Fringe ‘shouldn’t worry about other festivals’

Forming an orderly pattern, Italian dance company Discoteque Machine performers in morphsuits use mirrors to create what they term the first human discoball at the Camera Obscura at the top of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Forming an orderly pattern, Italian dance company Discoteque Machine performers in morphsuits use mirrors to create what they term the first human discoball at the Camera Obscura at the top of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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EDINBURGH does not have to worry about the threat from rival events around the world to its world-famous Fringe, its figurehead has declared, as she offered a passionate defence of the 68-year-old event.

Kath Mainland has insisted the city does not need to constantly look over its shoulder for potential competition because there is nothing else on earth like the long-running event, which boasts a record 3,314 shows this month.

It is flattering that other cities are inventing festivals

Kath Mainland

She spoke out despite warnings in an official report earlier this year that Edinburgh faced slipping down the global league table if it does not address key issues over its major events.

Consultants brought in by the city’s leading festivals to draw up a ten-year strategy warned Edinburgh faces being topped from its position as a world-leader unless its festivals attracted new funding, created new venues and made it easier to stay in the city.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s launch, the Fringe chief executive said it would continue to thrive as long as the best possible conditions were created for artists and companies.

Ms Mainland agreed it was expensive to travel to Edinburgh to stage shows but said the investment was worth it if they win a life after the Fringe and insisted the city did not have a “unique problem” over high costs.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, she said there was nowhere in the world to match Edinburgh for the way it has held true to its “open access” principles since 1947, when a group of artists staged their own shows in response to the creation of an official festival.

The Fringe boss signalled her support for the move by the Edinburgh International Festival to align its dates with the Fringe for the first time in 18 years, saying the combination of festivals during August was “compelling.”

Published in May, the ten-year blueprint to protect the status of events such as the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo and the Hogmanay celebrations warns they risk relegation from the “premier division” if current levels of backing are not maintained. It was described as a “spur to action to make sure Scotland, the city and its festivals do not rest on their laurels and become complacent”.

The report said: “Many competitor festival cities are investing in infrastructure and resources aimed at challenging Edinburgh’s success. Whilst they’ll never be able to replicate the city they’re starting to expose some of the weaknesses.”

However Ms Mainland, who was appointed six years ago, said: “In terms of the competition, we have to be aware of it, but not worry too much about it.

“You have to just make sure you’re creating the best environment for artists and audiences, to have the best experience, and not worry too much about other festivals. You can’t be trying to get one up on someone else.

“It is flattering that other cities are inventing festivals to try to match ours. We’re very aware as an organisation of barriers to people coming to take part. We rely on people wanting to come here and continuing to see Edinburgh as a valuable place to bring their work.

“We have a certain amount of influence over some things and less so over others. We’re constantly looking at that. Edinburgh is an expensive place to bring work, of course it is, but it is not cheap to make work anywhere. It is not a unique problem to Edinburgh.

“We have to make sure it’s a valuable experience in other ways and that if you have an ambition as a company to get in front of international media or an industry who will take your work on tour around the world then that’s still possible.

“It’s also about encouraging companies to be really realistic about what they’re going to experience when they’re here and what it’s going to cost, but also see it in part as an investment into the future life of their work.”