During times of national disaster, citizens often realise the profound importance of culture in their lives. Now, we are confronted with a crucible moment that appears to drive us apart through self – isolation. A crucible moment is by definition a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity. These are times when our character is tested. These are times of adversity where great strength is shown.
The courage and wisdom the Edinburgh Festival leaders demonstrated in agreeing for the greater public good not to conduct their events in 2020 I believe will be regarded historically as one of the most noble actions by any group of cultural leaders. In fact, I believe their decision in fact is an opportunity to experience a much needed and well deserved professional sabbatical for their organisations.
A professional sabbatical is something that an individual may earn through long-term service, usually in seven year increments to reflect the biblical weekly Sabbath reprieve when individuals pause to reflect and restore their energies to confront the next week. A professional sabbatical for the Edinburgh Festivals is therefore an opportunity for reflection, reinvention and ultimately, resolve. It will provide a unique opportunity to reflect upon 73 years of extraordinary achievement and upon reflection to find opportunities to reinvent their festivals to be of even greater relevance in the 21st century.
One way to increase this relevance may be through expanding the use of communications technology. What has happened suddenly and in many ways seamlessly, through the use of online communications, to distribute the cultural experience to many more people all over the world, may be further expanded in future years to effectively blend together face to face and virtual audiences and generate even broader potential exposure for our iconic festivals and also produce greater economic impact for Edinburgh and Scotland.
Therefore, the Edinburgh Festivals have now chosen, as a result of their noble act, to protect the public good in a path to carry them forward to find ways to future proof our iconic cultural festivals for many years and generations to come.
This path is one that was launched with great wisdom and courage by our cultural leaders and now requires their firm resolve and the increased financial support of their audience members to insure their future success.
I am confident that through the exploration of new ways of sharing the cultural experience, including but not limited to the online world, the Edinburgh Festivals shall experience far greater positive economic, social and environmental impacts and sustainability that ever envisioned before.
This crucible moment is indeed not unlike the moment after the Second World War when Sir Rudolf Bing, Edinburgh’s civic leaders and citizens resolved to build a platform for the flowering of the human spirit. That same resolve is needed now.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. To explore his other views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot