Edinburgh International Book Festival reports 100,000 ticket sales from scaled-down event

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has reported ticket sales of more than 100,00 from its first first-scale event in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The festival, which returned with around 600 events compared to the last pre-Covid event in 2019, saw a reduction in ticket sales of around a third from three years ago.

However, festival director Nick Barley said comparisons with the 2019 event were “pointless” because of the cautious approach taken to programming this year.

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A packed house for Jarvis Cocker's book festival event.A packed house for Jarvis Cocker's book festival event.
A packed house for Jarvis Cocker's book festival event.

The Fringe Society has previously revealed 2.2 million tickets were sold for events this month. Although the figure is around 27 per cent down on 2019’s record-breaking year, the official programme was 17 per cent smaller in terms of shows and 15 per cent smaller in terms of events.

Ticket sales at the Edinburgh International Festival, which staged more than 160 performances of 92 productions this month, compared to 155 events and 293 performances of 93 events in 2019, dropped around 17 per cent.

Organisers have highlighted the absence of a fireworks concert this year. Its overall tally of 150,000 this year included more than 34,000 free tickets which were given away.

The book festival returned to Edinburgh College of Art for a second year and also expanded to the nearby Central Hall, in Tollcross, which hosted its biggest events.

The festival said it had seen a “significant shift” in booking patterns this year, with people buying tickets much later than before and much higher on-the-day sales than previously.

Mr Barley said: "This year was always going to be a bit of an unknown, but the overwhelmingly positive response we have received from audiences old and new, local residents, festival goers, and authors and individuals from every corner of the world, has made it an absolute joy to deliver.

"Comparisons with 2019 are pointless. We had 900 events in 2019 and decided to run 600 this year. Do the maths. We thought that appetite would be smaller. It’s right that we should be careful and expect smaller numbers. We’re on a three, four or five-year journey back.

"We are under no illusions that this is only the beginning of our build-back journey. Our focus now is to consolidate and respond to what we’ve learned as we plan our return in 2023.”

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