Review: Speed of Light (Edinburgh International Festival)
Having recently changed sides professionally by starting a job for Scottish Swimming, and being a keen cyclist and runner in the spare time, I was intrigued when the Speed of Light was announced in the Edinburgh International Festival‘s programme, especially having worked for the Festival in 2009 and 2010 myself. I also had an amazing time being lucky enough to watch some of the finals in the London Aquatics Centre and sample the great atmosphere myself, so it was interesting to see a commission of the Cultural Olympiad after the Games.
I can’t recall how many times I have been up Arthur’s Seat already, most of the time running up to the top, sometimes showing friends around this iconic Edinburgh landmark, and most recently running all the seven hills of Edinburgh to challenge myself. most of the times I had been up there in the light. But with the days reasonably short in winter, I can also recall the experience of running up the steep steps with a head torch.
Waiting around for a few minutes in the temporary tent in Holyrood Park (with some nice installations inside), I was intrigued by the mixture of fellow walkers in my group, which covered many ages and fitness levels to begin with. After a short introduction we got handed the very cleverly constructed glow sticks that would give enough light to light the way up, at the same time being part of the installation itself. Shortly after that we were on our way up, on a windy but dry night with the stars upon us.
I deliberately didn’t read any reviews beforehand, treating Speed of Light as an experiment, but also being interested on how well sport and art go together, and I wasn’t disappointed. The roughly 2-hour-long walk gave me not only the chance to see runners putting Arthur’s Seat in a different light, but also the chance to enjoy the conversation with fellow walkers and the four very friendly tour guides. It was not rushed at all, giving us the chance to experience the view at certain stages of the hill before reaching the summit. With the group made up with all sorts of people I enjoyed walking in a different, slower pace than I would normally set off with.
It was an arts experience of a different kind, and certainly different from anything else I had seen at the Edinburgh International Festival before. Seeing the runners (and wheelchair users) in their light suits created some stunning images in an amazing natural setting. While the runners used the (faster) speed of light to create those pictures, it was exactly the slowing down, taking the speed off at the end of a busy day, that completed a great experience for me. The darkness and the walking were an interesting, yet very relaxing experience, away from the madding crowds of Edinburgh in August. Experiencing it in a group made a difference, while I had still enough time to take in, relax and watch the runners creating live artworks on an amazing natural stage. But for the most, it has inspired me to see more shows and more walks in the future, leaving a lasting legacy.