Revival of Edinburgh festivals for 75th anniversary to get share of new £16m funding lifeline

Efforts to revive the Edinburgh festivals in their 75th-anniversary year are to get a share of a new £16 million lifeline for Scotland's culture and events sectors.

The Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe and the city's film festivals, which were all launched in 1947, are all expected to benefit from the extra injection of support.

Almost £2m in new support for the city's annual cultural celebration has been confirmed days after the Scottish Government announced a separate £2m for the "Festivals Expo Fund".

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The new funding, which could also benefit Edinburgh’s jazz, book, visual art, children’s science and storytelling festivals, will be distributed by arts agency Creative Scotland, which currently provides £7.5m to Edinburgh’s major festivals each year.

The Edinburgh International Festival will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year. Picture: Matt Beech

The new £16m emergency funding support is over and above the £65m package announced for the culture and events sectors revealed in January.

Creative Scotland has been allocated £12m of the new funding, which will be shared between efforts to help the Edinburgh festivals recover, a hardship fund for freelancers and a recovery fund for arts organisations across the country.

The ringfenced funding has been confirmed days after new research called for radical change and a power shift to tackle "fundamental inequalities" across Edinburgh's arts sector, and recommended more “safeguards and support” are put in place for grassroots organisations and freelance workers.

A new report on the future of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is not directly funded by Creative Scotland at present, called for the event to abandon its long-standing “open access” ethos to try to ensure it is better regulated and provides better protection for participants.

Performers on the Royal Mile during the 75th anniversary of the Edinburgh festivals in 2017. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It is not yet known how much of the £12m allocated to Creative Scotland by the Government will be diverted towards Edinburgh’s festivals, although it is possible they may also benefit from an additional £2m for EventScotland’s national and international programmes, which is part of the new £16m package.

Simon Gage, chair of umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh, said: “We greatly welcome this news from the Scottish Government, which recognises the importance of our festivals' recovery to the cultural, social and economic wellbeing of both Edinburgh and Scotland.

"We look forward to further information on how the funds can support us – and the countrywide network of artists, thinkers, freelancers, and cultural organisations that we work with – to deliver a world-class 75th anniversary offer.”

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Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “It’s great to see the Scottish Government investing in the recovery of arts and culture at this critical time.

“We’re currently working with them, and with Creative Scotland, to finalise what this means for the Fringe.

"Support on this level is vital to the renewal of this unique Edinburgh showcase for artists, producers and creative risktakers.”

Iain Munro, Creative Scotland’s chief executive, said: “This additional funding is very welcome and will provide a lifeline for many in the culture sector who have lost income as a result of the ongoing pandemic.”

Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events, said: “It is vital that we continue to support the recovery of Scotland’s events sector by showcasing a wide-ranging event offering, whilst keeping Scotland top of mind and reinforcing its status and reputation as a world-class event destination.”

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