Funding for Festivals

Dangling by a Precarious Rope: My Plan to Fund the Edinburgh Festivals

joe goldblatt dangling on some climbing ropes

The City of Edinburgh Council announced this week that it would be reducing the budget for the Edinburgh International Festival by 9 percent in the next two years. This news was greeted with shock, anger and righteous indignation by many in the cultural sector of my adopted city.

Historically, as compared to other world class events, the Edinburgh International Festival has received less per capita funding that many other events including the Manchester International Festival. However, despite their diminishing budget the festival has soldiered on year upon year to deliver artistic excellence to hundreds of thousands of audience members.

Therefore, the question before us now is what will happen as a result of the most recent assault upon their budget?

I would like to propose two ways forward.

The first way, and perhaps the least desirable for festival organisers, is to seek further opportunities to work with international governments who sponsor their artists to perform in Edinburgh to close the funding gap. This funding is politically driven resulting in uncertainty and unpredictability. However, often the deepest pockets for potential support are from national government arts and culture budgets.

The second way is to promote new local legislation that would add £1.00 to every ticket sold for an Audience Contribution Transfer (ACT) that would immediately generate millions of additional pounds to support arts and culture in our city. The ACT plan was first proposed by myself in 2009 and sadly fell upon deaf ears and even was rejected by the umbrella festivals agency, Festival Edinburgh, because it might threaten future core funding from national and local governmental bodies.

The ACT fund could be administered by an independent third part organisation and provide support for new programme development, subsidised tickets for new audience members and the preservation as well as the development of existing festival venues. The funds would be distributed proportionately based upon ticket sales by each festival organisation and also a portion of funds could be ring-fenced for communal bidding by all festivals for use to develop innovative strategies and programmes.

Finally. the fear that the Festival Edinburgh organisation demonstrated nearly a decade earlier, has come to fruition even without the implementation of the ACT fund. Festival funding from the government sector has decreased may decrease further in future years. Now is the time to find logical and efficient as well as sustainable alternative funding to insure not only the stability of one of Edinburgh’s greatest exports, arts and culture, but also toguarantee for future generations that these programmes shall grow from strength to strength.

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