The £1.8 million Festivals Expo Fund will be shared between 14 of the leading cultural events in Edinburgh and Glasgow, more than ever before. More than £30 million has been distributed via national arts agency Creative Scotland since the fund was instigated in 2007 by the Government.
It has been aimed at raising the profile of Scottish artists and companies appearing in the festivals. However, there had been concern among event organisers the funding pot was not going to be available to support events over the next 12 months due to the squeeze on Government spending.
The Expo Fund was initially set up to provide additional funding for Edinburgh’s major cultural events, including the International Festival, the Fringe and the city’s celebrations of literature, science, film, jazz and visual art, and its Hogmanay celebrations.
However, the Government has expanded the number of events which can be supported from the Expo Fund in recent years to include Glasgow’s Celtic Connections music festival and Glasgow International, the city’s biennial visual art festival.
It has announced that two more events, the Glasgow Film Festival and Sonica, Scotland’s leading “sonic art” festival, will be supported from the Expo Fund in future. It already supports the Scottish Storytelling Festival and children’s festival Imaginate in Edinburgh.
Culture minister Christina McKelvie said: “Scotland’s major festivals are a wonderful showcase for the extraordinary range of artistic talent we have in this country. The Expo Fund not only helps to support performances at home, but enables artists to find new audiences further afield.
“The last few years have been challenging for the culture sector, especially festivals and events. I’m pleased that we’re able to continue this important fund and include two more Glasgow-based festivals who will receive support for the first time.”
The next round of the fund includes £59,000 for the return of the Edinburgh International Film Festival this summer. The event’s future was thrown into doubt last autumn when its parent company collapsed. However, a one-off edition will go ahead in August as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.
The Glasgow Film Festival, which will share £100,000 worth of funding with Sonica, will be supported for its landmark 20th edition in 2024.
The biggest beneficiary, with a £550,000 award, will be the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which has used its annual Expo Fund support for a Made in Scotland showcase of theatre, music and dance.
Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “Support from the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund has been vital in supporting Scottish artists performing at the Fringe, through the Made in Scotland programme. For the performers and companies who form this popular strand of work, this funding allows them the opportunity to be recognised, and develop their careers, with many benefitting from onward touring opportunities.”
The Government has agreed to include the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) in the Expo Fund weeks after organisers issue a plea for “serious investment” to be made in the event, believed to be the second biggest of its kind in the UK.
GFF director Allison Gardner said: “We are delighted that our continued success and development in the screen sector has been recognised, especially as we present our 20th edition in 2024. We look forward to delivering a programme that builds the international reputation of Scottish talent that we have championed throughout the festival’s history.”
The return of the Festivals Expo Fund will help efforts to rebuild and expand Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations after the most recent programme for the event had to be scaled back due to a lack of resources.
All 30,000 tickets for the reduced-capacity street sold out weeks in advance, while the traditional torchlight procession through the city centre was dropped.
A spokesman for Unique Events and Assembly, the two companies who produce the new year event for the city council, said: “This is terrific news for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. Support on this level is vital to the continued development of the festival after many difficult years.
“This much-welcomed support will enable the festival to attract and entertain tens of thousands of locals and visitors to the capital for a feast of free live music and family events on New Year’s Day, once again showcasing an outstanding range of performers and talents from across Scotland throughout the city centre.’
Sonica’s artistic director Cathie Boyd said: “It’s an enormous honour and accolade to be joining the Festivals Expo Fund and to be part of this wonderful roster of great Scottish festivals. Sonica began in 2012 as a unique showcase for pioneering international artists from across the world, presenting their work alongside commissions from some of Scotland’s most visionary artists and musicians.
“Over the last decade it has brought a host of memorable, one-of-a-kind events to Glasgow and beyond for their world and UK premieres, from underwater concerts to music created by an asteroid. Crucially it has also supported numerous Scottish artists to present their Sonica commissioned work to audiences across the world.
"We’re thrilled that our passion and drive for promoting brilliant Scottish talent globally has been recognised.”
Julia Amour, director of umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh, said: “By providing the means to enhance the showcase of Scottish talent on our unparalleled international platforms, the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund opens up a world of opportunity for our country’s artists and thinkers, plugging them into a global network eager to programme their work – and thus providing them with an increased livelihood and Scotland with a creative contemporary profile.”
Creative Scotland chief executive Iain Munro said: “Scotland is known across the globe for its outstanding array of world-class festivals. The Expo Fund is vital in raising the international profile of these festivals and enabling them to enhance their programmes through exciting and innovative co-productions and collaborations.”