Edinburgh's festivals are really going to put Capital back on the global map this year – Angus Robertson MSP

Edinburgh’s festivals are back and the Scottish Capital is aiming to retain its crown as the leading festival city in the world.

Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:55 am

After two years of the Covid pandemic, Edinburgh is bouncing back with the 75th anniversary year of the International Festival, the Fringe and the Film Festival. Not only does the Capital offer the most comprehensive arts schedule, it is also an ambitious one that makes culture available to different communities and education settings.

Cultural events are beginning to return to pre-pandemic scale in terms of shows. What is less clear however is the audience size over the summer months. In addition the cost-of-living crisis, inflation and Brexit are all having a significant impact. This follows the particularly challenging pandemic experience the culture sector had to endure.

Festival organisers are having to manage their way through a range of major risks and challenges. There are some they have no control over such as the potential for new Covid variants.

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Certain audiences are also hesitant to return to public events while others have changed their booking patterns. Staffing the festivals is also impacted by the difficulties of both recruitment and retention as well as challenges in the supply chain and massive price hikes.

Edinburgh’s festivals have already made a good start in 2022 with the Science Festival, which took place in April, and the International Children’s Festival earlier this month.

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In July, Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival kicks off with over 130 concerts in 24 venues. The month of August is dominated by the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and the Fringe, as well as the Military Tattoo, Film Festival, Book Festival and Art Festival.

The Fringe and Edinburgh's many other festivals are planning big things this year (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

This year’s EIF is the last under the directorship of the talented and impressive Fergus Linehan who will be replaced by Nicola Benedetti, the first woman and the first Scot to head the event.

This year’s festival kicks off with an opening event and anniversary concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The former has 2,000 community tickets set aside, while the latter has 1,000 tickets reserved for NHS and social care staff and ‘first footers’ who have not experienced the International Festival.

The city’s world-famous Fringe will host 2,500 show this year with over 20,000 artists across 200 venues. A particular focus of this year’s Fringe is the introduction of Made in Scotland 2022 which will provide an opportunity to showcase Scotland’s home-grown talent to international promotors and programmers.

Edinburgh International Film Festival is also celebrating its 75th anniversary, making it the longest continually running film festival. Its programme is set to be announced shortly, so keep an eye out.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh International Book Festival will host 550 events at seven venues including the Edinburgh College of Art and the new 750-seat venue at Central Hall, Tollcross. If all that is still not enough for you, the excellent Scottish International Storytelling Festival starts in October.

Edinburgh is going to bounce back this year from the Covid pandemic, but the festival city depends on the return of audiences to make it the biggest success possible. If you haven’t yet thought about what you might want to see, order your festival programmes or take a look online.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary