Comment: Capital has good reason to celebrate

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A surge of visitors, more shows than ever, sunshine on most days, and by all accounts record ticket sales and revenues: Edinburgh has good reason to let off a dazzling display of fireworks at the end of a fantastic festival.

For the first time in 18 years, organisers realigned the start of the official and Fringe events. Longer runs for high-profile plays such as Lanark and Antigone, and EIF director Fergus Linehan’s contemporary music strand have been well received.

And the critical mass of the Festival itself, with an additional 121 shows and 14 venues, has kept innovation flowing through its veins.

All this is critical, because the Edinburgh International Festival is a vital showcase for creative talent across the arts. And its benefits are far wider. The Festival is not just a vital money-spinner for the city and its myriad of café bars and restaurants during August.

It is now one of the greatest arts festivals in the world, an event that has raised the profile of the city and Scotland on the global stage. Indeed, it is now hard to conceive Scotland’s capital without the colour, variety, energy and exuberance that the Festival brings.

Such sustained success does not come by formulaic repetition of what went before. It has to be worked upon and constantly renewed. Infrastructure and logistics have to be constantly appraised and improved – from street furniture to venue uplift and refurbishment.

And all this is required, for as the Festival has grown and prospered, so, too, have the numbers and determination of those seeking to create rival city festivals elsewhere. It would be easy for the city to rest on its laurels and to assume that its success can be taken for granted. Already, new ideas for future festivals are being aired. Are there areas of the city to which festival events can be sited to improve reach and accessibility? And might the timing of the Festival be better aligned with school holidays?

These will need careful consideration to ensure that they would work in the manner intended. But for the moment the people of Edinburgh should cherish the Festival. Indeed, if we didn’t have it, would we not wish to invent it?