Coronavirus in Scotland: Organisers insist Edinburgh Festival Fringe 'will happen' this year

Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe today vowed that an event "will happen" in the city this year but admitted it "might not look as it has before."

Friday, 20th March 2020, 4:54 pm
Updated Friday, 20th March 2020, 6:10 pm
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been staged every year since 1947. Picture: David Monteith.

Several different options on what shape the event may take are to be explored over the next few weeks as part of contingency planning for the festival, which has run continuously since 1947.

Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy has announced a four-week delay in the deadline for shows to secure a place in the official Fringe programme, to early May.

The festival's official launch has also been put back a month until early July to give Fringe venues and promoters as much flexibility as possible. It is understood a printed programme may not be published this year.

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Ms McCarthy said the society would spend the next few weeks exploring "a variety of options to ensure we provide artists and audiences with the best possible tools for navigating the festival."

However she has pledged that it will not make "rash or damaging decisions" affecting participants, audiences, its own staff or the business sector in Edinburgh.

Ms McCarthy said: "We still don’t know what the future holds. There’s science and modelling and graphs coming at us from every corner and they all tell us something different.

"So we will keep focused and carry on with a view that there will be a Fringe in August.

"We don’t know what form that Fringe will take, what it will look like, but we are re-grouping every day and listening to all our stakeholders. We will review our public messaging on Wednesdays and issue updates for participants every Friday.

"A Fringe will happen, a programme will happen, but it just might not look as it has before.

“Whilst we can’t provide definitive answers on everything at this stage, there are specific areas where we can make a difference.

"One question that we’ve been asked lots is whether we could move the publication of the Fringe programme.

"Following discussions with our printers, paper merchants, distributors and designers (who are also suffering with the uncertainty of the time), we’ve agreed to delay production by at least four weeks, to give artists more time to see how the situation develops and to make an informed decision about participating in the festival.

“We will keep an open mind about the printed programme, what it might look like and what other tools Fringe audiences can use to navigate the festival.

"There are no fixed positions in the current environment, but neither do we want to make rash or damaging decisions for participants, audiences, staff, or the community of businesses and partners who work hard to make this festival happen every year.

“Over this four-week period we will explore a variety of options to ensure we provide artists and audiences with the best possible tools for navigating the festival, whilst also being live to the rapidly changing situation all around us.

"We will continue to provide support and advice services through our registration team, and to promote listings online should participants choose to go on sale during that period."