Edinburgh Festival: Plan to spread events out from city centre must not cost jobs – John McLellan

The same day as the Edinburgh International Festival announced plans for a limited return in August, the city council published its Edinburgh by Numbers statistical report which illustrated just what a mammoth task the rebuilding will be.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 7:00 am
A Festival Fringe entertainer juggles on the Royal Mile in 2019 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Two hundred performances at three pop-up venues with a maximum capacity of 800 people will be a major undertaking compared to zero last year, but the 160,000 people this year’s best-case scenario represents isn’t even half 2019’s audience of 434,500.

EIF director Fergus Linehan was on BBC Radio 3 this week, again warning about the danger of returning to mass tourism and of the need to spread events beyond the city centre, but despite one of the pop-ups being out at Edinburgh Park, the inescapable truth is the main EIF venues are in the centre and need August’s full houses to pay for the rest of the year.

And the EIF’s prized new concert venue will be in St Andrew Square.

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It appears Mr Linehan’s challenge is to the Fringe, and the three million attendees it attracted in 2019, but again its main venues are central, courtesy of the university and the council, as are most of the hotels. The Book Festival (2019 attendance 415,437) is relocating from Charlotte Square … to Lauriston.

Arts & entertainment and hospitality & food accounted for 52,000 jobs, 15 per cent of the total workforce, so while spreading things out is a laudable aim, there needs to be a proper plan which addresses problems without sacrificing livelihoods.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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