Volunteers sought for 70th Edinburgh Festival arts extravaganza

An army of Commonwealth Games-style volunteers is to be recruited for the Edinburgh Festival to mark the 70th birthday of the event.

Around 15,000 Clydesiders volunteered at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, a campaign Edinburgh Festival organisers are hoping to emulate. Photograph: SNS
Around 15,000 Clydesiders volunteered at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, a campaign Edinburgh Festival organisers are hoping to emulate. Photograph: SNS

A pilot project based on the “Clydesiders” initiative will be rolled out this summer.

Hundreds of volunteers will take to the streets, transport hubs and venues to welcome visitors and help them find their way around the city.

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They are also expected to help with the smooth running of events.

It is hoped the project, dubbed “Festival City Volunteers,” will open up access to events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo and the Book Festival to people who have never been to them before.

It is thought successful applicants could also get the chance to be involved in events outwith the peak summer period, like Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Around 15,000 Clydesiders were drawn from more than 50,000 applicants to volunteer at the Commonwealth Games.

This summer marks the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe and the Film Festival.

Festivals Edinburgh, the umbrella body for the capital’s 12 major events, is recruiting a development manager to mastermind their first joint volunteers programme.

The creation of one was a key recommendation in the Thundering Hooves report, published two years ago, into the long-term future of Edinburgh’s festivals.

The study, which warned the city against complacency over its festivals, said both the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games “showed the enormous appetite for volunteering”.

It added: “Edinburgh’s populace feels great pride in the festivals but this does not necessarily equate to engagement.

“The gaps between pride, engagement and participation need to be closed.”

EventScotland, Edinburgh City Council, Edinburgh College and the Volunteer Edinburgh project have all been involved in talks over the volunteering initiative, which is expected to initially take the form of a 13-month pilot from this August.

A key aim of the festivals in the 70th anniversary year is to break down barriers to participation, particularly within the city.

Shona McCarthy, who was appointed chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society just over a year ago, has agreed to chair a new taskforce overseeing the volunteering project.

She said: “I’m delighted to chair the Festival City Volunteers steering group, in what promises to be a special year for Edinburgh’s Festivals, celebrating 70 years of Edinburgh as a world-renowned festival city and look forward to working with our partners to develop the programme.”

The project manager’s job description states: “The initiative would offer new opportunities for people’s skills development, increase engagement more widely across the city region, and potentially beyond, and equip existing volunteers to be more effective advocates for the wider city offer.

“We propose to offer a rich volunteering and learning experience enabling participants to feel part of something unique and to develop confidence, skills and connections that can lead on to further opportunities.

“We are now developing this initiative through a rolling pilot starting in 2017 – which we are celebrating as the 70th anniversary of the first Edinburgh Festivals, created to bring people together through culture and reimagine a better future after World War Two – and building through to 2018, designated as Scotland’s Year of Young People.”

Richard Lewis, culture and sport leader at the city council, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for collaboration and joint working.”

Paul Wilson, chief officer of Volunteer Edinburgh, said: “We very much welcome this project, which is an exciting opportunity for people to get involved in the festivals, perhaps for the first time.”