Edinburgh International Festival chief pledges shake-up to support local culture scene

Honeyblood on stage at Leith Theatre for this year's Edinburgh International Festival programme.Honeyblood on stage at Leith Theatre for this year's Edinburgh International Festival programme.
Honeyblood on stage at Leith Theatre for this year's Edinburgh International Festival programme.
The director of the Edinburgh International Festival has pledged that the event will do more to support local arts and culture as he signalled that it was likely to scale back the number of visits from overseas performers in future.

Fergus Linehan admitted there was a need to strike a better balance in the 73-year-old festival’s programme in future to ensure that the event was “enriching Edinburgh’s cultural life.”

He said the city’s year-round eco-system needed to better reflect the “energy and resources” of what is normally on offer each August and acknowledged that there was an “event mentality” in the city.

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However he pointed out that the festival, which was officially called off in April had been “incredibly engaged” in giving local performers work in its online programme, which will be officially launched on Saturday night.

Highlights include concerts at Leith Theatre, film projects with the Traverse Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland, and lunchtime concerts which have been pre-recorded to be broadcast into Princes Street Gardens this month.

Mr Linehan said the festival was also going to have “slow down” in future years to reduce its carbon footprint and improve its sustainability.

He explained: “As an Edinburgh resident, I do think there is an issue over how to meaningfully create an eco-system in Edinburgh where all of the energy and resources and everything else about August feeds into the city’s year-round cultural life.

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“I think there is sometimes an event mentality which is difficult to reconcile with that, where we have these crazy three weeks and then we stop again. It’s all about balance.”

Mr Linehan continued: “The festival should be enriching Edinburgh’s cultural life and Edinburgh’s cultural life should be enriching the festival, in much the same way that all the individual festivals enrich each other.

“We are always hurtling towards the next festival. We have a bit of time now. Sometimes it is really hard to have those kind of conversations and think about things.

“We are going to have to work out how to slow down anything in terms of environmental sustainability. We’ve already been asking ourselves a lot of questions.

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“If somebody is going to come all the way to Edinburgh from another part of the world it is probably not okay for them just to arrive, do a sound-check, get dinner, do their show, go to bed for six hours and then go back to the airport. It will be the same from their point of view. The 100-date tour will just not be sustainable any more.

“If people are going to be here and are spending time here then what is the connection with here. If you were to go back 30 years an orchestra would come here for two weeks. Now they are here and gone.

“We still want to have internationalism, but it has been constituted in an unsustainable way. We’re going to have to look at that.”

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