Comment: Hard to break down its air of the highbrow

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A ballet performed partly in tackety boots and an opera exploring the themes of duty 
 and guilt. There is, as always, a lot in the latest Edinburgh International Festival programme which will be a hard sell to all but the most highbrow of arts lovers.

It’s not that new Festival director Fergus Linehan is not trying to encourage new audiences to come and see some of the world-renowned artistes that he is bringing to the Capital this summer. In fact, he is doing more than probably any director in recent memory to bridge the gap between the “official Festival” and the people of the city which hosts it.

With indie rock and 1970s pop stars Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, Hollywood actress Juliette Binoche and violinist Nicola Benedetti there are plenty of household names to attract the curious who have never bought a ticket before.

Some will go for the first time this year, but the vast majority won’t.

There are good reasons why most people in Edinburgh have never been to the International Festival and, if they are above a certain age, probably never will.

Whether deliberately or not, it has for years carried an unmistakable air – which most residents of the city will recognise – that it is “not for the likes of us”.

That is something that will not be quickly or easily broken down – which is not to say that this year’s initiatives are not welcome.

The tie-up between the Festival and Castlebrae High looks exciting and imaginative. There’s no doubt it will fire the imagination and broaden the horizons of some pupils. Similarly, the street party opening this year’s Festival promises a day of family fun.

The £2.3 million which the city council has poured in to the Festival deserves more than token efforts. A substantial ongoing commitment – whose results can be measured in rising ticket bookings from across the city – is what the city must demand in return for its ongoing support.