Comment: Festivals funding support cannot be unquestioning

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edinburgh’s festivals are part of what makes the city great – and one of the best places to live, not just in the UK, but in the world.

There are some of us who happily get on with our lives throughout August without ever setting foot in a festival venue. Some even actively avoid the city centre. But even those who don’t embrace the exuberance and mayhem of the season benefit from Edinburgh being the festival city.

Apart from the obvious tourism jobs it helps to support, there are many “fringe” benefits. There would be far fewer theatres, restaurants and galleries in the Capital were it not for the annual influx of summer visitors.

Besides which the festivals must be one of the best marketing tools any city anywhere in the world has ever enjoyed.

Think of all the young professionals we need to attract to provide high-quality public services and growing, successful industries, the doctors, scientists, computer programmers, and so on. How many of them fell for Edinburgh after visiting during the Festival? Or were drawn here, rather than to Bristol, Bruges or Bergen, by our reputation as a 
cultural hot spot?

There is growing evidence that a city’s cultural attractions are a huge influence when it comes to where young people want to live and work.

Our festivals are hugely important – but that doesn’t mean they deserve a blank cheque. The £10 million annual public subsidy which the summer festivals enjoy is an enormous investment at a time when public services are 
facing cutbacks.

The arts deserve our support, but that cannot be unquestioning. Culture cannot be exempt from the pressures affecting every other publicly-supported activity.

The festivals need to put a stronger case than ever if they are to continue to receive such substantial public funding in years to come.