Edinburgh Festival 2020: if the Fringe, Book Festival and International Festival are cancelled this year - and details of online events

Edinburgh’s festival season was all but cancelled in April, as the entertainment industry reacted to the coronavirus pandemic
Edinburgh's Festival Fringe is going online for 2020Edinburgh's Festival Fringe is going online for 2020
Edinburgh's Festival Fringe is going online for 2020

While the city’s streets are set to be eerily quiet this August, the spirit of both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival is set to live on, with a range of events due to take place online.

The unlikely revival of the 2020 events is aimed at supporting the performers, venues and organisers who will endure financial struggles caused by enforced social distancing rules.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the virtual events taking place this August.

The city's Royal Mile is usually packed during August - it is likely to look very different this yearThe city's Royal Mile is usually packed during August - it is likely to look very different this year
The city's Royal Mile is usually packed during August - it is likely to look very different this year

Is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe going ahead?

Fringe organisers announced a radical reboot of the Fringe programme on 13 July, revealing that the world’s largest arts festival would be taken online.

Organisers declared that the “spirit of the Fringe will live on” with virtual shows, a festival-wide crowdfunding campaign, artist-facing workshops, a new online arts industry platform and a virtual Fringe Central, all allowing perennial attendees the opportunity to enjoy a Fringe (of sorts) in 2020.

Unique events and features of the August festival include the following:

The Festival's normally crowded pop-up beer gardens would not make social distancing easyThe Festival's normally crowded pop-up beer gardens would not make social distancing easy
The Festival's normally crowded pop-up beer gardens would not make social distancing easy

- Fringe on a Friday – a 60-minute Fringe variety show, produced and curated by an independent production company, which will be streamed every Friday evening during the Fringe

- Fringe Pick n Mix – an infinite loop of 60 second clips of performers who were due to perform at the 2020 Fringe

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- A range of eye-catching merchandise featuring the work of visual artist Butcher Billy

- Virtual Fringe Central – a home from home for the Fringe community during August and hosts an unparalleled programme of creative and professional development events for artists

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- Comedy Central at the Edinburgh Fringe – the spotlighting of ten rising comedians in a series of seven-minute stand-up episodes across Comedy Central International’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram platforms

The official organisers have said it is their intention to complement an array of activities already arranged by Fringe artists and venues.

Gilded Balloon, Army at the Fringe, Zoo Festival and Free Festival have all already launched their own online programmes.

What about the Edinburgh International Book Festival?

The 2020 Book Festival will also be hosted online, running from Saturday 15 to Monday 31 August.

The virtual event will feature talks, both live and pre-recorded, for adults, families and children alike, with world-leading writers and poets participating.

A full programme of events is due to be announced at the end of July. You can read more about the event at edbookfest.co.uk

Is the Edinburgh International Festival cancelled?

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Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) organisers took the difficult decision to cancel their planned 2020 programme in April.

A statement by Festival Director Fergus Linehan read, “The Edinburgh International Festival was born out of adversity – an urgent need to both reconnect and rebuild. This current crisis presents us with a similar sense of urgency. Work begins straight away on a 2021 Festival that will boost both our spirits and our economy.”

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Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News on 9 July, Linehan said that all efforts were being focused on the 2021 festival, saying that the event will need to bounce back with a “compelling event”.

However, EIF does plan to honour the spirit of the 2020 festival during August.

In a newsletter, its organisers wrote, “Although we are unable to present the International Festival this year, the Festival team has been working hard to explore new and exciting ways to mark the festival season this coming August.”

Current plans include the broadcasting of a series of past Queen’s Hall concerts, in association with BBC Radio 3.

"We’ve selected 15 of our favourite recitals from the last two decades which will be available to hear on BBC Radio 3 from 10-28 August. The series will include past performances from Nicola Benedetti, Ronald Brautigam, Trio Zimmermann and many other International Festival highlights,” explained EIF.

Across the city, The Ghost Lights collaboration between major Scottish artists and companies “will incorporate a series of artistic interventions across the city throughout the month of August, letting the world know that the spark of the Festival still burns bright.”

Will Edinburgh Art Festival go ahead?

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Edinburgh Art Festival (EAF) was cancelled in April, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However, EAF has now invited 10 artists featured at the festival in years past to mark the dates of what would have been EAF 2020 – 30 July to 30 August.

Ruth Ewan, Ellie Harrison, Tam Joseph, Calvin Z Laing, Peter Liversidge, Tamara MacArthur, Rosalind Nashashibi, Rae-Yen Song, Shannon Te Ao, and Hanna Tuulikki will each present work through a mixture of online screenings and live performances, available via the festival website. A small number of projects will also appear in public sites around Edinburgh.

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"The selection is informed by and seeks to reflect on the profound personal and societal impacts of this global pandemic – as we look to find new ways of communicating and being together; to confront the urgent inequalities in our society; and to imagine new futures,” explain the EAF organisers.

Can I help Edinburgh’s festivals to survive?

The Edinburgh International Festival is accepting donations and membership signups at eif.co.uk

Edinburgh Festival Fringe is inviting donations and encouraging supporters to join its Friends, Angels and Patrons programme at edfringe.com

Edinburgh International Book Festival is accepting donations and patron sign ups at edbookfest.co.uk

You can donate to Edinburgh Art Festival via edinburghartfestival.com and choose whether your contribution goes towards learning and engagement, or the festival’s commissions programme.