Comment: Party will banish mystery of Festival

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it is always nice to be invited to a party and the bash being planned for the opening of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival is no exception.

Free street entertainment will take over Lothian Road and the area around the Usher Hall in what promises to be an exciting addition to the festivals calendar.

Since the demise of Fringe Sunday, there has been a gap in the August programme for a day of free family fun, and this idea has the potential to fill it.

The street party will also act as an introduction to the “mysteries” of the Edinburgh International Festival for many people.

Everyone knows what to expect from the Fringe – even if it is the unexpected – and most of us have enjoyed plenty of its attractions over the years.

But for many of us the Edinburgh International Festival remains a stranger in our own city. We know that it is high quality highbrow entertainment. However, when it comes to what goes on behind the doors of the Usher Hall in August we’re not really sure.

The International Festival has tried some imaginative cut-price ticket offers in recent years to entice more of us in to see if we like it. But when you consider how much public funding it receives, not nearly enough has been done to break down the barriers between the Festival and most of the people of the city.

There is a yawning gap between what the International Festival receives from the public purse – it expects around £4.7 million next year – and the paltry-by-comparison £160,000 that the Fringe gets.

We all know that opera and symphony orchestras are more expensive to stage than a comedian standing behind a mic in a pub. But in order to keep justifying the huge subsidies that it receives the International Festival has to work much harder at inviting all the people of Edinburgh to their party. New director Fergus Linehan has made a good start by bringing the Festival on to the streets.