Edinburgh's festivals, venues and arts workers set to secure two-year funding worth nearly £10m

Millions of pounds in funding for Edinburgh’s festivals, arts venues and cultural workforce is set to be approved for the next two years to help them bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.

Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:54 pm

Councillors in Edinburgh are expected to back nearly £10 million in funding as part of efforts to kickstart the city’s Covid recovery.

The two-year deal is aimed at helping to ensure the city’s cultural sector has “continued funding stability.”

The support will help ensure a full-scale comeback for the summer festivals in their 75th anniversary season in August.

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The Edinburgh International Festival staged shows in pop-up venues, such as this one at Edinburgh Park, to help bring back live audiences in 2021.

The International Festival, Fringe, and the city's book, jazz, science, visual art, children’s and film festivals are all set to benefit from a £4.7 million annual funding package for the arts.

The two-year deal is expected to support a new multi-cultural event for the city, African Connections, to effectively replace the former Mela event.

Backing for smaller-scale festivals such as Hidden Door, Leith Late, Dusherra, Diwali is also included, while ringfenced funding will support artists and other cultural freelancers.

In-person events at the 2020 festivals were wiped out by Covid, while many shows and events had to be in temporary outdoor venues, with audiences physically distanced, due to the late lifting of restrictions.

Edinburgh's festivals date back to 1947. Picture: Gaelle Beri

The funding package will help with the recovery of venues including the Traverse, Royal Lyceum, King's and Festival theatres, Dance Base and the Queen's Hall, which were forced to close for several weeks from Boxing Day due to new restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant of Covid.

Also expected to secure support are the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish Book Trust, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, Edinburgh Printmakers, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Stills Gallery and North Edinburgh Arts.

A report for councillors said the two-year funding package would ensure everyone in the city had access to “world-class cultural provision,” encourge the “highest standards of creativity and excellence," and support the city’s cultural infrastructure and artists.

Director of place Paul Lawrence said: “The on-going impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector reinforces the need for continued proactive support and retention actions to contribute to the stability, retention and recovery of the city’s cultural sector.“The recommendations reflect direct and continued strategic, targeted support for the sector at this time, contributing to the continued retention of jobs, creative practices and development, and where it has been possible, responsive programming and delivery of activity throughout the city.

"It is important to acknowledge the positive, practical response to the COVID-19 crisis, the proactive approach to programme modelling, maximising freelance employment opportunities, retaining full-time jobs wherever possible, and contributing to city and national agendas on mitigation and recovery planning measures.

“The city’s future recovery and success depends on our key sectors responding wherever possible in a dynamic, imaginative and practical way to the current challenges."

Donald Wilson, the council’s culture convener, said: “The city and events sector has responded to the ongoing pandemic with determination and innovation with hybrid models of delivery such as the creation of outdoor and online programmes.

“It was fantastic to see some of the buzz return to the city when possible in 2021, but recovery continues and through this funding we are reaffirming our commitment to supporting and sustaining the sector.”