Coronavirus in Scotland: Edinburgh International Festival launch called off

The Edinburgh International Festival has called off its programme launch in the face of the coronavirus outbreak - the day after a new clampdown on events was ordered by the Scottish Government.
The Edinburgh International Festival has been staged in the city ever year since 1947.The Edinburgh International Festival has been staged in the city ever year since 1947.
The Edinburgh International Festival has been staged in the city ever year since 1947.

Organisers had been planning to reveal the full line-up for the three week-long event on Wednesday and put all tickets on sale at the end of the month.

But they say the "rapidly changing" spread of the virus has led to it postponing plans to unveil its line-up.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The festival, which was launched in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, said insisted it was still planning to deliver an event in August and was "working as quickly as possible to provide certainty to everyone."

The Scottish Government issued new guidance on Sunday declaring that all indoor and outdoor events with a capacity of more than 500 should be cancelled.

The move is aimed at easing pressure on the emergency services in the next few months rather than trying to prevent the spread of the virus.

The directive has major implications for venues traditionally used by the EIF, including the Festival Theatre, the King's Theatre, the Usher Hall, the Queen's Hall and Leith Theatre.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All performances at the King's and Festival Theatres until the end of April have been called off.

The EIF had called off planning launch events in Edinburgh and London, but insisted it would be pressing ahead with a reveal of its programme which was to be streamed live on its Facebook page on Wednesday lunchtime.

However those plans were abandoned less than 24 hours after the new restrictions were set up by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

She said: “At a time when there is severe pressure on our fantastic emergency and public services as a result of the virus, it is only right that we seek to remove unnecessary burdens on frontline workers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“By advising organisers not to hold large gatherings of 500 people or more in Scotland we are enabling services to prioritise their resources to where they are needed most.

“This is just one of the ways that life will change in the coming weeks and months and while this will cause some disruption it will help us all to prepare for the virus and to protect ourselves and each other in the long run.

Francesca Hegyi, executive director, said: "It is important to emphasise that we are still planning to deliver a festival this August, but we think it best to wait a number of weeks before launching our programme.

" We are working as quickly as we can to provide certainty to everyone. Our focus remains on presenting the festival and getting artists back on our stages and audiences back into concert halls and theatres as soon as it is safe to do so.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Please bear with us whilst we navigate staging this international festival at a particularly unusual time."

The EIF announced on Friday that it was still planning to stage its full programme in August.

At the time, director Fergus Linehan said: “In hope that the pandemic will be curbed by August, we must continue to provide security for our artists and for our sector.

“We hope that in August, our festival will provide a much-needed moment of joy after what will have been a challenging summer.”