The Edinburgh Fringe and four other major cultural festivals in the city have been cancelled this year due to concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic. Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival, will not take place for the first time in more than70 years.
All of the city’s major events – Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – have been scrapped thanks to the global pandemic.
The comedy Fringe, which has discovered a whole host of comedians who have since gone on to national fame, is a highlight of the entertainment calendar every August, but sadly won’t be going ahead this summer.
Instead, it has tentatively been pencilled in for August 6-30 2021. Those with tickets to this year’s Fringe have been asked if they’d like to donate the cost of their tickets to directly help the artists and comedians who will now be out of work as a result.
In a statement, Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “Just a few months ago, the idea of Edinburgh without the Fringe and our sister festivals would have been totally unthinkable; now, like so many other aspects of our day-to-day lives, we must pause and take stock in the face of something far bigger.
“Our hearts go out to the doctors, nurses, health and social care professionals on the front line, to everyone working to keep the country going, and to those who have been directly affected by this pandemic. Your courage in the face of adversity is an inspiration to us all.
“My thoughts too are with the many thousands of artists, writers, producers, reviewers, venues and backstage crew whose careers have been put on hold over the past month or so. We know today’s decision will be a difficult one for many, but please know that we will continue to be here for you and will do everything we can to support you in the weeks and months ahead.”
She went on: “Today’s decision that the Fringe will not go ahead as planned was not taken lightly. We have spent the past month listening to a broad cross-section of Fringe participants, as well as to government, healthcare professionals, residents and many more; however, in light of present circumstances it was unavoidable. Public health must and always will come first.
“We are working hard to mitigate the impact of this decision on Fringe artists and audience members. Today we are committing to refunding all participant registration fees, as well as refunding the Fringe tickets and Friends memberships purchased by our audience members. We are also offering participants who have already paid the alternative of rolling their show registration forward to the 2021 Fringe to cover an equivalent show listing. Our thanks in particular here go out to our sponsors and partners, without whose long-term commitment to the Fringe none of this would have been possible.”
She continued: “Financially this has not been straightforward – as the small charity that underpins the Fringe we receive very little public subsidy – but we believe that offering refunds is the right thing to do and will turn this around as quickly as possible. There will also be an option to donate all or part of your purchase to support artists and the work of the Fringe Society, but this will of course be entirely optional.
“Whilst the Fringe and its sister festivals may not be able to provide a stage in the same way as before this summer, we are committed to working with artists and creatives from Edinburgh, Scotland and across the world to find new ways of uniting people under a Fringe umbrella. It’s too early to say what this will look like, but we are confident that as a collective we can find a way to reach through the walls that currently surround us and inspire, cheer and connect.
“The performing arts have an important role to play in providing a prism through which to process and understand the multiple traumas of this pandemic. Art has always helped shape and reshape how we think of ourselves, and will help now to pull through the threads that unite us as human beings in a globally shared experience.
“From its earliest beginnings in 1947, the Fringe has provided a totally uncensored platform for artists from all backgrounds, cultures and perspectives to tell their story and shape their own worlds. As we try to adapt in the face of an all-encompassing global emergency, this spirit of shared storytelling and open dialogue feels more important than ever.
“We look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in 2021. In the meantime, look after each other and stay safe. Shona.”
Some 400,000 people descend on Edinburgh every summer for the various festivals.
Last year saw the likes of Eddie Izzard, Phil Wang, Ben Hart and Laura Lexx perform to the crowds, while Olaf Falafel won the coveted Best Joke of Fringe 2019 with “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.