Edinburgh Festival should go national, expert says

Festival performers will be appearing around the country.  Picture: Ian Rutherford
Festival performers will be appearing around the country. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The Edinburgh Festival should be extended to include events held across the country, one of Scotland’s leading event experts has claimed.

Paul Bush said he would like to see the Capital’s flagship events broaden their reach to mark the 70th anniversary of the world’s biggest cultural extravaganza in 2017.

He suggested shows could be staged in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, Dundee and even Inverness as part of the landmark anniversary in 2017. Mr Bush, head of the national EventScotland agency over the last decade, also even floated the idea of events being held at a new 2250-capacity arena which was recently built at the luxury Gleneagles resort in Perthshire.

Mr Bush has been one of the key figures involved in the staging of events like the Ryder Cup, the Commonwealth Games, the MTV Europe Music Awards, the World Gymnastics Championships and The Turner Prize. Last week he issued a rallying call to the events industry in Scotland to “take more risks” over the next ten years.

The idea has been put forward months after a study into the future of the festivals called for “new thinking and innovative solutions” to help maintain their “premier division” status.

The Thundering Hooves study recommended Edinburgh and Glasgow collaborate on events together, even calling for a “memorandum of understanding” to be drawn up.

Mr Bush said Edinburgh’s festivals were already leading the way when it came to “sharing product” by collaborating with other international cities and countries. And he pointed to the forthcoming runs of the Tattoo in Australia and New Zealand.

He said: “When you think of what comes into Edinburgh each summer, it’s so rich. The festival directors are bringing in some of the best stuff in the world. The Edinburgh Festival is now a huge event, but why can’t it cascade into other parts of Scotland? Why can’t it be in Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling, Aberdeen and Inverness? We’ve got to think outside the box a bit.

“There’s a new multi-purpose indoor arena for conferences, exhibitions and events at Gleneagles. Part of the Edinburgh Festival could be held there.”

Edinburgh Festival events have rarely been staged outside the city. Veteran impresario Richard Demarco, who has attended the artistic 
celebration every year since its formation, has previously staged events on Inchcolm Island, in the middle of the Firth of Forth.

Joanna Baker, managing director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: “The reasons that the Edinburgh festivals have continued to thrive for nearly 70 years is constant reinvention. A festival is something that should be out of the ordinary, that you wouldn’t be able to experience at any other time of the year.

“The reason we’re still here is we’re constantly thinking about audiences now and into the future. For all of us at the festivals, place is really important.”