Edinburgh festivals denied £10m arts cash

Edinburgh’s flagship cultural events and festival venues have had bids for more than £10 million worth of funding rejected by Scotland’s national arts agency, The Scotsman can reveal.
The Edinburgh Mela, Scotlands biggest multicultural event, was turned down for funding. Picture: Toby WilliamsThe Edinburgh Mela, Scotlands biggest multicultural event, was turned down for funding. Picture: Toby Williams
The Edinburgh Mela, Scotlands biggest multicultural event, was turned down for funding. Picture: Toby Williams

Efforts to boost the programming and stabilise the long-term future of some of the country’s most popular events have been dealt a major blow by Creative Scotland.

New figures reveal the quango has failed to meet the funding requests of any of the capital’s major events, despite an ongoing drive to ensure they maintain their pre-eminent position on the global stage.

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Some festivals have had to put long-term plans on hold after being completely turned down for regular funding while others have had to go back to the drawing board after being given standstill funding when they had applied for significantly more.

Creative Scotland awarded £100 million worth of grants in October - but was only able to fund 119 organisations out of 264 applicants for the next three years.

The capital’s major events - which are worth more than £260 million to the city’s economy - are facing an uncertain future because of the threat of funding cuts from the City of Edinburgh Council, the other key backer for the festivals.


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A major new study was ordered last August into their long-term future amid fears of growing competition from overseas rivals and the prospect of a squeeze on public funding in future years.

Faith Liddell, the director of umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh, warned MSPs last summer that other cities were waiting to knock Scotland’s capital “off its perch” because its model had been so successful. She told the Holyrood’s tourism committee that there was a constant need to remain competitive with global rivals, many of whose leaders are in Edinburgh each summer to look at how its major events are run.

However The Scotsman can reveal that the Edinburgh International Festival, which is undergoing a major shake-up under new director Fergus Linehan, was given an award £1.735 million less than it had requested for the initial three years of the Irishman’s tenure.

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The Edinburgh International Film Festival, which has just hired its fourth director in the space of five years, was given £4.6 million less than it had hoped for under plans to restore the international reputation of the event, which has suffered from a lower profile after moving from August to the middle of June.

Both the Edinburgh Mela, Scotland’s biggest multicultural event, and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, were turned down for funding, despite asking for almost £1 million and nearly £700,000 respectively.

Among those to receive extra funding for the next three years, Edinburgh Art Festival’s grant of £300,000 was £173,000 less than it had requested, while the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s award of £836,000 was more than £250,000 short of what it had applied for.

The Queen’s Hall, which uniquely in the city hosts concerts for the jazz festival, Fringe and EIF, had a funding bid of almost £250,000 completely turned down, while two leading festival venues, the Royal Lyceum and Traverse theatres, suffered significant funding cuts.

A spokeswoman for the EIF said: “Creative Scotland invited ambitious and creative applications, which is what we submitted.

“Every creative organisation will always have more ideas than it might be funded for, and this was an opportunity to think big. Although Creative Scotland was not able to fund all of those ambitions, we will continue to try to realise some of them through alternative fundraising initiatives – we will continue to work on them.

“Whilst standstill funding brings challenges, as the cost of presenting a world class programme continues to rise, the three year commitment is helpful in allowing us to plan for the future.

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“We look forward to continuing our constructive partnership with Creative Scotland and all of our other partners and supporters in the public and private sector to help ensure the continued success and positive impact of the festival.”

Roger Spence, producer of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, said: “We were disappointed not to receive regular funding from Creative Scotland. We feel that we have reached a level that justified that status.

“Our artistic programme is second to none in Scotland, we attracted over 60,000 people last year and we are now one of the top 10 European jazz and blues festivals in terms of scale.”

Chris Purnell, director of the Edinburgh Mela, said: “We feel it is very important that events of our nature continue to be funded by Creative Scotland. We are having ongoing discussions with them.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “The future of the Edinburgh festivals continue to be a critically important part of Scotland’s cultural landscape and are, justifiably, world renowned. We are working closely with all relevant organisations and partners to ensure their future resilience.

“Although we received a far greater number of high quality applications for regular funding than were able to support, we were able to increase the number of organisations benefiting from three-year funding to 119, and increase the overall budget to £100m.”

The city council currently funds major festivals and events to the tune of £4.1 million a year, with the EIF benefiting from the biggest grant, of £2.38 million.

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A spokeswoman for the council said: “As a council and a city there are difficult decisions to be made about where to spend and save money in the next budget.

“In 2013, the council agreed to provide funding to support a range of cultural organisations including the major Edinburgh festivals for a fixed three-year period. This agreement will last until 2015/16.

“The council’s cultural policy is undergoing a refresh. This will, of course, inform future cultural funding decisions, including Edinburgh’s festivals, from 2016/17 onwards.”


Event or venue - What it asked for - What it got

Edinburgh International Film Festival/Filmhouse - £7.8 million - £3.2 million

Edinburgh Art Festival - £473,935 - £300,000

Edinburgh Festival Fringe - £300,000 - £210,000

Edinburgh International Book Festival - £1,104,000 - ££836,000

Edinburgh International Festival - £8.685,650 - £6,952,000

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival - £695,000 - Not funded

Edinburgh Mela - £965,641 - Not Funded

Festival and King’s Theatre - £450,000 - £315,000

Queen’s Hall - £240,808 - Not funded

Royal Lyceum Theatre - £4,100,423 - £3,000,000

Traverse Theatre - £3,552,599 - £2,600,000


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