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Edinburgh festivals are “behind the curve” on digital and under threat from cuts – report

Attendees at the Edinburgh Fringe Attendees at the Edinburgh Fringe
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Edinburgh’s position as the world’s pre-eminent festival city faces challenges from the digital revolution, declining public investment and city infrastructure, according to a major new report.

Thundering Hooves 2.0 is a £50,000 report commissioned by the city’s festivals forum, the umbrella body for public organisations that have a vested interest in the success of the city’s 12 key festivals. It builds on an original 2006 report when it was feared that the “thundering hooves” of other cities could be heard overtaking Edinburgh’s status as the UK’s pre-eminent festival city.

The new report makes 38 recommended actions, across six themes, which it says will allow the city’s festivals to evolve and cope with future challenges.

The festivals are described as being “behind the curve on digital innovation”. To combat this, it is recommended that the festivals forum supports a strategy for creating a digital infrastructure and encouraging the creation of new work that uses digital technologies.

It finds that extra funding to the tune of £10 million a year could be needed to replace current public financing to the festivals, which accounts for a quarter of their income.

Introducing the report, co-author Josephine Burns said: “There is no doubt that one of the greatest challenges is the decline in public sector finance. The festivals have been remarkably good at being enterprising and raising additional money. But we have to ask ourselves how can this continue.”

The report suggests a robust approach, saying “large scale, radical solutions are now needed to replace eroding public funding and these must include potential alternative funding models, even if they present their own constraints”.

In terms of Edinburgh’s infrastructure, the report calls for a long-term approach with the individual members of the festivals forum playing a leading role, both unilaterally and within other partnership structures, to support the festivals’ needs.

Formal structures need to be established to overcome “siloed thinking” within local government departments and across different agencies, and the report suggests that the festivals’ needs across agencies, council committees and departments should be reviewed annually.

Improvements recommended for Edinburgh’s infrastructure are wide ranging, from development and refurbishment of cultural venues, to an accommodation strategy and transport ticketing initiatives.

Other themes and recommendations cover educational aims and social justice; developing global and local partnerships and building Edinburgh’s relationship with Glasgow; and that the festivals forum itself needs to evolve, by adopting new terms of reference and responsibilities.

The full report is available here

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