Future of Underbelly Circus Hub and Foodie Festival venues up in the air

The future of two of Edinburgh's festival venues is up in the air (Photo: Ian Georgeson)
The future of two of Edinburgh's festival venues is up in the air (Photo: Ian Georgeson)
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The future of two of Edinburgh’s festival venues is up in the air as their contracts with the council run into their last year.

Both the Underbelly Circus Hub and the Foodie Festival could be having their last year as festival venues this year if the City of Edinburgh council choose other companies for two of their most prized festival locations.

However, the founder of the Foodies Festival, Sue Hitchen, said the future of the festival was secure and her company would be retendering the contract.

The news comes as two consultations were launched by the City of Edinburgh Council last week.

Contracts for public, ticketed events on the Meadows and Inverleith Park have been held by Underbelly and Foodies Festival for several years.

The Underbelly Circus Hub has called the Meadows home since 2015, while Foodies Festival has held the contract at Inverleith Park for the last two years.

However, both contracts are in their final year with the council planning on renewing the deals.

Consultation documents state the council plans to renew Underbelly’s contract for two years with an option to extend for another two.

Foodie Festival could see its contract renewed for another three years with an option to extend beyond that term.

Sue Hitchen, who founded the Foodies Festival 15 years ago, said the festival will continue to return to Edinburgh and Inverleith Park.

She said: “We will definitely be retendering for the event. It is very successful and embraced by residents.

“We started in Edinburgh and we promote Scottish food and drink and work with local restaurants and chefs to make sure that they take part in the event and benefit from the event.

“We attract more than 35,000 people to the Edinburgh Festival and our research has shown that in addition to the spending at Inverleith Park, people coming to the festival spent around £15 each in the community and will visit local shops and local community businesses.”

Consultees, including the general public, will be asked whether they agree with the length of time the venues are at the location, the type of event being proposed, and what the venue should give back to the wider community.

These include donating money to an Edinburgh charity, reduced ticket prices for residents, donations towards park improvements including play or exercise equipment, or a charitable performance.

Underbelly did not state whether the Circus Hub would return beyond 2019, and said it was focused on its events at the 2019 festival.

A spokesman for Underbelly said: We’re fully focused at the moment on delivering our top class international programme for this year’s Fringe, and we’ll consider future years in due course.

Councillor Karen Doran, parks leader, said: “Both Foodies and the Underbelly Circus Hub are in the third and final year of their current contracts and we’re keen to sound out members of the public so that their feedback can shape what happens next.

“Please take a few minutes to tell us what you think. You’ll be helping us make a fully informed decision on these events in our parks.”

The results of the consultations will be looked at by councillors later this year.