Edinburgh’s festivals secure £1m from UK Government to maintain global profile

The UK Government has agreed to put £1m into Edinburgh's festivals to help them broadcast and stream shows around the world when they return.

A new virtual platform to showcase for watching the city’s flagship events online from this summer will be created following the surge in demand for online arts content over the last year.

Half of the funding will be made available to event organisers and producers to help them create and develop digital content and hybrid shows.

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The funding is expected to help play a crucial part in maintaining the global profile of the festivals in the run-up to their 75th anniversary in 2022.

It has been secured weeks after an official report on Edinburgh’s festivals called for a national effort to “reassert and renew Edinburgh’s world-leading status as a festival city,” including securing funding for new physical and digital infrastructure.

The Government said the funding would ensure there were more ways to experience the festivals in future and provide a greater showcase for artists, performers and the city’s world-famous events.

Edinburgh’s cultural extravaganza, which was officially called off last April but went ahead online, attracted an audience of 4.4 million and featured more than 5000 events and 25,000 performers from more than 70 countries in 2019.

However it is unlikely to be staged on anything like the same scale this summer due to restrictions on international travel, the financial impact of the pandemic on venues and arts companies and ongoing uncertainty over what restrictions over live events will be in place in Scotland in August.

Scottish Ballet's production of The Crucible was staged at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2019. Picture: Andy Ross

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Edinburgh’s Festivals have long been a springboard for the very best of British talent and a vital part of culture in Scotland and the UK.

"The UK Government’s investment will promote it to a worldwide audience online, helping the UK’s biggest combined festival build back better from the pandemic.”

Iain Stewart, the UK Government’s Minister for Scotland, added: "Edinburgh is world-famous for its festivals, bringing wider benefits to Scotland's economy, tourism and arts sectors.

"We know the last 12 months have been difficult for the culture sector. This funding boost will support organisations to improve their digital capabilities and engage with audiences here in Scotland and further afield.

More than a million people in 47 countries watched online shows created by the Edinburgh Interntional Festival last summer. Picture: Ryan Buchanan

The recent report on Edinburgh’s festivals, for Holyrood’s culture committee, said that this year’s events were expected to be “highly focused” on local audiences and participants.

However it also stated: “Connecting with and exploring our place in the world are important to the long-term value the festivals bring to Scotland.

“Steps will need to be taken to ensure that the international profile of Edinburgh and Scotland as hosts to the world-leading festivals is maintained in the cultural sector and amongst cultural audiences.

“A shared priority for 2021 will be to work across festivals to identify how, in a closed pandemic world and post-Brexit Britain, we can safeguard current and future interaction between Scotland’s creatives and the wider world.”

Sorcha Carey, chair of umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh, said: “While live events in Edinburgh will remain the backbone of our world-class festivals, it’s crucial that we enhance our digital operations and so we’re delighted with this incredible support from the UK Government which will help reposition our work, and the work of creatives, across the digital world.”

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