ENF recital in 2005. The Castalian Quartet pair Beethoven’s early string quartet (No. 3, Op.18) with Dvořák’s final string quartet (No. 14, Op. 105), whilst violinist Benjamin Baker and guitarist Sean Shibe, both currently embarking on ENF Retreat residencies, will perform as a duo for the first time in a programme that will include BachCagePiazzollaPärt and Steve Reich. At present the festival is unable to offer tickets to these recordings but should it become possible to invite an audience, the festival will make event details and tickets available.

As well as opening up the opportunity for new audiences to enjoy and experience the 2021 festival online and on the radio, the festival will be keeping its feet firmly on the ground in Fife with open air pop-up performances and installations which promise to add a vibrant festive air to the East Neuk this summer. Audiences will be invited to brave the Scottish weather for some al fresco live music including a brand new ‘Band in a Van’ programme which will see ENF’s customised van, complete with pop-up stage and musicians, stopping off throughout the area’s fishing villages and stunning countryside to give free and live performances of classical, roots, jazz and traditional music on the streets of the Neuk. Further details will be announced in the coming months, in line with Government guidelines. The festival will also return to the beautiful grounds of the National Trust for Scotland’s Kellie Castle in Pittenweem to install an immense labyrinth cut into the grass of its wildflower meadow. The large-scale installation will be inspired by the contours of the route of the Fife Coastal Path and is the latest in a series of ENF art projects which celebrate an aspect of local history and community including the 2019 Drying Green, inspired by the traditional drying greens still to be found in most villages in the East Neuk. The festival hopes the labyrinth, designed to allow whoever walks it to enjoy a moment of quiet reflection, will also provide a festive space for festival-goers, becoming a maze and playground for all ages – if government guidelines allow – and form the backdrop to informal and fun family friendly music and activities including pop-up concerts. The 2021 ENF will also see the return of the stunning sand drawings created by Sand In Your Eye team Jamie Wardley and Claire Jamieson which promise to offer an eye-catching element to the festival’s on the ground activity. Further details of all outdoor events will be announced in the coming months.

ENF’s award-winning annual Big Project strand will also return to celebrate and explore the area’s history and heritage through an ambitious project bringing together artists and the community to create new work. In 2021, the festival is asking members of the public to take part in a large-scale online project culminating in the creation of a sound and image map of the East Neuk. Members of the public are invited to record and share the sights and sounds of the Fife coastline and work with ENF’s Arts Activist, David Behrens, to bring together the tones and textures of the area to create a Big Picture of the area, in vision and in sound, that will be presented at the festival.

Alongside its digital and on the ground activities, ENF will also continue its work behind-the-scenes offering young artists the space and opportunity to take risks, and new directions in their work through its ENF Retreat scheme. It will be offering residencies to guitarist Sean Shibe and violinist Benjamin Baker during the festival to develop new projects which will come to fruition in the 2022 festival and details of two further residences will also be announced shortly.

East Neuk Festival Director, Svend McEwan-Brown, hopes that the festival’s experiments and adventures across digital and live performances in 2021 will provide an enhancing space for artists, communities and audiences to connect and hopefully enrich future East Neuk Festivals:

“This has been such a tough and challenging year for everyone, and we hoped against hope that by this point we would be able to bring the cheering news of a festival just like every previous East Neuk Festival. In the face of unprecedented uncertainty we have seized the opportunity to try out new things this year instead, hoping to turn challenges into opportunities.  Above all we realise that we have a deep responsibility to offer the musicians a chance to play, and for audiences to enjoy them. We know not everybody will feel comfortable coming to a festival this year, so we hope that by giving the opportunity to visit digitally, and – in partnership with BBC Radio 3 – on the radio, we can offer the joy of ENF to as many people as possible. I am thrilled at the line-up we have brought together – a classic ENF combination of long-standing relationships and new faces. We also wish to reaffirm the vital role the East Neuk itself plays in our work, so we have put the sounds and the sights of the area at the heart of our Big Project for 2021.  We hope that as many people as possible will join us in creating a ‘Big Picture’ of this beautiful corner of the world, using their phones to capture the sounds and sights they love here. We are also extremely excited by Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement yesterday of a return to live indoor/outdoor performances with audiences over the coming months and therefore are very hopeful that we can add more live music events to our festival weekend in July. Watch this space!”

ENF Founder and Chair, Donald MacDonald:

“Like everyone who loves live music, the lack of it in these past twelve months has been a terrible loss. It has also been very sad to see the plight of so many musicians who have given us so much joy over the years, and suddenly found their opportunities to perform devastatingly curtailed. I welcome yesterday’s announcement of a cautious return to live outdoor and indoor performances with audiences in Scotland from 17 May, and hope that East Neuk Festival 2021 will be able to open its doors to real live audiences as well as reaching out worldwide via online and radio. It is a huge pleasure to present this adventurous 2021 festival and have so many familiar faces returning to the festival to play and sing.”

In light of the Scottish Government announcement yesterday (16 March) regarding the proposed timetable for a return to live indoor and outdoor performances with audiences, ENF continues to closely monitor the evolving situation and will make further announcements about the festival’s outdoor and indoor events over the coming weeks. The priority, as always, will be the safety of audiences, performers and staff. Further information can be found at www.eastneukfestival.com which will be updated regularly.

Ticket income typically makes up 20% of ENF budget, and in the current situation the festival cannot hope to realise anything like this in 2021. This gives the festival even greater reason to be profoundly thankful for its loyal patrons, donors, funders, partners and supporters who have shown immense generosity in the difficult times since March 2020. The East Neuk Festival also gratefully acknowledges the support of Creative Scotland and EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.