This summer while London hosted elite athletes and the new generation of sporting talent from around the world, Edinburgh celebrated its essential role as a platform for elite and emerging cultural talent and as a beacon of internationalism – through the worldwide cultural phenomena that are Edinburgh’s Festivals. Here we take a quick look at this year’s Summer Festivals.
Edinburgh’s reputation as a global festival city has deep roots. Immediately after the Second World War plans were developed for an arts festival that would become a much-needed ‘platform for the flowering of the human spirit’. From this beginning in 1947 the Festivals have been instrumental in transforming Edinburgh into a cosmopolitan, outward-looking and welcoming city. So 65 years on, with the London hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, how did the Festivals fare? Let’s first take a look at some figures from the Summer Festivals:
• Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival saw paid attendances rise by 5%
• Edinburgh International Book Festival hosted 225,000 people, the most in their history, and saw a 3% increase in ticket sales from 2011
• The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was sold out for 14th consecutive year, with the BBC highlights broadcast drawing an audience of 5.4m
• Edinburgh Festival Fringe issued an estimated 1.85m tickets, being only 1% less than the overall number of tickets sold last year
• Edinburgh International Festival saw an increase of 8% in sales income and 4% in number of tickets, making it a record year at the box office
• Edinburgh Art Festival held over 50 major exhibitions, of which 19 were UK/Scottish premieres, and commissioned 8 new public artworks – with the majority free to attend
• And the Edinburgh Mela welcomed over 25,000 people to Leith Links, with more than 300 artists from 15 countries performing over three days
With audiences holding steady, and in some instances increasing, the impact of Edinburgh’s Festivals - which was recently [May 2011] shown to generate £261 million of economic impact for Scotland and 5242 full time jobs in Edinburgh – continues to impress. However it is easy to get distracted by the numbers. As Edinburgh International Book Festival Director Nick Barley says, ‘I think it’s important to look beyond the statistics and acknowledge the overall impact of all the Festivals. Festivals are not all about the numbers, but about the events, the conversations, and to employ an overused word, the legacy.’
What the results of summer 2012 really tell us is that Edinburgh’s Festivals have this year seized the opportunities arising from the UK hosting of the Olympic & Paralympic Games and the designation of 2012 as the Year of Creative Scotland. And in doing so, demonstrated that their unique resilience and continuing tourism, economic and social value derives from, and is dependent upon, the artistic vision, ambition and programmes of the individual festivals. The breadth and depth of these programmes, with their vast array of premieres and commissions, provide the distinctive cultural offering that is the envy of cities around the world and each year attract artists, audiences and media from every continent and over 70 countries.
At the heart of the Festivals’ ambition is the aim to encourage international dialogue through cultural exchange - and that ambition was given further impetus this year through the staging of a number of key events:
• Culture ministers from over 30 countries gathered in the Scottish Parliament for the first ever International Culture Summit organised in partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival, Scottish Government, UK Government and the British Council
• The Edinburgh World Writers Conference, presented by the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council, saw 50 world renowned writers in discussion and was watched online in 60 countries
• And the inaugural World Fringe Congress, organised in partnership with the World Festival Network, drew 47 Fringe festival leaders from 18 countries to exchange ideas and experiences
As Jonathan Mills, Festival Director and Chief Executive of the Edinburgh International Festival, rightly said: ‘2012 was a year of partnerships and collaborations’. The ambitious programming of Edinburgh’s Festivals was supported by a host of partners including City of Edinburgh Council, Creative Scotland, Event Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government through the Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.
And it’s not over yet. The Scottish International Storytelling Festival - ‘Once Upon Story: Folktales of Europe’ - is only a month away and then, of course, there’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay .…..and before you know it, another year begins in the world’s leading festival city.
For more information visit www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk