UK Spring Budget: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to hand Edinburgh's festivals £8.6m funding boost
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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is poised to confirm the investment as part of the Spring Budget tomorrow.
Expanded programmes and new jobs are also expected to be created via the funding, which is intended to protect and expand the “festival economy” in the city.
The new support from the UK Government, which is also intended to create more “year-round opportunities” for local artists, has emerged in the wake of growing concerns about the cost of staging shows and staying in the city during its biggest events.
The new funding boost is expected to help the Fringe Society open a new year-round base for its staff, as well as artists, performers, companies and arts industry workers.
The new funding may also benefit events like the Edinburgh International Festival, the Tattoo and the city’s celebrations of literature, jazz, art and film.
The backing will be confirmed months after a new blueprint for the future of Edinburgh’s festivals warned new sources of funding needed to be found to ensure they could remain “world leading" in the face of multiple challenges.
The new “2030 vision” warned investment was needed for new infrastructure, venues and support for workers to help the festivals cope with the impact of Brexit, Covid, climate change, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis.
The new investment has been lined up weeks after Edinburgh lost out on a bid for “Levelling Up” funding, which was planned to be spent on long-awaited projects to transform historic cultural venues like Leith Theatre, the Queen's Hall and the King's Theatre.
The UK Government is already providing £10m towards the Dunard Centre, the first new purpose-built concert hall in Edinburgh for more than a century. Work started on the venue last month.
A further £16m has been secured from the UK Government for the transformation of the historic Granton gasholder on Edinburgh’s waterfront into a new city park that will be able to host outdoor events and festivals.
The latest investment in Edinburgh's festivals has emerged two years after the UK Government announced £1m to support new digital initiatives to help the festivals bounce back from the impact of the Covid pandemic.
The festivals have had regular funding to the tune of around £7.5m from the Scottish Government in recent years, with grants allocated via its arts agency Creative Scotland. In addition, the city council has contributed around £3m.
Edinburgh’s major festivals and events have been valued at more than £300m in modern times, with the 2019 season attracting a record combined audience of more than 4.9 million. The city’s festivals are said to sustain more than 5,000 jobs in the city.
Mr Hunt said: “From Edinburgh’s Fringe to the International Festival, the city is world famous for culture and it’s right to support it and help it grow. Millions of people flock to Edinburgh from all over the globe for its festivals, creating opportunities for incredible comedians, musicians, artists and more, as well as thousands of jobs each year – all contributing immensely to the UK’s shared economy.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “This is fantastic news for Scotland. Our vibrant arts sector, with Edinburgh’s festivals at its heart, is rightly renowned internationally and makes a huge contribution to our economy and cultural landscape.
“The UK Government has consistently championed the sector, including with £97m of Covid support, and £10m for the Dunard Centre, Edinburgh’s first dedicated new space for music and the performing arts in 100 years.
"Edinburgh is a global centre for the arts and this funding will help the festivals continue to thrive and grow for many years to come.”
A new 2030 vision for the future of Edinburgh’s festivals, published last summer ahead of their 75th-anniversary season, highlighted how they had suffered a 30 per cent "real terms reduction" in their public funding since 2008. The UK Government’s “Levelling Up” fund and the planned introduction of a transient visitor levy – or tourist tax – were cited as possible sources of new funding.
The blueprint called for the “internationalist” spirit of the festivals to be “reimagined in the context of the UK being outside the European Union”.
It added: “It will be vital to see festivals, national agencies and governments at all levels working together to push for the best possible conditions for the free exchange of people and ideas across borders.
“The seismic shifts of Brexit and Covid-19 have also brought into sharp focus the importance of restarting pipelines of cultural export and inward investment for national recovery and renewal.
“It is imperative for the festivals to regenerate to a scale of global ambition that will enable Edinburgh to reassert its position as a world leading sustainable festival city.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Edinburgh festivals continue to be one of Scotland’s world-leading cultural brands and the Scottish Government will continue to do all we can to support the festival and wider culture sector.
“Scottish ministers have been urging the UK Government to recognise the valuable role Scotland’s culture sector plays to the Scottish and UK economy and so any additional funding from the Spring Budget would be welcome.
“The Scottish Government is awaiting further details from the UK Government.
“Given culture is devolved, ministers would be disappointed if the UK Government did not engage in advance to ensure all public funding – Scottish and UK – was aligned to deliver maximum support for the sector which is facing considerable financial challenges as a result of UK inflation, Brexit and the ongoing impacts from the Covid pandemic.”