Briana Pegado

Briana Pegado came to Edinburgh as a student and went on to change the face of the student arts scene here. We asked her about what it's like to move to Edinburgh from the States and the city's creative scene. 

📷 Matt Beech Photography

Hi Briana, tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a creative director and freelancer based in Edinburgh. I work with artists in the creative industries and approach everything from a wellness perspective. I like collaborating with people and on projects that have a social purpose, that are empathy driven, and that are creative in ways that allow people to bring the complexity of their full selves to their work. When I’m not working I am attempting to keep a consistent yoga practice and wild swim. I love to cook and I study astrology in my spare time.

As someone who grew up in the US, how did you find moving to Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is very similar to where I grew up, Washington, DC in that both cities are capital cities, near a significant body of water, have populations of about half a million people, and are cities steeped in national history. Culturally our countries are inextricably linked while also being markedly different. When I moved here I found the city warm, friendly and full of magic. There is so much to do, eat, explore and wander through in Edinburgh.

What was the student scene in Edinburgh like for you?

The student scene was incredible. If people weren’t running their own club nights or setting up pop up food stalls, there was always something creative, innovative, socially driven or community based to do. I have always been struck by the entrepreneurial spirit of students in Edinburgh always finding ways to make things happen. I was also spoiled for choice with music venues, club nights, great places to eat and stunning student union buildings to chill in. I felt like the world was open to me in ways that really shaped who I am today.

What inspired you to start the Edinburgh Student Arts Festival?

My inspiration for the Edinburgh Student Arts Festival was a combination of my own feeling of being creatively stifled – not having the creative outlets I needed or access to the tools/supplies I needed to get creative – and speaking to the people around me. I was surrounded by people studying law, finance, accounting, economics, politics, geography, sustainable development and international relations who were all artists at heart. We were already incredibly privileged being at university with the access to the tools and information we needed. If I was feeling stifled and facing barriers to creativity from such a privileged position, how were other people feeling? When I was elected president of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) in 2014, I used my platform to bring all of the colleges and universities together and to leverage funding to start the festival. It would be student led, curated, driven, and organised in a way that allowed us to drive the focus of the festival without the traditional arts and culture sector gatekeepers dictating what warranted creativity. It was open to anyone within and outwith education to play, experiment, and express their creativity.

What makes the creative scene in Edinburgh special?

What made the creative scene in Edinburgh special was the spirit of collaboration over competition. People are often so willing to lend their time, space, expertise and energy to creative projects. Ten years ago in Edinburgh the number of creative venues and spaces for this type of collaboration were many. It also helps that we are the city of the Fringe Festival and 12 other festivals that are some of the largest and longest running arts festivals in the world. However, the way the creative scene has been hit by the recession, increased regulation of venues, and the prioritisation of profit over community has meant that the creative scene in Edinburgh is truly struggling to be supported properly. Glasgow, with its cheaper rents, plentiful space, and bigger size is going to outpace Edinburgh soon (if it hasn’t already) unless the city and private interests find ways of prioritising and maintaining the creative scene to keep it thriving.

And finally, for you, what keeps Edinburgh thriving?

What keeps Edinburgh thriving is the people. There has been an explosion in independent business, the food and drink scene, and the wealth of wonderful people bringing their innovative and creative ideas to a city they love. Edinburgh has been my home for my entire adult life and hopefully it continues to be. It is the people here that keep Edinburgh thriving. It is the sense of community and the commitment to keeping this city on this much wider planet a green, sustainable place.

Quick fire questions

Best place to eat in Edinburgh? Chez Jules as an all-rounder, Timberyard for an elevated dining experience, The Gardener’s Cottage for a really intimate, locally sourced experience, or Che for the best falafel in the county on Forrest Road.

Best place to drink in Edinburgh? Bramble for cocktails and as a world-class Edinburgh spot, Lucky Liquor Co. for too many reasons to list here, Nauticus Bar for a shout to Leith, great whisky, and stellar ambience, and The Broughton for the best Penicillin I have ever had, and Timberyard for their non-alcoholic mixes.

Best view of the city? The roof of the National Museum of Scotland or the north side of Calton Hill.

Best hidden gem in the city? The Devil’s Advocate (but is it really hidden anymore?) and my no.1 fave for a quiet drink.

keep edinburgh thriving
JOIN 6,000+ Edinburgh locals who trust us with the delivery of insightful, trustworthy news.