As a much younger man I came here to perform with my local theatre group. Whilst ‘Murder in the Red Barn’ might not have inspired the critics, being a small part of the world’s largest arts festival left me with a lasting appreciation of just how special this event is.
Today I’m back as culture secretary and delighted to see Scotland’s creative industries recovering so strongly from the pandemic.
That’s a direct result of support from the UK Government, with our Culture Recovery Fund giving Scottish culture an extra £97 million boost that has been vital for the survival of theatres, music venues, cinemas and art galleries.
We also helped the Edinburgh Festivals specifically, with a £1m investment to improve their digital offer, so they could take place virtually during the pandemic and better showcase artists and events all over the world.
Now we’re looking to the future and how events like this can help power the UK’s recovery.
Our new government-backed live events insurance scheme will mean festival organisers can plan with confidence. We’re also working with the Scottish Government to invest in a brand new landmark concert hall here in Edinburgh – the Dunard Centre.
A total of £10m from the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal will see it become the city’s first dedicated new space for music and the performing arts in 100 years; a wonderful addition to one of the world’s most important cultural capitals.
But it’s Scotland’s film and TV industries that are flourishing in particular, and it’s easy to see why.
From Amazon shooting The Rig, its first scripted series exclusively on Kinloch Bravo oil rig, stationed off the stunning coast of the North Sea, to Outlander, the historical drama series with scenes set in the sweeping countryside, Scotland’s history, scenery and landscapes make filming and performing here unrivalled.
That’s part of an incredible success story for the whole of the UK, which is seeing us attracting the world’s very best productions to these shores.
Just last week it was announced that Amazon's new Lord of the Rings big-budget, blockbuster television series is moving to the UK from New Zealand, creating and supporting thousands of high-quality jobs, and leading to incredible tourism opportunities.
With dramatic scenery that’s perfect for recreating Middle Earth, I’m sure Scotland stands to benefit significantly.
Thanks to the UK Government’s £500m Film and TV Production Restart scheme, we’ve been able to keep cameras rolling throughout the pandemic and maintain the UK’s place as a world leader for investment.
The scheme has now seen filming in 66 locations across Scotland, including productions like ‘A Very British Scandal’ starring Claire Foy, and ‘The Lost King’, a film starring Steve Coogan and Sally Hawkins, both of which are being shot here in Edinburgh.
In fact it’s been so successful at keeping productions running, that the final three months of 2020 were the second highest on record for investment in film and TV production.
Our creative industries aren’t just vital for jobs and the economy, with the Fringe Festival attracting nearly five million visitors and generating £313m alone – they put Scotland and the UK on the map. That’s why we’ve been so determined to help protect culture across the UK through the pandemic.
And today, as I enjoy one of the greatest festivals on the planet alongside thousands of others, I promise that I will continue to do all I can to champion Scottish culture and Scottish talent, so that it can grow from strength to strength.
- Oliver Dowden is the UK culture secretary