Self Catering Edinburgh - Edinburgh Tattoo

 

You're proud of the festivals, but they need more funds

BRIAN FERGUSON
 

EVENING News readers have thrown their weight behind the city's summer festivals and called for greater public investment in them.

Almost nine out of ten people who responded to our survey said they were proud Edinburgh was reputed to host the greatest celebration of the arts in the world. But while more than half were worried the festivals could face a future cash crisis, less than a third backed the idea of a "bed tax" to help fund the city's events.

More than 920 readers across Edinburgh and the Lothians took part in our exclusive survey on the festivals, their impact on the city and how they should be developed in future. It was carried out in the wake of a season which saw all of the main festivals reporting record takings and a galaxy of big-name stars descend on the Capital.

However, the Festival was played out to a backdrop of debate over how Edinburgh needs to cope with a growing threat to its cultural crown, which is said to be emerging from rival cities. Our survey showed more than 80 per cent of people would miss the festivals if they were scrapped tomorrow and almost half of those surveyed said they were more likely to attend a show or event now than ten years ago.

City tourism chief Donald Anderson said today: "I'm absolutely delighted to see the outcome of the Evening News survey.

"I'm not at all surprised that there has been such a positive response and I do think there has been a real change in people's opinions about the festivals in the last ten years or so. It's certainly been my experience that people have grown to love and enjoy them rather than moan about them. It's very important for the city to stress that the festivals are very much for the people of Edinburgh."

Councillor Anderson has already thrown his weight behind the so-called "bed tax", which would see visitors asked to pay up to 2 extra on their bill, saying it could generate up to 1 million for the city's festivals and events.

But almost half of the visitors to Edinburgh who responded to our survey said they would be unwilling to pay such a tax. And among Lothian residents, just 28 per cent supported the idea.

Rival Fringe venue producers joined forces this year to form a new pressure group aimed at stepping up promotion of the festivals outwith Edinburgh and securing more support from the city council to combat red tape. A total of 57 per cent of people surveyed said they were worried that the festivals could be threatened by a funding crisis, almost 60 per cent of people said more needed to be done to dress up the city during August, and one in three said the city did not have adequate infrastructure to cope with the festivals season.

Our survey asked a number of questions about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – officially the world's biggest arts festival – in particular. More than half of people surveyed (53.5 per cent) disagreed that the Fringe had become too big, compared to 23 per cent who said it had. One in three said there should be some form of quality control over Fringe acts, compared to 48 per cent who said no.

The survey found 44 per cent of people felt the Fringe deserved more public funding, compared to 37 per cent against, with 70 per cent of people saying the Scottish Executive should foot the bill, compared to 50.5 per cent arguing for the city council to stump up and 60.5 per cent for the Scottish Arts Council.

When it came to the Fringe, in particular, 40 per cent of people said they expected to pay between 5 and 8 for a show, with 40 per cent of people saying they expected to pay between 9 and 12. Two-thirds of people were against the existing August festivals being spread throughout the year, although 20 per cent were in favour.

But almost two-thirds of people surveyed said summer festival events should be held in outlying areas of the city as well as in the city centre.

Other key results show three-quarters of people had either attended Fringe Sunday or enjoyed free entertainment on the Royal Mile over the years. Of those who responded, 76 per strongly agreed with the statement: "I love the festivals, the city becomes an exciting place."

Two-thirds of respondents said they were either sad when the festivals were over or were exhausted but couldn't wait for next year. In contrast, just four per cent of those surveyed said they were glad the festivals were over. Less than a quarter said they avoided Edinburgh during the festivals, which "weren't for them".

Just over ten per cent said the festivals "were not worth the inconvenience" and 40 per cent said driving around the city during the festivals was "a nightmare".

CITY council leader Ewan Aitken said: "It's clear that more and more people are attending Festival events every year and that's why it's so vital that we continue to nurture and develop them, and explore issues like the idea of a Festival campsite and the dressing of the city.

"It's not simply a case of the council or anyone else putting in large amounts of extra funding. It's about looking at how best to support the festivals through new initiatives and exploring ways of promoting them better around the world."

Fringe director Paul Gudgin said the results of the survey were "very interesting".

He said: "It's extremely useful to see how many people are enjoying and attending free events like Fringe Sunday and the entertainment on the High Street and it's obviously vital that they continue. The level of support that the festivals have should never be taken for granted and there isn't a festival anywhere in the world that exists without local backing.

"It's interesting that most people expect to pay between 5 and 12 for a ticket for a Fringe show as most tickets are priced around 5 and the average figure is something like 8.50. We do note that people do seem to believe that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Arts Council should be supporting the Fringe more."

A spokesman for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce said: "One thing that has emerged from the survey is the huge support for the Fringe. It's interesting to see that so many people from Edinburgh and the Lothians are attending Festival events and it's very important the city does not lose sight of that in the years to come."

A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh International Festival said: "It's wonderful that the people of Edinburgh really enjoy and support the festivals so wholeheartedly, as is clearly backed up by the results of the Evening News survey. This support is particularly heartening as we all work together to maintain and secure Edinburgh's future as a world-class festival city."

Ben Carter, area director of VisitScotland Edinburgh, said: "Edinburgh's festivals are central to our marketing efforts both internationally and here in the UK and it is encouraging to see from these results that such a large proportion of residents agree with us that we have an outstanding reputation for hosting the greatest celebration of arts in the world.

"We already know that this year has been a major success for the summer festivals, with ticket sales reaching record levels, and it is encouraging to see that a large proportion of those surveyed attend Festival events."

A spokeswoman from the Scottish Arts Council said: "This looks like an interesting consultation and we look forward to considering the results in more depth."

 

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Self Catering Edinburgh

14/11/2013