Confirmed: Edinburgh goes dark

Confirmed: Edinburgh goes dark


norman lebrecht

April 01, 2020

The Edinburgh festivals, official and fringe, have cancelled this August’s events.

Talks have been going on for several days with the cty authorities and the Scottish government.

The Sun reports that £10m of public funding has been pledged for next year’s grand return.

Official confirmation was announced at noon.

The cancellation affects all Edinburgh festivals, including the books festival where I was due to appear. Everyone is gutted. Nothing to be done. The book festival is contemplating possible online events.

The festivals, which began in 1947, are worth £300 million to the city. Many enterprises will face ruin.

The first statement reads: ‘ Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are not happening as planned in 2020.’

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival, said
We are hugely disappointed to announce this cancellation but given the current outlook we believe it is the correct decision. We recognise that Edinburgh’s festivals play a very important role in the cultural, social and economic lives of our city and country, and this decision has not been taken lightly. Our thoughts are with all the country’s key workers and we hope that we can celebrate your heroic efforts when this awful pandemic has passed.

“The Edinburgh International Festival was born out of adversity – an urgent need to reconnect and rebuild. The current crisis presents all at the Festival with a similar sense of urgency. Work begins straight away on a 2021 Festival season that will boost both our spirits and our economy.

“As we observe our essential social distancing we can, I hope, look forward to being back together soon: sharing brilliant music, theatre, dance, literature and art from the greatest creative minds of our time. Until then, thank you for all your good wishes and keep safe in the coming months.”


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Lets hope next year things will be much better. My worry is that in the third world this virus will be totally out of control, which will make opening up borders very difficult.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      If enough people have it in Europe and the US, then they will be able to open their border without the virus having serious effects for large part of the population. It is very unlikely to ever be completely eradicated.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Very sensible. Wonder what will happen re. the Proms.?

    • Robert Roy says:

      It’s difficult to see how they can do anything else but cancel. Very sad situation.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Why would they need to cancel. We are likely to start ending the lockdown well before then.

        Unlike other festivals, the Proms only needs a few days notice since the hall is already available and the BBC orchestras have already been hired (being permanent). They could make a programme using only the London orchestras.

  • Rob says:

    The Proms should be cancelled now. Give them time to sort out the atrocious programming. Maybe have a Winter Proms instead with the last night on New Years Eve.

    • Hal Sacks says:

      I agree. Hopefully and prayerfully a New Years Eve Last Night of the Proms might be a true celebration.

  • Hugh Kerr says:

    As I predicted last week in the Edinburgh Music Review there was no other choice. Now we should use the time for reflection on what kind of festival we should have see my article Hugh Kerr

  • Amos says:

    At a time like this finding momentary solace, especially in music, is critical. I would urge anyone not familiar with the performance to listen to the Boult/LPO 1949 Elgar 1st. For me Boult was an enigmatic conductor. When he was on he combined the best of what I’d call the English pastoral approach with the ideal mixture of German heft derived perhaps from his early exposure to Nikisch in Leipzig. Why so many of his recordings seem somewhat lackluster (illness?) has always been a mystery. Regardless, here everyone is on full alert:

  • Wilhelm says:

    Would be very interesting to know in which sense these cancelling festivals can and will refer to force majeure contractually? It is naturally clear that there is a pandemic in the world right now, but I wonder if that alone is sufficient without liabilities towards the cancelled contracts unless there are proven and concrete measures and orders by the respective governments that de facto force these festivals to cancel? I would guess that it is contractually very risky to cancel just as a precaution, if we cannot be certain that force majeure will still apply in July/August.

    That said, I tend to believe that this will take until the Autumn.

  • Maans Oosthuizen says:

    Now we wait for the inevitable decision on the Salzburg festival…

  • Pamela Brown says:

    Oh no…that’s awful! (Monty Python)…