Record box office for Festival as it bows out with a bang

Virgin Money Festival Fireworks, Edinburgh Castle from Heriots Cricket club. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Virgin Money Festival Fireworks, Edinburgh Castle from Heriots Cricket club. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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Edinburgh’s festivals came to a spectacular finale last night with a stunning fireworks concert in Princes Street Gardens.

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert saw Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson join the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for a magical performance of pyrotechnics and music.

Virgin Money Festival Fireworks. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Virgin Money Festival Fireworks. Picture; Ian Georgeson

This year’s festivals have attracted more than 3.6 million people over the last month, according to figures revealed as the 70th birthday celebrations drew to a close.

The Edinburgh International Festival, Fringe and the city’s literary celebration all announced record box office takings as the Tattoo reported its 19th successive sell-out.

The EIF and the Fringe were both launched in 1947, in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The Fringe reported a rise in ticket sales of almost nine per cent – as it emerged its audience had grown by nearly a million in just ten years. Organisers say 2,696,884 tickets were issued – compared to 1,697,293 a decade ago.

Picture; Ian Georgeson

Picture; Ian Georgeson

There has been an increase in its audience of 224,741 in 12 months and a rise of more than half a million in the last three years alone. Some 3398 productions were staged across 300 venues, a rise of almost two thirds in ten years.

The number of international countries registered rose to a record 58 this year – up 32 per cent in the space of 12 months – despite fears over the impact of the event from the Brexit referendum vote last summer.

Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “This has been a very special year as we celebrated 70 years of defying the norm, 70 years of the greatest melting pot of arts and culture anywhere on the planet, and 70 years of Edinburgh as an internationally-renowned festival city. The Fringe continues to play an essential role in the worldwide arts community, enabling artists to showcase their work, reach new audiences and make new connections.

“In the current climate of global uncertainty, we were delighted to see an increase in the number of countries represented. We’ll continue to support global engagement and international participation over the coming years.”

The Edinburgh International Festival announced a record £4.3 million in box office income – up two per cent on 2016. The figure is almost £1.5m higher than five years ago. Around 450,000 attended EIF events, including two-day curtain-raiser Bloom and the fireworks finale.

Festival director Fergus Linehan said: “We’re absolutely thrilled at how things have gone. We’ve gone from having a box office of between £2.5 and £3m on an annual basis to £4.3m. We’re a notch up on last year, but we only have so many venues. We pretty much have the same stock of seats every year. We’re a bit like the Tattoo.”

The Edinburgh International Book Festival said more than 130,000 tickets were sold for the first time ever after the festival expanded onto George Street with two new venues.

Ticket sales were up four per cent up on last year and more than 250,000 flocked into the festival’s traditional home in Charlotte Square Gardens for the first time – around 20,000 more than in 2016.

More than 63,000 books were sold – up five per cent in a year.

brian.ferguson@jpress.co.uk