Calls to make George Street a ‘buzzing Festival zone’

There have been calls to make George Street a Festival hotspot.
There have been calls to make George Street a Festival hotspot.
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THE director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival has called for the whole of George Street to be handed over for events each August.

Nick Barley has called for the city centre shake-up ahead of his event spilling out of Charlotte Square for the first time.

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival at the extended site for the Book Festival at the west end of George Street. Picture: Scott Louden

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival at the extended site for the Book Festival at the west end of George Street. Picture: Scott Louden

He hopes his new garden-themed arena of George Street will pave the way for festival arenas to be staged along the entire length of the thoroughfare.

The book festival will be running two new venues – the Bosco Theatre and the Greenhouse – at the west end of George Street, along with a new outdoor cafe.

The festival has joined forces with the operators of The Stand comedy club to run the new arena, with the backing of business group Essential Edinburgh and local bars and restaurants who will be running their own pavement cafes.

However, the section between Charlotte Square and Frederick Street is the only part of George Street which will be completely closed to traffic for the entire festival period.

A lane of traffic has been kept in place outside the Assembly Rooms, where another outdoor arena has been created outside the popular Fringe venue.

The expansion of the book festival has coincided with the 70th birthday of the Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival, as well as the 250th anniversary of the New Town.

The book festival, which was held for the first time and has been an annual event since 1997, has always been held entirely in Charlotte Square Gardens until now.

Mr Barley said: “I’m really happy with what we’ve got here in George Street this year.

“I’m delighted that we have got a chance to work with a Fringe company as well as put on book festival activities in George Street. It seems to me to be a really important step forward and it could lead to a lot more happening in future.

“I’d like to see George Street become one of the buzzing hearts of the ‘festival city’, as Charlotte Square has been for many years. This is a first step in the direction of that. I would be delighted if the whole of George Street was closed in the future and if this whole area became a buzzing festival zone. I think it’s possible.”

William Burdett-Coutts, artistic director of Assembly Theatre, which runs the Assembly Rooms, said: “I’d like to see the New Town become much more lively again during the festivals. In my view, the whole of George Street, apart from the crossroads should be closed to traffic. I’ve been saying it for years.

“All over the world areas are being pedestrianised and everyone wants to see more of an outdoor culture being developed. If you had Charlotte Square and St Andrew Square used for the festivals, as well as George Street closed, it would be really exciting.”