Book chief: Brexit doesn’t mean the exit for Edinburgh’s festivals

Book Festival Director Nick Barley. Picture:

 Neil Hanna
Book Festival Director Nick Barley. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Edinburgh’s festivals have become “more important and necessary than ever” in the wake of the Brexit referendum, according to the man in charge of the city’s flagship literary celebration.

Book Festival chief Nick Barley pledged that he and his fellow directors would “redouble” their resolve to extend the global reach of the city’s flagship cultural events.

Mr Barley said there was a responsibility on them to become “more international” in response to the EU referendum vote and next year’s 70th anniversary of the creation of the Edinburgh Festival in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Veteran arts impresario Richard Demarco warned at the weekend that the Brexit vote was the biggest threat to the Edinburgh Festival in its history and was a betrayal of its roots.

Mr Barley admitted Brexit would mean a “seismic shift” in the UK’s cultural landscape but insisted this need not mean “doom and gloom” for Edinburgh’s festivals, which are facing the prospect of public funding cuts in the next few years.

Mr Barley, whose event opens on Saturday said: “Brexit is clearly a seismic shift in the political and cultural landscape and it throws everything into question. It is probably the single biggest political event to happen to us in the UK in the 21st century.

“I don’t think it necessarily means doom and gloom for the Edinburgh festivals, which are in a robust position and strong enough to survive big, seismic, political events.

“But I think this renders them more important and necessary than ever before. Now is the time for us all, not just our political leaders to work out a way in which Scotland can exist within the British Isles, Europe and the world. Those international relationships become extremely important for us to agree on.

“One of the great things about Brexit is that people who would have wished for a Remain vote have become more passionate about their belief in internationalism and playing a part in Europe.

“There’s an emerging sense of the need to fight for international relationships, whatever political systems we operate within. The urge to be international is stronger than ever.

“While in some senses Brexit might threaten that, at the same time it also redoubles our resolve. It makes us more powerful in our desire to be international.

“I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that Edinburgh’s festivals become more international now. Remain or Brexit is not the issue, it’s about international cultural activity.”