Comment: time to share Edinburgh Festival benefits

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WE may, on hot, sticky days, mutter and whinge about tourists clogging the streets and buses heaving fit to split but most of us view the Edinburgh Festival with enormous pride.

It’s a huge part of what makes our city so very special. The Festival is renowned all over the world, with performers – both new and established – willing to risk enormous losses just to be a part of it.

We are blessed in Edinburgh with a great deal that attracts tourists. The rest of the country – yes, even showy old Glasgow – can only look on enviously at what we have to offer.

But why shouldn’t we spread the joy a little?

One of Scotland’s leading events organisers, Paul Bush, head of EventScotland, suggests that the Festival should be extended to include events held across the country.

This seems to us to be a very good idea indeed. If the rest of Scotland can benefit from the tourism generated by the Edinburgh Festival, then that can only be a good thing for our economy.

But the plan doesn’t just win our approval for its potential to make money. We think the rest of Scotland should have a taste of the Festival.

To many Scots, the annual event is a symbol of elitism, a highbrow cavalcade of inaccessible theatre and incomprehensible performance art. But the truth is that the Festival is committed to bringing high culture to as many people as possible. All are welcome.

All over Scotland, there are venues struggling to stay open and tourism businesses on their knees. For many communities, Edinburgh Festival branded events – bringing high quality performances to places more used to amateur dramatic society productions – would mean real economic benefits.

The Edinburgh Festival marks its 70th anniversary in 2017 and what better way could there be to mark this milestone than to expand the event, making it bigger and better than ever before? We call it the Edinburgh Festival but it belongs to all of Scotland. It is a jewel in our cultural crown and we should not be backward about showing it off.

Traditionalists may splutter into their sherry at the idea of change but an expansion of the Edinburgh Festival across Scotland is an idea too good to resist.