New boss appointed to promote Edinburgh’s festivals

Julia Amour, Festivals Edinburgh's new director. Picture: Contributed
Julia Amour, Festivals Edinburgh's new director. Picture: Contributed
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A new cultural “supremo” who will help Edinburgh’s 12 major festivals fend off global competition and tackle a predicted “fiscal cliff” in the face of public spending cuts, has been appointed.

Julia Amour, director of Festivals Edinburgh, will spearhead “Thundering Hooves 2”, a strategy aimed at keeping Edinburgh as the world’s leading festival city. Ms Amour takes over from Faith Liddell in November.

The first “Thundering Hooves” (the term coined to represent competition catching up with Edinburgh), which launched almost ten years ago, examined a tranche of issues including competition from rival festival cities Montreal, Austin, Venice and Manchester,

The recently updated version for the next decade takes into account the challenges thrown up by the global economic downturn, significant political and cultural changes in Scotland and the digital revolution.

In terms of the “fiscal cliff”, the report says that “if current investment into the world class programming of Edinburgh’s festivals is not maintained, their premier division status is at risk of relegation”.

It will consider if money can be saved by festivals working more closely together.

In 2011 it was estimated that the city’s festivals generated £261m of additional expenditure in the Scottish economy.

Ms Amour, who currently works with the British Council where she has a leading role in the UK arts programme, said: “I’m thrilled to be joining Festivals Edinburgh in the role of director, to work with Edinburgh’s 12 major festivals on supporting their next phase of collective development. Edinburgh’s collaborative approach is admired around the world, and it’s an exciting time to be joining the team.

“There is such great potential to strengthen our local, national and global reach and make an even bigger difference for the city and for Scotland.”

Welcoming Ms Amour’s appointment, councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s festivals and events champion, said: “Eight years ago, when Festivals Edinburgh was first established to promote collaboration and success between our 12 major festivals, Julia Amour joined the British Council.

“She has spent those years championing cultural learning and exchange across the continents and it is this global insight and understanding of the arts which make her an ideal candidate for this role.

“Under Julia I am confident our festivals will continue to maintain their collective ambition and determination to succeed.”

“Thundering Hooves 2” has identified six interconnecting key themes which include widening the festivals’ appeal, better transport links and innovations such as the joint commissioning of works with businesses.

The strategy also reports that rival festival cities exposed Edinburgh’s weaknesses including difficulties with wi-fi provision, problems with overflowing bins and rubbish collections and the need to refurbish venues.