2017 Just Festival
2017 Just Festival was held under the theme 'Against the Current'. We hosted 9 conversations, 6 talks and 40 performing arts events that presented people, movements and ideas that challenged the status quo. We reflected on the three historic events and their anniversaries:
- 500 years since the Protestant Reformation in four Festival Pulpit events hosting the Rt Rev Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (Bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Bavaria and Moderator of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany), Dr Paul Parvis, (School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh), the Rt Revd Derek Browning (Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland), and Prof Mona Siddiqui (Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh).
- 100 years since the Balfour Declaration with eight sold-out performances of '100 Years of Balfour', a dramatised reading of letters exchanged between the British, Palestinian and Zionist parties 100 years ago that shed more light on the events that led to the current situation in the Holy Land.
- 70 years since India declared its independence with 4 'Nocturne' shows of traditional Indian dance presented by Ragamala Dance Company.
In line with the Just Festival mission we provided a platform for events that celebrated diversity, challenged perceptions, celebrated differences and promoted respectful dialogue. We welcomed a group from Mumbai, 'Kranti', who told their stories in a moving and eye-opening performance of 'Lal Batti Express (Red-Light District Express)'. We shared the journey of the multilingual Ana Bayat in her autobiographical theatre piece 'Mimi's Suitcase' that explored the themes of displacement, identity and women's rights. We cherished the beautiful tunes of 'Equilibrium' performed by an ensemble of disabled musicians working with Drake Music Scotland. We enjoyed every note in the choral performance of HarmonyChoir, a unique Edinburgh University project that raises awareness and tackles stigma surrounding mental health issues. We worked in partnership with Active Inquiry to provide community groups a platform to present their stories and increase understanding of people affected by domestic abuse, substance abuse, mental health problems, ageing, misogyny and injustice. Active Inquiry worked together with the Bethany Christian Trust, the Alma Project and Shakti Women's Aid to devise four forum theatre plays - 'Happy Birthday?', 'The Interview' and 'Dancing in Freedom' and 'The Fair-Ground'.
We also hosted poetry readings that engaged audiences in reflections upon death, dying and bereavement ('Is This It?' by Pushing Up the Daisies) as well as misogyny and harassment and other aggressions experienced by women ('Lady Doth Protest Too Much' with Nadine Aisha Jassat).
Our 2017 Just Festival exhibitions displayed at St John's Church included a painting and photography collection 'Jesus' by Joanna Brown and Nebiyu Assefa as well as 'The Legacy of Balfour' by the Network of Photographers for Palestine.
Our 2017 Conversations and Talks programme brought together fascinating experts and engaging practitioners who shared their stories and observations surrounding the themes of Britain's colonial past, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland, criminal justice systems and penal reforms, stigma surrounding mental health issues, multiple barriers to participation in the arts experienced by disabled performers and audiences, challenges and obstacles faced by women faith leaders, faith conversion stories, new radicals, and ageing in different cultures and religious groups. We were delighted to partner with Drake Music Scotland, HarmonyChoir, Faith in Older People, Refugee Survival Trust, Luath Press, Positive Prisons? Positive Futures, the University of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief and the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care in planning and delivering the conversation and talk programme.
19.3% of all attendees returned the evaluation forms. 2017 Just Festival events were attended by UK audiences from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Thurso, Leeds, Newcastle and London as well as the international visitors from 14 countries, including Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, Germany and Poland. Majority (66%) of attendees were female, 61% declared no to be religious, whereas 36% were affiliated with a religious group. 76% declared to be heterosexual and 12% of other sexual orientation.
67% had a very good and 27.5% a good event experience. 63% felt more confident to discuss the subject area addressed in a particular event. 63% would strongly recommend the festival events to other potential attendees.
The 2017 Just Festival offer was met with great interest from media and festival reviewers, including BBC, Third Force News, the LIST, the Wee Review, and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. The BBC Stories report about the Kranti's 'Lal Batti Express' entitled 'The greatest gift you can give is forgiveness' was viewed by over 60k people around the world and went viral on social media spreading a positive message of hope for change. Both 'Lal Batti Express' and 'Mimi's Suitcase' were shortlisted for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.
We would like to thank all our supporters, partners, programme contributors, staff and volunteers for making the 2017 Just Festival happen. Special thanks go to the Scottish Government, City Centre Churches Together, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Robertson Trust, Allander Print, St John's Church and the Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House.
Programme events can be viewed in detail at