THERE was talk this month of extending the Festival over four months. Can you imagine?
It’s not the first time an extension has been suggested. It won’t be the last. And let’s be honest, it’s always a good sound bite to stir passions.
The truth is the Capital couldn’t sustain a four month festival, it can barely cope with the current four week affair.
The infrastructure of the city, hardly built for the numbers that visit and the congestion they bring, wasn’t made for such extravagances.
I was reading how, in Barcelona, the authorities passed a law to curb tourism as visitors overwhelmed the city and angered local residents.
While not yet at that stage, living in Edinburgh in August can certainly it can be frustrating.
Even just trying to get around town, when every bus seems to become a mobile tourist information centre and travel times increase accordingly, becomes a trial.
Having said all that, this August, while busy, does not feel as vibrant as previous years.
Of course, tickets sales are ‘up’, as usual, and everyone is putting a positive spin on things, but just look in city centre bars and restaurants on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening. Nothing. Chances are you’ll get a table with any trouble at all.
And the hoteliers I’ve spoken to certainly aren’t pulling in the room rates of previous years.
As for Fringe shows, well, I’ve yet to view a sold out performance, although Choir of Man at the Assembly Rooms came close.
Whenever talk turns to extending the Festival, I’m always tempted to dig out my collection of Paul Johnston’s Quint Dalrymple novels, in which the author paints a fascinating picture of an Edinburgh of the future, an independent Edinburgh that is home to an all year round Festival, where locals have but one purpose really, to accommodate the every whim of the tourists.
With the Science Festival, Winter Festival, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, Jazz and Blues Festival, Film Festival, and numerous other festivals now popping up throughout the year, some might argue we are already half way there.
Maybe Paul’s vision isn’t as far-fetched as it first seems, although I can’t quite see the railway line through Princes Street Gardens replaced by a racecourse, horses thundering around it as tourists place their bets. That’s what happens in his alternative Capital.
In the real world, meanwhile, the International Festival and its’ Fringe continue to grow within the annual four week window - it used to be three, and is slowly encroaching on five, with shows previewing earlier and earlier.
There are now in the region of 3,500 shows a day in the city during the Fringe.
Just think about that for a second. It’s an incredible number... and sadly that’s what the Festival has become, nothing more than a game of numbers. The problem is, there just aren’t enough tourists and locals to go around.