With Financial Crisis Averted, Edinburgh International Festival Concentrates on Making Itself 'Accessible'

Classic Arts News   With Financial Crisis Averted, Edinburgh International Festival Concentrates on Making Itself 'Accessible'
The Edinburgh International Festival, faced with a Ô£600,000 shortfall that threatened its existence, has been given a financial bailout by the Scottish Executive and the City of Edinburgh Council, the U.K. Herald reports.

The help did not come without criticism. Donald Anderson, the leader of the city council, scolded the festival for asking for the money only a few weeks before consideration of the city's annual budget and expressed "deep regret" over the way the festival had operated in this crisis.

The city council and the executive have each given the festival half of the necessary funds.

In return for the funding, the festival will have to make itself responsible for increasing ticket sales (to Ô£2.11 million, up from Ô£1.75 million, according to the Edinburgh Evening News), including a pledge to make itself "more accessible" to the general public. Patricia Ferguson, Scotland's culture minister, said "The executive already provides: through the Scottish Arts Council: over Ô£1 million annual to support its program. I stressed that as a condition of our assistance, as many Scottish people as possible have the opportunity to experience the festival."

Making the festival more accessible, however, evidently does not include retaining the Ô£5 tickets for late-night orchestra and opera performances. According to the Evening News, sales of those tickets will likely be discontinued in order to boost revenue from full-price tickets.

A spokeswoman for the festival said, "The festival has led the way in recent years in creating schemes which are aimed at new audiences, including programming specific performances which cost just Ô£5. This year's festival will see this work continue, looking to develop the audiences attracted through these schemes by drawing them into the main festival program, rather than necessarily programming separate events."

According to the Evening News, the Ô£5 tickets were mostly purchased by people who would have attended festival events anyway.

Without the financial bailout, the festival, which presents a program of opera, music, dance, and theater over two weeks in August and September, might have been able to go forward, but with severely reduced programming. Brian McMaster, the festival's director and chief executive, said the cuts would have done "serious damage to the impact and reputation of the festival."

This was not a risk the Scottish Executive wanted to take. "The EIF is a unique national asset for Scotland," Ferguson said, "and must maintain its lauded creative integrity."

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