Leader comment: Four-month stretch does not make a festival

Crowds gather in the street to watch a festival performer in a typical August scene in Edinburgh.
Crowds gather in the street to watch a festival performer in a typical August scene in Edinburgh.
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Just when you thought there was nowhere left for the festival to go in Edinburgh, another derelict building is transformed from a shell into a “venue”. Meanwhile, the Book Festival spills out of Charlotte Square on to George Street, and pop-up bars and food outlets spring up in new places every year.

It’s too big, we’re told. And that might well be true. However, at a duration of three weeks, the city can just about cope.

But would it be sensible to reduce the concentration of shows and the huge influx of visitors, by stretching the festival over four months?

Tommy Sheppard thinks so, and the MP has a backer in the shape of Edinburgh World Heritage. It’s a well-intentioned proposal, but the beauty of the festival is the special atmosphere that is created in Edinburgh every August. Without that buzz and sense of the city being the place to be at this time of year, the event would not have the international profile that it has earned and flourishes under.

No-one would suggest that the festival is perfect; far from it in fact. But without the crowds, the clutter and the chaos, the Edinburgh festival over four months would suffer the fate of a funfair that pitches up in a seaside town for the whole summer – good fun now and then, but take it or leave it. We mess with the current set-up at our peril.