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2020 Edinburgh Festivals have been cancelled

The month-long events have been pulled for the first time in over 70 years due to coronavirus fears

The Edinburgh Fringe
© James Ratchford

The future of the 2020 Edinburgh Festivals has been confirmed.

The Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are not happening as planned in 2020.

Conventionally running annually across the month of August, the festivals have had to alter their plans in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Edinburgh International Festival and the Festival Fringe have existed since 1947, and see millions of arts fans flock to the Scottish capital on an annual basis. In 2019 there were 3,841 shows at the Fringe, with 323 venues operating.

Fergus Linehan, director of EIF said: "We are hugely disappointed to announce this cancellation but given the current outlook we believe it is the correct decision. We recognise that Edinburgh's festivals play a very important role in the cultural, social and economic lives of our city and country, and this decision has not been taken lightly. Our thoughts are with all the country's key workers and we hope that we can celebrate your heroic efforts when this awful pandemic has passed.

"The Edinburgh International Festival was born out of adversity – an urgent need to reconnect and rebuild. The current crisis presents all at the Festival with a similar sense of urgency. Work begins straight away on a 2021 Festival season that will boost both our spirits and our economy.

"As we observe our essential social distancing we can, I hope, look forward to being back together soon: sharing brilliant music, theatre, dance, literature and art from the greatest creative minds of our time. Until then, thank you for all your good wishes and keep safe in the coming months."


The Fringe Society's statement in full:

Just a few months ago, the idea of Edinburgh without the Fringe and our sister festivals would have been totally unthinkable; now, like so many other aspects of our day-to-day lives, we must pause and take stock in the face of something far bigger.

Our hearts go out to the doctors, nurses, health and social care professionals on the front line, to everyone working to keep the country going, and to those who have been directly affected by this pandemic. Your courage in the face of adversity is an inspiration to us all.

My thoughts too are with the many thousands of artists, writers, producers, reviewers, venues and backstage crew whose careers have been put on hold over the past month or so. We know today's decision will be a difficult one for many, but please know that we will continue to be here for you and will do everything we can to support you in the weeks and months ahead.

Today's decision that the Fringe will not go ahead as planned was not taken lightly. We have spent the past month listening to a broad cross-section of Fringe participants, as well as to government, healthcare professionals, residents and many more; however, in light of present circumstances it was unavoidable. Public health must and always will come first.

We are working hard to mitigate the impact of this decision on Fringe artists and audience members. Today we are committing to refunding all participant registration fees, as well as refunding the Fringe tickets and Friends memberships purchased by our audience members. We are also offering participants who have already paid the alternative of rolling their show registration forward to the 2021 Fringe to cover an equivalent show listing. Our thanks in particular here go out to our sponsors and partners, without whose long-term commitment to the Fringe none of this would have been possible.

Financially this has not been straightforward – as the small charity that underpins the Fringe we receive very little public subsidy – but we believe that offering refunds is the right thing to do and will turn this around as quickly as possible. There will also be an option to donate all or part of your purchase to support artists and the work of the Fringe Society, but this will of course be entirely optional.

Whilst the Fringe and its sister festivals may not be able to provide a stage in the same way as before this summer, we are committed to working with artists and creatives from Edinburgh, Scotland and across the world to find new ways of uniting people under a Fringe umbrella. It's too early to say what this will look like, but we are confident that as a collective we can find a way to reach through the walls that currently surround us and inspire, cheer and connect.

The performing arts have an important role to play in providing a prism through which to process and understand the multiple traumas of this pandemic. Art has always helped shape and reshape how we think of ourselves, and will help now to pull through the threads that unite us as human beings in a globally shared experience.

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