Funding fear for Edinburgh International Festival

Fergus Linehan announces his first Festival programme. Picture: Getty
Fergus Linehan announces his first Festival programme. Picture: Getty
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THE WORLD’S most prestigious arts festival might have to “drop down a division” over concerns for future funding.

Fergus Linehan, the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), said the capital and Scotland has to discuss whether it can continue to afford large-scale operas, concerts and orchestras.

The Festival is in its last year of a £2.3 million funding deal with Edinburgh City Council, but there are concerns that restricted or standstill funding from public sources in the future may prove damaging.

Mr Linehan said: “It sounds like an institution whinging about not getting money but it is actually asking a question about what kind of festival Edinburgh wants to have.

“People could say, ‘We want something different’, but it is a gentle unravelling of what it has achieved over 68 years if you start to roll backwards financially.

“It’s a quality question, it is as simple as that - you either choose to have them or choose not to have them.”

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The festival’s total cost this year is around £11.2 million, while the EIF hopes to earn in the region of £6.2 million.

Large-scale projects this year include the opening free event at the Usher Hall, The Magic Flute by Komische Oper of Berlin, Antigone starring Juliette Binoche, Lanark by the Citizens Theatre, and performances by the San Francisco Symphony and the Oslo Philharmonic, among others.

Mr Linehan said he felt positive about ticket sales for this year’s festival, which runs from August 7 to 31, but the “fly in the ointment” is what is going to happen to public finances in the next few years.

The Irishman said: “I don’t think anyone wants to damage the festival, but the fact is what we are mandated to do, and what it is understood that we do, exists at a level which is unprecedented - we only present work on a level that we see in New York, Paris or London.

“But there is no cleverer way of being able to do a really large-scale work of this style without the funding.”

He added: “I think the most important thing for Edinburgh is to be honest about what its promise to the world is.”

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