Edinburgh Festivals set to get a 70th birthday funding boost

The spectacular Deep Time light event at The Castle opened the Festival in 2016. Picture: Neil Hanna

The spectacular Deep Time light event at The Castle opened the Festival in 2016. Picture: Neil Hanna

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The Scottish Government is to restore a controversial funding cut for Edinburgh’s festivals to coincide with their 70th anniversary this year.

The Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund – which helps support major productions and home-grown companies – was stripped of £250,000 in 2015 after being targeted as part of cuts to the national cultural budget.

But the cash has now been reinstated in the wake of criticism from leading figures such as Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan and Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy about the impact of funding cuts on the city’s major events. Both events were founded in 1947, along with the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The Scottish Government has confirmed a record £2.3 million will be in this year’s Expo Fund, including £90,000 to boost the city’s “midnight moment” display above Edinburgh Castle. The government already backs the New Year’s Day Scot:Lands festival, which is staged in “pop-up” venues across the city’s Old Town, to the tune of £200,000.

A £2m Expo Fund was launched a decade ago to help Scottish artists and companies get involved in the festivals, support work to tour after Edinburgh, and encourage new international partnerships.

The cash pot, which supports the city’s 12 major festivals, had been boosted to the tune of £250,000 in 2012 to help them capitalise on the staging of the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in London and Glasgow in 2012 and 2014. However, the same amount was cut last year, along with direct funding to companies including the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish National and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Edinburgh City Council has already pledged an additional £200,000 to support 70th anniversary programming over the next 12 months.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Edinburgh’s festivals provide an excellent platform to promote Scotland’s rich culture, heritage and distinct identity on the world stage. Every year they generate tremendous cultural energy and activity, attracting around 4.5m attendances, providing jobs, supporting our tourism industry and contributing £313m to the Scottish economy.

“This extra funding will support them to deliver innovative work and create performances that will catch the imagination of international audiences. This underlines the government’s commitment to supporting the festivals to grow, and our artists to thrive.”

Julia Amour, director of Festivals Edinburgh, said: “Over 70 years, Edinburgh’s festivals have become Scotland’s globally renowned meeting point for arts and creativity. We’re delighted to be able to celebrate this anniversary and share Scotland’s cultural riches with the wider world. This investment in maintaining our unique cultural edge will help make our 70th year the start of an exciting new chapter.”