Brian Ferguson: Edinburgh must follow up on arts plans

Le Haggis was announced for this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Le Haggis was announced for this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe
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IT HAS been a frantic couple of weeks covering Scotland’s cultural scene – as busy as any I can recall for news outwith the Edinburgh Festival.

There has been the green light for T in the Park’s relocation to a new site, the announcement of the contenders for the Turner Prize when it comes to Glasgow and the start of work on the restoration of St Peter’s Seminary at Kilmahew into a major new arts centre.

Then there was the Heritage Lottery Fund’s backing for the £66 million revamp of the Burrell Collection in Glasgow and the furore over the move to strip The Arches nightclub of its late licence.

In the midst of all this was a flurry of news from the capital, including a bewildering mix of announcements about this summer’s Fringe, the film festival’s teases ahead of its launch this week and two reports on the long-term future of Edinburgh’s festivals and the wider cultural infrastructure.

The clunkily-entitled studies – Thundering Hooves 2.0 and Desire Lines – set out some fairly ambitious targets for the next decade.

The first, a £50,000 consultants report following up previous research from nearly ten years ago, is largely concerned with big-ticket festivals and events, and what needs to be done to protect, nurture and develop them in the face of a predicted public spending “fiscal cliff”.

The second – essentially crowd-sourced – attempted to take a much wider view, looking at how to safeguard and strengthen the city’s year-round offering.

The overall message was clear. Edinburgh may proudly promote itself as a global culture capital and a world-leading festival city, but scratch the surface and it doesn’t take long to find concerns over future funding arrangements, ageing and outdated venue infrastructure, and disjointed marketing efforts.

On the face it, perhaps it would have made more sense to distil the findings together into one comprehensive report.

But having been to all the Desire Lines events, it was clear there was a “them and us” feeling towards the festivals from those immersed in the year-round cultural scene – even if this feeling is not quite reflected in the final report. There is plenty of food for all involved in these reports to chew over – from the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival director, Fergus Linehan, to those dedicated event organisers who somehow get by at present on just a few thousand pounds of public funding.

But for real action to follow, it may come down to the man at the heart of another recent announcement, Andrew Kerr, who takes over as chief executive of the city council in the autumn.