Amid growing fears of the devastating impact the pandemic will have on the future of the next generation of musicians, a picture of a young trombonist accompanied with the call to action “It’s time to let them play” was etched into the sand of Elie Beach this week.
Created and designed by Sand in Your Eye, the eye-catching beach art heralds the beginning of the East Neuk Festival, which takes place in indoor and outdoor venues along the beautiful eastern stretch of Scotland’s coastline from Thursday to Sunday (July 1-4).
East Neuk Festival director, Svend McEwan-Brown, said: “Multiple lockdowns have caused irreparable damage to all musicians’ lives and careers, and we witness with dismay the especially harsh impact the crisis is having on those in their first years as professional performers.
"Millions of opportunities have been lost to these young people all over the globe, and while the scale of this crisis puts it well beyond our reach to resolve, we certainly can play our part in creating opportunities and supporting excellence and creative endeavour as much as we possibly can.”
The festival has been committed to nurturing young and emerging talent since it was founded in 2004.
Its celebrated artist development programme, the ENF Retreat, offers young musicians the opportunity to develop their artistry through a residency of workshops and mentoring leading to public performances at the festival.
The festival has announced that its latest ENF Retreat Residency will be undertaken by young jazz composer, vocalist and storyteller Nishla Smith. Partnering with scientists from St Andrews University’s School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Smith will develop a song cycle called ‘Aether’ for voice and improvising ensemble exploring impacts of the climate crisis across different environmental settings.
The project will culminate in a development residency with the ensemble, and a performance of the new work at the 2022 ENF alongside the creation of a short film which will document the partnership, research, creative and rehearsal processes.
Svend added: “We have always keenly felt our responsibility to support musicians in the early years of their careers and remain committed to offering opportunities that we hope will help to take them forward and allow them to develop profile and build a career.
"This year we have continued to offer opportunities through our ENF Retreat programme and we open our festival concert series with two young pianists making their debuts. We are delighted to be announcing Nishla’s residency.
"A wonderful performer with an enquiring mind, I'm really looking forward to seeing how her project develops.”
Nishla Smith said: “For a while now I’ve been thinking about how I can use my artistic practice to create something meaningful in response to the environmental problems we face as a society. In ‘Aether’, I wish to broach my anxieties and hopes in a way that I also find artistically meaningful.
"I want to create something that balances the seriousness of the subject matter with some moments of hope and optimism.”