Leader comment: I is for international

Festival director's new focus will ensure global reach and greater inclusiveness

It is reassuring to hear Fergus Linehan talk about a new focus for the festival, as it approaches its 75th anniversary in 2022. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Visitors to Edinburgh during late summer might be forgiven for thinking they’ve stumbled upon one of the world’s biggest comedy festivals.

The Fringe – once the rebellious little brother to the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) – is now so dominated by stand-ups that other art forms can seem rather sidelined.

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Now, nobody enjoys a laugh more than us. And if comedy shows can attract visitors from around the world then let’s keep the laughs coming. But, at the same time, it’s crucial that theatre, dance and performance art are fully supported and promoted during the festival.

So it is reassuring to hear the director of the EIF, Fergus Linehan, talk about a new focus for the festival, as it approaches its 75th anniversary in 2022.

As organisers strive to make the festival truly international, they have committed to ensuring non-English speaking parts of the world are given much greater representation. And there’s a new commitment to bringing to Edinburgh art which confronts the biggest issues being debated around the globe.

If ever there was a time to embrace different cultures, to reach out to others and to try to understand their experiences, it is now.

A pledge by organisers to do more to ensure that every part of Edinburgh feels welcomed and included in the festival is also very much to be welcomed. The EIF should defiantly support “difficult” art but while doing so it should make every effort to ensure that it is an inclusive event.

For almost three-quarters of a century, the EIF has attracted some of the finest performers in the world. It has made careers, and has hugely benefited the economy of the capital. But it has not always felt as if it was for everyone. We think experimental theatre should be for everyone, we believe the power of art to challenge ideas, and we relish its ability to open up the world to us.

The EIF is already a world-class event. We share Fergus Linehan’s vision of how it can be even better.