As the Director of the Edinburgh Iranian Festival, I often get asked, “Why do you do this? Don’t you have enough things to juggle in life?” We all do, of course. But I love Iran. I miss it, I miss the people, the smell of fresh taftoon bread, the love of family, the warmth of its welcome when you return, its diversity of culture, food, landscape, and arts.

I’ve been organising cultural events for over 20 years now, starting from my Uni years, and it’s all fueled by the love I feel for the country. I also love living in UK and I guess I’ve tried to make sense of my multiple identities and senses of belonging over those many years. What I have found most surprising is how similar we are! If you look, if you really look, you can find remarkable similarities between cultures, any two cultures, and I find that fascinating. We are more similar than we are different so why not embrace another culture and find out more about it rather than feel distant and alienated by it.

The Edinburgh Iranian Festival is now over a decade old and has grown from strength to strength. This would simply have not been possible without the dedicated team of volunteers and Trustees who work together tirelessly all year round behind the scenes. As members of a charitable organisation, fitting this volunteer work around your day-to-day life can be challenging under the best of circumstances. The festival is proud and fortunate to be able to count on them, year in and year out and I would personally like to thank them.

I would like to thank Ati Naghsh, Mahboobeh, Sahar, Hamid, and Fayaz Alibhai for being there every day and every night and for leading the various projects that have made up the festival in 2020: Ati for designing and producing our festival brochure and handling PR and marketing; Sahar for developing the photo exhibition; Mahboobeh for co-ordinating the Opening Reception and film screening volunteers; Fayaz for facilitating the redesign of our website (through the amazing Andy Watson); and Hamid, our treasurer, for the financial management of our accounts. A big thank you also to Dr Nacim Pak-Shiraz for once again curating this year’s film season (her 6th for us!), and to Laleh Sherkat for curating the photo exhibition.

Our 2020 volunteers include Ruhy, Babak, Sorush, Leila and Ayelen, as well as graphic design by Maryam Zabihifard, social media by Sarvnaz Geranpayeh, and website maintenance by Dr Arash Eshghi. There have been over 60 volunteers over the past decade, who have played a role in our success. In years past, the festival would like to acknowledge the significant contributions and efforts of: Anna (one of the founders of the festival); Dr Maryam Ghorbankarimi (film season curator 2009 & 2011); Kamran Jahan (music events consultant); Mona Vaghefian (press and PR); Faranaz (fashion shows and academic seminars). Together with Ati, Sahar and Mahboobeh, then, as now, they have all been essential to the success of the festival. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince reminds us, ’And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

To all our trustees, volunteers, sponsors and supporters, you bring a unique perspective, skill set, and patronage to the festival’s programming. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Merci and welcome to the Festival!

Sara Kheradmand