Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse are cultural institutions the city cannot afford to lose – Steve Cardownie

As a former member of the board of directors of Edinburgh International Film Festival, I was dismayed to see that it and the Filmhouse cinema were being wound up due to a “perfect storm” of factors with the loss of more than 100 jobs.

An image from The Wizard of Oz is projected onto the Filmhouse in Edinburgh as part of the campaign to save it (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)
An image from The Wizard of Oz is projected onto the Filmhouse in Edinburgh as part of the campaign to save it (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

The longest-running annual film festival in the world, established in 1947, was also justifiably acclaimed as one of the best.

This year the festival was reputed to have made a loss of £72,000 with the unusually warm weather being cited as one of the reasons for a drop in the expected audiences. Government agencies Screen Scotland and Creative Scotland were informed in September that “significant financial challenges” were threatening its future viability and that insolvency experts had been drafted in.

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However, it would seem that all is not yet lost as the effort to save them gathers pace with a number of Scottish film stars like Sam Heughan and Peter Capaldi lending their weight to the campaign.

Kirsty Matheson, who relocated from Australia just over a year ago to take up her role as creative director, was absolutely correct when she said: “Independent cinemas bring light and joy to local communities, a space for us to be together, commune with great directors, be energised by new voices and take comfort in knowing that no matter what the day has thrown, you can take yourself to the cinema, see familiar faces at the box office, and settle into your seat to journey someplace new and emerge with your emotional tank refuelled.”

At a time when the creative industries are struggling to survive, emerging from Covid restrictions only to face spiralling costs, it is now more important than ever that we do all that we can to preserve the Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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As a former city council Festival and Events Champion, I am well aware of the importance of Edinburgh’s cultural reputation. A reputation that is not just confined to these shores but is worldwide. We can ill afford to risk that reputation by not rallying round and lending our support to efforts to preserve our cultural institutions – they are too important to the city to let them go.