Herald newspaper slashes reviews coverage at Edinburgh Fringe amid funding cuts

The Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo: Jan Kranendonk/Shutterstock
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Scottish newspaper the Herald has halved its budget for reviews at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, in a move that has been criticised by its staff and by the Fringe Society.

The Herald said the amount of money put aside for fringe reviews has been cut by about a half for 2017, with its page allocation in print also reduced by a similar amount.

This comes despite the paper reviving its Herald Angels awards, which were put on hold in 2016. The scheme returned this year thanks to a partnership with Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.

The Herald’s arts editor, Keith Bruce, told The Stage he was informed of the decision to cut the fringe budget by the paper’s owners Newsquest just days before the festival began earlier this month.

“From my point of view it was a very difficult position, we had everybody booked in [to review shows]. I had to go back on my word, which I was less than happy about it.

“My response was that it was too late in the day to be doing it and stuff was already commissioned, but they were adamant that the money had to be found and the cut had to go through. I have no option but to try to hit that target of reduced spending.

“It’s very disappointing obviously and we try to see as much as we can and get as much as we can into the paper because that’s what it’s all about, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt this year.”

Bruce added that it was “ironic” that the cuts had come in the same year that the paper had managed to revive the Herald Angels awards.

A spokesman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: “As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the fringe, Scotland is once again in the global spotlight and news of a national newspaper cutting its arts coverage in the first week of the festival has sent shock waves through the cultural sector.

“We are collectively concerned about the impact that this will have on the Herald’s coverage of the country’s vibrant arts scene, the fringe and all Scotland’s festivals. The arts thrive on quality arts journalism and an enormous contribution has been made by the excellent team of arts writers and critics at the Herald.”