Edinburgh arts groups facing council funding cuts

The Mela will be among the organisations taking a hit. Picture: Toby Williams
The Mela will be among the organisations taking a hit. Picture: Toby Williams
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THE city has set out how it plans to cut grant payments to major arts events and groups – sparking fears that its status as a cultural hub is under threat.

Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), Dance Base and the Queens Hall are among 35 organisations set to have funding awards reduced by three per cent in 2016-17.

Cuts of three per cent have also been scheduled for both 2017-18 and 2018-19, with a further one per cent lined up for 2019-20.

Councillor Dominic Heslop, culture spokesman for the city’s Conservatives, said he was “deeply concerned”, warning of particularly damaging consequences for Edinburgh Mela and the jazz festival.

He said: “These are not profit-making festivals. I would be very worried if further funding cuts took place with these two festivals, which attract so many people to Edinburgh.

“I know the council has to make savings but I would not support any cuts whatsoever to the Jazz and Blues Festival and the Mela.

“These are wonderful events which could not survive without funding from the council.”

City arts impresario Richard Demarco said the cuts “filled him with despair”.

He added: “This is not just about the city’s cultural life but its general quality of life.

“An emergency meeting has to be called, at once, with representatives of institutions providing Edinburgh’s cultural life. The council itself is not the best judge of artistic or cultural manifestations.”

Organisers at the EIF, who are set to see their £2.39 million grant reduced by nearly £72,000, said the planned cut would bring “challenges”.

A spokeswoman said: “City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) has been working with us for nearly a year to plan for this reduction, and whilst any cut in funding brings challenges as the cost of presenting a world-class programme continues to rise, this advance notice has been helpful in allowing us to plan for the future.”

She added: “We look forward to continuing our constructive discussions with CEC and all of our other partners and supporters in the public and private sector to help to ensure the continued success and positive economic and 
cultural benefits that the Festival delivers for Edinburgh and its citizens.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The cultural grants programme supports the city’s festivals and arts activities, creating a rich 
cultural experience throughout the city every day.

“The programme has been agreed with the support of all the organisations involved, and reflects our ongoing open communication with the sector.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com