THE Festival of Spirituality and Peace, the largest of Edinburgh’s so-called ‘small festivals’, featuring 400 events, was launched in an atmosphere of celebration at St John’s Church, Princes Street, last night (5 August).
The globally acclaimed acapella group Soweto Entsha kicked off proceedings in front of the packed church, having had the audience queuing round the block for their preview show the night before.
The singers brought with them the rhythm of change and optimism that has continued to resonate in post-apartheid South Africa, in spite of difficulties.
Readings, reflections, songs and prayers to mark the launch were offered from people of Jewish, Baha’i, Doaist, Muslim, Christian and secular backgrounds.
Keynote speaker Canon Dr Stephen Cherry, from Durham Cathedral, emphasised that ‘Cooperation for Change’ among people of different worldviews – the Festival’s theme in its twelfth year – was not an easy task or a sinecure.
Collaboration for peace and justice requires “tough mindedness” and “spiritual maturity”, Dr Cherry declared. He commended the Festival of Spirituality and Peace for combining challenge and uplift across its programme.
There were also tributes for former Festival director, the Rev Donald Reid, who pioneered the venture, and for interim director Katherine Newbigging.
She has been its coordinator for five years and stepped into the top role after a close family bereavement forced the resignation of predecessor Andrew Norman, from South Africa.
Ticket sales for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace (FoSP) have exceeded targets and topped £10,000 so far. Festival board chair Raymond Baudon said the message was clear: “Go out and get your tickets now, if you haven’t already!”
There is a Festival box office at St John’s Church this year, and tickets for all events are also on sale online via The Hub. Proceeds go to charity, and the Festival of Spirituality is backed by civic, education and faith groups along with the Scottish government.
Immediately upcoming FoSP events include a discussion on ‘Forgiveness: optional or mandatory?’ (6pm, 6 August) and the drama ‘An evening with dementia’, which won the 2010 Fringe sell-out award.