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Edinburgh International Festival facing ‘accelerated decline’ due to planned 10% cut

Edinburgh's Assembly Hall. Photo: Lou Armor/Shutterstock Edinburgh's Assembly Hall. Photo: Lou Armor/Shutterstock
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Edinburgh International Festival is facing a 10% cut to its grant from the city council, prompting fears of “accelerated decline”.

The planned reduction, which would take place over two years, is part of a shake up of the £4.5 million cultural funding the Scottish capital receives.

The EIF is facing a reduction of just over £100,000 in the next financial year, with the same cut applied the following year, reducing its funding from £2,388,867 in 2015/16, to £1,926,000 in 2021/22.

The proposal would mean the EIF has taken a 19.4% cut in its funding since 2015/16.

EIF director Fergus Linehan questioned the lack of a strategic plan for the festival, which took £3.8 million in ticket sales in 2018.

Linehan told The Stage: “There has been 10 years of decline and now this is accelerated decline. So what is the plan?”

He acknowledged that the level of council support is an anomaly in local authority funding.

“It is very rare that an organisation of this scale has funding through a local authority,” he said. “It is unprecedented. Of course it is very large – but it is not very large next to other companies of our scale in Scotland – Scottish Opera, the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Ballet.”

He said a change in the council’s attitude towards the festival would be acceptable as “it is a creation of the City of Edinburgh Council”, but described the “salami slicing” of its budget as “insidious”.

The council’s Culture and Communities committee is due to meet on June 18 to consider a review of the third party grants awarded from its £4.5 million culture budget, which has not been cut.

The meeting will be asked to approve proposals for new strategic partnerships and funding models, as well as setting funding levels for 2020/21.

The council recently completed a planned reduction of grants to third-party cultural organisations by 10% over four years.

Grants to the five main theatre beneficiaries are to be rolled into one unified fund. The Lyceum, Traverse Theatre and Capital Theatres, which run the Festival and Kings theatres, will join with Lung Ha and Edinburgh Performing Arts Development in applying jointly for a £1 million pot.

This is a £15,000 increase on their combined funding for the current year and has been welcomed by Capital Theatres.

Other cultural organisations that do not receive core funding will be able to apply for part of a £200,000 pot of flexible project funding. This will be an open fund and will rise by £100,000 in 2021/22

Councillor Donald Wilson, who is convener for Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Communities Committee said: “There is no proposed further reduction in the overall fund for culture, but this is a renewed way of working that reflects our commitment to maintain as stable an environment as possible while responding to the Culture Plan consultation feedback which reflected the need for more access to our limited resources.”

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