Grey skies for summer festivals

ON the face of it, things could hardly look better for Edinburgh's summer festivals.

A new report into the nine events - the International Festival, Fringe, Film, Book, Art, Jazz and Blues, the Tattoo, the Festival Cavalcade and the Mela - has revealed record sales, critical acclaim and rising attendances.

But the organisers are unlikely to be popping the champagne corks as they face up to making major changes to deal with savage budget cuts and falling sponsorship.

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This year, the city council contributed 3.3 million to the festivals. With severe cuts across the board needed to plug a 90m funding gap over the next three years, however, the expectation is that they may be an easy target for the axe.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion, said: "The council is mindful of the financial contribution that festivals and events make to the local and national economy.

"However, we are in dire straits and they (festivals] will have to be discussed with all the other services when it comes to budget time."

Today's report shows that this year's Festival Fringe managed to turn in a record-breaking performance, with a total audience of almost two million people.

Neil Mackinnon, the head of external affairs at the Fringe, said: "It was a record-breaking year for us and it exceeded all our expectations.

"Despite some concerns before the event, I think we were confident when we saw the number of people from across the world who wanted to bring shows to the Fringe that the audience would follow."

That may not be the case in future, however. Tomek Borkowy, artistic director for Edinburgh production company Universal Arts, expects to see big changes over the next year as a result of faltering finances.

"This year was OK. Some venues did really well, others not so well," he said.

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"Overall I think it was better than expected, but every year for producers and venues is concerning because they take such a financial risk.

"I am terrified of what these cuts will mean for the future of the Fringe. I think next year we could see far fewer shows coming to Edinburgh, because the money will not be there."

The Edinburgh International Film Festival saw a sharp drop in ticket numbers, and Gavin Miller, ceo of the Centre for Moving Image, owners of the Filmhouse and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, said it was believed to be a result of the late programme launch on June 1, just over two weeks before the festival started.

"The feeling is that the programme launch was just a little too close to the festival itself, and so we lost an opportunity to get on people's radar early on," he said.

"It is the case across the board that funding is being cut, and so in a way we have to see it as an opportunity to get creative and innovative about what we want to do.

"It might mean there is a change to the look and feel of the festival, but that is what we should be looking to do anyway to keep it fresh for audiences."

The Edinburgh International Book Festival also saw a drop in ticket sales, due to author cancellations and regular supporters buying fewer tickets.

But director Nick Barley remained upbeat.

He said: "I was very pleased with the level of ticket sales which demonstrates that despite the uncertainty in the economy, arts and culture continue to play a vital role in people's lives."

Art Festival

2010 attendance: TBC

2009 attendance: 528,000

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An extended programme saw 53 venues mount 74 exhibitions and 128 events, a ten per cent increase on the previous year. New additions included three large commissions - among them an ambitious decoration of the Scotsman Steps - as well as performance art and open studio events.

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

2010 attendance: 22,300

2009 attendance: 22,240

The Jazz Festival programme included special features celebrating 60 years of jazz in Edinburgh and the centenary of Django Reinhardt. Due to Princes Street Gardens being unavailable, the Jazz on a Summer's Day event was cancelled, but other events such as the Parade, Scottish jazz Expo and the Clandemonium "flashmob" event were a success.


2010 attendance: 1,955,913

2009 attendance: 1,859,235

The 64th annual Festival Fringe drew record audiences at a record number of shows, with more than 40,254 performances of 2453 shows held at 259 venues. Highlights included a Made in Scotland showcase supported by the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo fund, while performers brought shows from 30 different countries to the Fringe. The Famous Spiegeltent also returned after missing last year's event.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

2010 attendance: 220,000

2009 attendance: 220,000

The Diamond Jubilee event was the Tattoo's 12th consecutive sell-out year, and included displays by daredevil motorcyclists as well as the best of British military bands. The Tattoo was awarded the distinction of the "Royal" title, conferred by her majesty the Queen, in January, the first Edinburgh Festival to receive such an honour.

International Film Festival

2010 attendance: 44,456

2009 attendance: 49,569

The 2010 Festival opened with Slyvain Chomet's animated love-letter to the Capital, The Illusionist, the first of 106 new international features screened, including 22 world premieres. There were 594 filmmaker guests, and celebrities including Sir Sean Connery, Tilda Swinton, director Joe Dante and Sir Patrick Stewart, pictured, attended.

International Book Festival

2010 attendance: 114,818

2009 attendance: 120,790

While ticket sales dropped, due partly to a number of author cancellations outside the Book Festival's control, the feedback on the event has been very positive. The festival ran over 750 events, featuring authors from around the world, and saw 76 per cent of all available tickets sold, despite an increase of 1 in adult ticket prices.

Mela Festival

2010 attendance: 26,200

2009 attendance: 20,320

The Edinburgh Mela Festival moved to Leith Links for the first time, a change which proved a huge success as record numbers turned out for events such as the world premier of the open air performance Cargo, as well as music, dancing and the popular food, craft and charities market.

Cavalcade 2010

2010 attendance: 100,000

2009 attendance: 75,000

The parade, a highlight of the summer festivals for many residents, again went through Holyrood Park, meaning the 33 per cent increase in attendance was still down on the crowds who turned out on Princes Street. There were 2500 performers in the parade, while nearly 500 groups entertained crowds in a parade ground area of the park.

International Festival

2010 attendance: 146,716

2009 attendance: 146,430

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A record-breaking year for the International Festival saw artists travel from 73 countries to take part. Nearly one in three events sold out, and the Festival earned its highest ever ticket sales income with over 2.67m taken at the box office, up three per cent on 2009. Local residents showed great support, with almost 50 per cent of ticket buyers coming from EH postcodes.