Edinburgh's August festivals expected to be cancelled today

Edinburgh’s August festivals are expected to be called off today due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Edinburgh's festivals have been called off this year for the first time since they were instigated in 1947.

A collective decision over the events, which date back to 1947, has been taken following crisis talks in recent days with the city council and the Scottish Government.

The Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Tattoo, and the city’s art and book festivals are all due to officially pull the plug after abandoning all hope of being able to go ahead this year.

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Huge uncertainly over when lockdown restrictions would be lifted and concerns over the safety of audiences, performers, festival staff and local residents were major factors in the joint decision.

The main festivals have agreed to focus all their efforts on a full-scale revival in 2021 after being assured that £10 million of public funding for the events remains intact.

The majority of the 220,000 available tickets for the Tattoo had been snapped up after going on sale in December in advance, while nearly 500 Fringe shows were already on sale.

An email to Fringe venue managers announcing the cancellation of the event said: “The decision was not ours alone nor was it taken lightly, but due to the present circumstances it was unavoidable.

“The safety of venue staff, artists and audiences must be our top priority.

“These are very unprecedented and difficult times for our industry and we are doing everything in our power, including seeking funding from the Scottish Government, the city council, our sponsors, donors and friends to lessen the financial impact across the Fringe.”

The collective decision on the August festivals will be a huge blow to Edinburgh’s economy as the events are worth more than £300 million to the city.

The annual August events, which attracted a combined audience of 4.4 million last year, are second only in scale to the Olympic Games. This year’s sporting extravaganza, which was due to go ahead in Tokyo this summer, has already been delayed to 2021.

The Edinburgh International Festival had previously been forced to scrap its official programme launch in mid-March while the Fringe had extended its programme deadline and put its own launch date back to July while talks were ongoing behind the scenes.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival, which like the EIF and Fringe dates back to 1947, had already announced the cancellation of this year’s event in June.

The Edinburgh Mela, the long-running multi-cultural festival announced its cancellation yesterday.

The Fringe Society does not have any direct involvement in the running of venues or staging of shows, meaning that unofficial events could be staged in August if restrictions are lifted, but there would be no official box office or programme.