Take Edinburgh Festival nationwide says EventScotland head

Macbeth is performed on Inchcolm Island in 2012 under the aegis of the festival
Macbeth is performed on Inchcolm Island in 2012 under the aegis of the festival
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The Edinburgh Festival should be extended to include events held across the country, one of Scotland’s leading event experts has claimed.

Paul Bush said he would like to see the capital’s flagship events broaden their reach to mark the 70th anniversary of the world’s biggest cultural extravaganza in 2017.

EventScotland head 'Paul Bush

EventScotland head 'Paul Bush

He suggested shows could be staged in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, Dundee and even Inverness as part of the landmark anniversary that year.

Mr Bush, head of the national EventScotland agency over the last decade, also floated the idea of events being held at a new 2,250-capacity arena which has recently been built at the luxury Gleneagles resort in Perthshire.

He has been one of the key figures involved in the staging of such events as the Ryder Cup, the Commonwealth Games, the MTV Europe Music Awards, the World Gymnastics Championships and The Turner Prize. Last week he issued a rallying call to the events industry in Scotland to “take more risks” over the next 10 years. Mr Bush is calling for a nationwide expansion for what he described as the “watershed year” of 2017.

The idea has been put forward months after a study into the future of the festivals called for “new thinking and innovative solutions” to help maintain their “premier division” status.

The Thundering Hooves study recommended Edinburgh and Glasgow collaborate on events together, even calling for a “memorandum of understanding” to be drawn up.

Edinburgh Festival events have rarely been staged outside the city. Veteran impresario Richard Demarco, who has attended the artistic celebration every year since its formation, has previously staged events on Inchcolm Island, in the middle of the Firth of Forth. And North Berwick, in East Lothian, has been running a “Fringe by the Sea” event in August for the past seven years.

It is thought Edinburgh may draw inspiration from the success of the nationwide cultural celebrations instigated to coincide with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games of 2014.

Mr Bush said Edinburgh’s festivals were already leading the way when it came to “sharing product” by collaborating with other international cities and countries, pointing to the forthcoming runs of the Tattoo in Australia and New Zealand.

He said: “When you think of what comes into Edinburgh each summer, it’s so rich. The festival directors are bringing in some of the best stuff in the world. The Edinburgh Festival is now a huge event, but why can’t it cascade into other parts of Scotland? Why can’t it be in Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling, Aberdeen and Inverness? We’ve got to think outside the box a bit. There’s a new multi-purpose indoor arena for conferences, exhibitions and events at Gleneagles. Part of the Edinburgh Festival could be held there.”

Mr Bush said festivals and events were entering a period of great challenge where they would have to take more risks.

He added: “It is about finding different angles and it’s also going to be increasingly more important to be smarter in the way we work in partnership.Funding will be a real challenge that the Edinburgh festivals are going to have to face over the next five years.

“To me, 2017 is an important watershed for them as a celebration.”

Joanna Baker, managing director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: “The reason that the Edinburgh festivals have continued to thrive for nearly 70 years is constant reinvention. A festival is something that should be out of the ordinary that you wouldn’t be able to experience at any other time of the year.

“The reason we’re still here is we’re constantly thinking about audiences now and into the future.”