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News Snippets - August 2007 to August 20082006-2007 news

In general the most recent items can be found at the top.

Where does all the punters' cash go?

An interesting article in the Edinburgh Evening News which looks at where the punters' money goes, although we hear the usual refrain that nobody owns up to making any money out of the festival! Also, the figures appear to be largely 3-4 years old.

International Festival and Book Festival ticket sales up

The BBC reports that the 2008 International Festival took 2.6m in ticket sales, a 7% rise over the previous year. Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray was the festival's most successful dance show ever at the box office. A full summary can be found here on the EIF web site. Ticket sales at the Book Festival were up 3% with more than 300 out of the 750 events being sold out before the festival started - Sean Connery's was sold out in under an hour. While the Tattoo sold out as usual, the process took longer this year and there were many more returns than in previous years, reportedly attributable to the reduction in the numbers of American visitors.

Fringe director resigns

Jon Morgan, the director of the Fringe, has dutifully fallen on his sword after this year's box office fiasco, according to early reports in the Stage and the Scotsman. The Herald subsequently puts its twopenneth in on the resignation and discusses the proposed investigations into the debacle.

Fringe needs more money

A predictable call from a couple of venue chiefs for significantly more money for the Fringe and the creation of a chief executive role. An equally predictable response from the city council, "let us wait for the results of the reviews".

Edinburgh needs a new dawn ... oh no it doesn't ... oh yes it does ...

An article by Norman Lebrecht in the Evening Standard complains about Edinburgh's falling standards, mainly the EIF. While his criticisms warrant a response it needs to be somewhat more coherent than that offered by Roger Cox in the Scotsman (if you can read it - they appear to have made it a "premium article"). It may be a useful idea if the Scotsman allowed links to information on other sites so that, in this case, the reader could see what Lebrecht actually said. In fairness, the Scotsman stable produced a slightly more dispassionate article on this year's festival on the same day.

Fringe 2008 ticket sales down 10%

The Fringe has obviously put out a press release on the last day of the festival (25th August 2008). The Guardian and Scotsman both report that provisional figures show that Fringe 2008 ticket sales are down by approximately 10% on 2007. Book festival figures are reported to be up and International festival sales are said to be buoyant.

Other 2008 Fringe statistics include 18792 perfomers giving 31320 performances of 2088 shows at 247 venues.

All's well that ends well?!

Predictable mutterings that the festival has had as many bums on seats as ever before, despite the problems on the Fringe, are surfacing. The Observer has one and The Scotsman has two similar(ish) articles ... "bumper Fringe brushes off setbacks" and "Fringe was all right on the night but what now?". My own view, based on the shows that I have attended, is that there has been a slight decrease in punters over the last couple of years.

Assembly's Burdett-Coutts on Comedy and the Fringe

Short article in the Independent where Burdett-Coutts says that comedy is not killing the Fringe.

Fringe box office system nominated for comedy award

The Stage reports that the Fringe box office system has been nominated for the 2008 Malcolm Hardee award for "bringing surreal humour into the normally dull ticketing process". Alas, it did not win. The award went to Edward Aczel.

Tattoo shows outside Edinburgh in 2009

The Scotsman reports that 4 Tattoo performances will be put on outside Edinburgh in 2009 as part of the Scottish Government's Homecoming Scotland 2009 initiative, which encourages people with an affinity to Scotland to visit.

Heated Fringe AGM

Unsurprisingly given the problems this year, the Stage reports that the Fringe AGM (16th August 2008) was a heated affair with calls for apologies and the resignation of the board. As some punters suspected, the software supplier, Pivotal Engineering, has gone into administration. Three investigations will be commissioned into the box office fiasco: one IT specific into possible future options will be conducted by an external company (report due by the end of October); the Scottish Government, the Scottish Arts Council, the city council and Scottish Enterprise will all be invited to look at the overall problem, including the procurement, installation and operation of the system (report due in November); and finally a review of the role of the Fringe Society itself will be carried out. Meanwhile, the Scotsman reports that the Fringe is considering legal action over the fiasco.

Funding for Scottish talent at the Fringe

The Stage details an initial grant of 200,000 out of the Scottish Executive's Expo fund to aid Scottish talent that wish to appear at the Fringe. It is being branded "Made in Scotland". Companies must submit their applications by 17th November 2008. It is curious that the successful applicants will have been curated to appear in a festival that is uncurated! Further details can be found on the Scottish Executive web site.

More calls to split the festivals

Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph follows Richard Demarco's call to stagger the dates of the International and Fringe festivals. Meanwhile, actor Brian Cox calls for the comedy festival to be split from the rest of the Fringe.

Festivals addressing carbon footprints

The Scotsman reports on how the festivals are addressing carbon footprints. For example, the EIF and the Book Festival are encouraging the use of the train rather than the plane for domestic journeys.

Assembly chief repeats threat to pull out

Burdett-Coutts, who runs Assembly, has repeated his threat to pull out of the Assembly Rooms if the proposed refurbishments go ahead after the 2010 Fringe. Jon Morgan, director of the Fringe, subsequently expressed his hope that the Assembly Rooms will continue as a Fringe venue.

Fringe box office system postmortem - early skirmishes

The previous Fringe regime is to blame, according to an article in EdinburghGuide.com. Meanwhile, Burdett-Coutts of Assembly says in the Stage that it is a big crisis - but it has brought us closer together - yawn. The Scotsman weighs in, calling for an open postmortem on the fiasco.

Fringe needs more TV coverage and public funding

Jon Morgan, director of the Fringe, tells the Times that the event needs more TV coverage and more public funding.

Spirit of the Fringe dying?

After a lull in the controversy over the Comedy Festival, the start of the Fringe brings a couple of articles in the Times and Independent on the subject of the Comedy Festival and the impact of the super venues. The Guardian hails the Forest Fringe as a potential saviour.

Figures Down?

On 1st August 2008 the Scotsman reports that accommodation bookings are still well done. This is variously blamed on the economy and the Fringe box office system problems. However, the Herald says that sales for the International Festival are very buoyant.

Is Edinburgh ready for the festival?

On 30th July 2008 the Scotsman trotted out the range of problems: fringe box office, Usher Hall refurbishment, tram works, et cetera. Jonathan Mills, artistic director of the International Festival, defended Edinburgh's festivals the following day.

More Fringe booking system problems

The Scotsman reports (19th July 2008) that the Fringe is now experiencing problems with the printing of tickets. It claims that up to 150,000 tickets have not been printed with only two weeks to go to the start of the festival. The Fringe web site contains some information on this problem, promising an announcement this coming week (commencing 21st July 2008) on how punters who have purchased tickets can get their hands on them. It appears that posting them, as originally promised, is not now likely to be an option.

In addition, the Edinburgh Evening News reported (18th July 2008) instances of punters being charged multiple times for a ticket. There appear to be various claims: "authentication failed" messages leading to punters re-ordering but still being charged for the original attempted purchase; and very slow responses leading to people hitting the buy button several times.

I have fortunately managed to avoid this shambles of a system so far, booking with the venues.

21st July 2008 - Telephone and over the counter sales suspended yesterday and today.
22nd July 2008 - Telephone and over the counter sales to be resumed today according to the Scotsman but still no news on ticket production and distribution. The article includes a precis of the shambles so far.
23rd July 2008 - 27,000 tickets for preview week are being sent out today according to the Scotsman. This still leaves an estimated 130,000 tickets outstanding and the Fringe box office still cannot issue paper tickets for new sales. NB - I noticed that the Fringe web site was not available first thing this morning although it was there when I checked again mid-morning.
24th July 2008 - more ticket collection points to be set up. But no details available on this. No postal bookings (as if anybody in their right mind would want to do this!).
25th July 2008 - the Fringe web site says that the main box office system will be closed on Sunday 27th July 2008 for telephone, counter sales and collections while the box offfice system that is used by the big four venues (which is unaffected by the Fringe ticketing problem) is installed at the following venues: C, Sweet, Universal Arts, St. Augustine's and the Vault. However, the Fringe web site will operate as normal. The statement also says that 100,000 tickets have now been sent out.
27th July 2008 - The Scotsman reports on how the big four venues are helping out.

28th July 2008 - The Fringe are now saying that the box office system will also be closed today for telephone, counter sales and collections although the web site will be functioning. Sounds as if some of the punters are getting restless.
29th July 2008 - the Fringe box office is open for collections but still closed for telephone and counter sales. Hurrah - details of those venues that have their own box office systems and so provide an alternative method of booking (albeit only for shows at those venues - except for the big 4 who share a system).
30th July 2008 - Fringe says that the box office will be open from 1000am today for telephone and counter sales. Other key news today is that: for bookings of shows at the big 4 (Assembly, Pleasance, Gilded Balloon and Underbelly) made after 6pm on Monday 28th July 2008 the tickets must be collected from the venues; tickets for shows on at Assembly @ Queen's Hall, Brunton Theatre, Meadows Theatre Big Top, Festival Theatre or the Playhouse must be obtained via the venues. No news that I can find as to whether the e-ticket tent will be operating as normal.
31st July 2008 - no further news from the Fringe although the Independent reports some problems with telephone and counter sales yesterday and the Scotsman says that opening weekend performances for 20 shows have been oversold. 
1st August 2008 - it looks as if the e-ticket tent - where you can use PCs to book and then get your tickets printed - failed to open yesterday, as it was scheduled to do. I base this speculation on (a) the Fringe has failed to mention it anywhere; (b) they have failed to respond to my email on the subject; and (c) a comment in today's Scotsman "Organisers failed to open an extra Princes Streeet box office as planned yesterday". Stop press - I received an email response from the Fringe mid-morning ... the e-ticket tent is open today. I note that it has been added to the home page of the Fringe web site.
3rd August 2008. All appears to be relatively quiet. The press appears to be limited to articles such as "I told you so" in the Scotsman on Sunday and the director of Festivals Edinburgh, Faith Liddell, saying that the new system is an investment in the Sunday Herald. Sorry Madame Tsar, while I welcomed your appointment, please
take it from somebody who has seen more than his fair share of unmitigated disasters in the IT world, this is a very long way from any sensible definition of the word investment!
4th August 2008 - EdinburghGuide.com has "the real story" of the whole sorry saga: it was all down to the previous Fringe regime it is alleged - sounds like half a story to me!
5th August 2008 - Burdett-Coutts of Assembly puts his twopenneth in in The Stage. No doubt there will be more contributors ... soon.
6th August 2008 - Overselling of some tickets rumbles on - the Scotsman tells of children being turned away from a show.

Art Festival to receive 45K from Scottish Expo fund

Edinburghguide.com reports that the Art Festival is to receive 45K from the Scottish Government's Expo fund to install a new work by Scottish artist, Jim Lambie, at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Financial problems surrounding proposed new Tattoo grandstand

The Times has an article on the Military Tattoo, focusing on the financial problems of plans to install a new grandstand.

Tattoo ticket returns

The Scotsman reports that there will be many more ticket returns this year as the credit crunch bites and there is a decrease in the number of American visitors.

Threatened council workers' strike lifted

The Scotsman reports that fears of a threatened strike by council workers during the festival have been lifted, as negotiations will continue beyond this year's festival.

Amnesty International announce festival line-up

Amnesty International announces their festival line-up, the highlight being two comedy nights "Stand Up for Freedom" on the 6th and 13th August 2008 at the Assembly Hall.

BBC criticised for festival coverage

In what is becoming an annual event the BBC is rightly criticised for its poor festival coverage in this article in the Scotsman.

Edinburgh accommodation figures for festival down

According to the Scotsman, accommodation bookings for the festival are currently down, although ticket sales appear not to be.

Scottish Expo Fund money for Jazz & Blues Festival and International Festival

EdinburghGuide.com reports that the Jazz & Blues festival is to receive just under 50k from the Scottish Government's Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund which was set up earlier this year to support Scottish involvement in the Edinburgh festivals. The International festival will receive 270K from the same fund.

Raj Persaud not to appear at the Book Festival

Psychiatrist Raj Persaud, who made his name on TV programmes such as This Morning with Richard and Judy, has unsurprisingly withdrawn from the Book Festival. Persaud was recently suspended by the General Medical Council for plagiarism.

Emin to throw party to launch retrospective

The Scotsman reports that Tracey Emin is planning a big bash for the great and the good to launch her retrospective at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. My invite has not arrived yet, but I feel sure that it must be in the post.

PRS announce music for Fringe Sunday

The Performing Right Society has announced the music performers for Fringe Sunday, which takes place on August 10th, 2008 this year at the Meadows.

Perceived squabble over who best to promote Edinburgh

The Scotsman reckons that there is a spat between the city council and VisitScotland over control of promoting Edinburgh. This appears to stem from the fact that the council has reduced its grant to VisitScotland by 125,000.

Richard Demarco says that "August is too busy"

The Observer quotes Richard Demarco, impresario and festival veteran, as saying that Edinburgh is obsessed with August when the city becomes overcrowded. He considers that other festivals, e.g. the Book Festival, should follow the lead of the Film Festival and move away from August.

Free Entertainment on the Mound to be "controlled"

The Mound is to be made an official area for free entertainment, run by the Fringe, during the festival, according to The Scotsman. Similar to the High Street, performers will need permits (20 per week).

Early thoughts on Film Festival's move to June

The Scotsman reports on Saturday 28th June that figures are slightly up on last year (sales 3% and receipts 5%) and that the apperances of Sean Connery, Keira Knightley and Brian Cox have given the festival a boost. It is a bit too early to be drawing comparisons if you ask me, presumably it was written on Friday 27th several days before the end of the festival. Press coverage of the film festival overall seems lukewarm at best.

Home Office visa regulations relaxed for festival performers

As previously reported, the Home Office is to relax the visa rules for performers who are visiting the UK to appear in cultural events such as the festival. eGov Monitor explains. This article in the Times covers various visa changes.

Film Festival funding

The Herald reports towards the end of this article that the Film Festival is to receive 60K from the Scottish Parliament's new Expo fund for festivals.

Comedy "gang of 4" launches web site


Book Festival box office busy on first day

The BBC web site reports that 10 of this year's events were sold out within hours of the box office opening to the public on June 20th, 2008. They include Sean Connery, Tony Benn and BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

Comedy "gang of 4" - City council reportedly joins the fray

The Scotsman reports that it has learnt that city councillors are considering cancelling leasing agreements with the Underbelly and Assembly Rooms from next year if the comedy festival is seen to damage the Fringe brand. The following day there is a short Q&A with Councillor Cardownie, the festivals and events champion.

Fringe box office system now available after problems

1025 on the 17th and it is all systems go ... so they say. Cynics like me will let other punters act as guinea pigs for a day or two before daring to use it in anger. One point of note - tickets that you request to be posted to you will not be sent until mid-July. Update on 18th June 2008 - the system appeared to stay up yesterday from what I could see. Further update on 19th June 2008 - the Scotsman voices criticisms of the new system from smaller venues, along with indications that there are still some problems. On a personal note, I tried it last night on the web and on the first show that I tried to book I received a message that there were problems trying to allocate seats (or was that tickets?) .. please try again later. I gave up.

Fringe box office system problems

Chortle reports that the Fringe encountered problems with its new box office system on the first day that tickets were on sale to the public (9th June,2008). Update from the Fringe web site on the 10th .. "All website, telephone and counter sales have been suspended until we are able to resolve the problems we are having with our computer system." At the risk of giving hints of my day job, I would bet a pint or two on inadequate testing.

12th June 2008 - Fringe say that the problems have now been resolved but they plan to do further testing today, and therefore they are delaying the availability of the system until tomorrow, Friday the 13th (oh dear!!).

Friday 13th and still no box office. Meanwhile, the Scotsman claims that the Fringe may revert to the old box office system if the problems continue.

1030am on Monday 16th June and the Fringe is confident that the system will be up and running manana (i.e. Tuesday 17th). 1700 same day and they are still confident.

Portrait Gallery restoration project

I managed to miss this item when it was originally announced just before Christmas 2007. Portrait of a Nation is a major redevelopment project that will double the gallery space and allow a 50% increase in the number of works on display. It is estimated that it will cost 17.6m with 4.8m coming from the Lottery and a 5.1m grant from the Scottish government. It is envisaged that the building will be closed to the public from spring 2009 until autumn 2011.

Post Fringe programme launch ... and yet more on the comedy "gang of 4"

The Comedy Festival debate continues: Andrew Eaton "fighting the good fight" in the Scotsman; Fringe 4 hit back in Chortle; Jackie Clune in the Observer asks us not to lose our sense of humour over the "comedy super league"; and Tommy Sheppard, director of the Stand comedy clubs has a go at the gang of 4.

Comedy Festival launches without a sponsor

The comedy gang of 4 reckon that there are 3 potential sponsors but nobody had signed up by the time of the launch.

Assembly threatens to pull out of Fringe by 2010

William Burdett-Coutts threatens to withdraw from the festival by 2010 if Edinburgh City Council go ahead with their plans to redevelop the Assembly Rooms in 2011. The plans will mean that Burdett-Coutts will lose 3 of the performing spaces and the bar

Pre Fringe programme launch gnashing of teeth

Mark Fisher in the Scotsman marks the imminent launch of the Fringe programme next week (5th June 2008) by asking if the Fringe has lost its soul (another version appeared several days later in the Guardian). At a rough guess this is only the first of several articles in the press that will appear on this theme between now and August. Meanwhile, a bit more sparring between the "evil comedy gang of 4" and its "enemies" can be found in the Times and Sunday Herald. Comedian Doug Stanhope makes a stand (or possibly just pulls a stunt) against agents / promoters / venues, and Brian Hennigan also has a go at the middle men in the Scotsman. Brian Ferguson of the Scotsman joins in the debate.

Punter sought to become IE Comedy Awards Panellist

The Fringe web site indicates that a comedy punter is being sought to become a panellist for the Intelligent Finance Comedy Awards for 2008. If you are Scottish or have been resident in Scotland for at least 5 years - not to mention that you are interested in comedy - then look here for further details. Applications must be in by 2nd June 2008.

Usher Hall refurbishment delays

The Edinburgh Evening News reports that festival-goers will have to use portable loos at the Usher Hall during this year's festival, as delays continue with the overall refurbishment of the venue. The current target date for completion of the project is now April 2009. The Herald subsequently detailed the costs of these delays, principally compensation payments to orchestras for the loss of the venue.

Fringe to start earlier from 2009

The Scotsman reports that from 2009 the Fringe will be two days longer than normal. It will be following in the footsteps of the EIF by extending to take in the entire initial weekend. Seasoned punters will of course be aware that the Fringe has unofficially been starting before the weekend with some shows in preview from around Wednesday or Thursday in what is known as week 0. The Traverse theatre is a frequent early starter.

The Scotsman subsequently gives next year's dates, Friday 7th August to Monday 31st August.

Royal Mile street performers to pay

The Scotsman reports that street acts will be charged 20 per week (or 50 for the whole feast) to perform in the popular High Street area during this year's festival. More details subsequently appeared on the Fringe web site.

Mid-May and a mini flurry of news from The Scotsman

The Scotsman reckons that: the comedy "gang of 4" are struggling to get hold of a big name sponsor; the Spiegel Tent will be forced to reduce the size of its venue; and that there are moves to prevent the Meadows being used for this year's festival (the City Council subsequently gave the go-ahead to two shows - The Lady Boys of Bangkok and the Chinese State Circus - but have commissioned a review into further use of the Meadows).

Aurora Nova will not be at the 2008 Fringe

A news clip in the Scotsman on the "Festivals Forum", a cross-festivals body that was recommended in the Thundering Hooves report of 2006, appears to indicate that funding issues will mean that the Aurora Nova venue, home of dance and physical theatre since 2001, will not operate at the 2008 Fringe. This is extremely bad news, if true. Several hours later - looks like it is true.

The Stage subsequently reports the views of Aurora Nova founder and director, Wolgang Hoffman, on 6th May, 2008.

New Immigration Rules not to Apply to Fringe Performers

The BBC (and others) reports that new immigration rules that would require performers to find a sponsor will not now apply to the Fringe after the Scottish Secretary, Des Browne, discussed the problem with the UK Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne.

Jon Morgan, Fringe director, gives a cautious welcome to the news in the Stage on 14th May 2008. It appears that the Fringe will be exempt because it is not regarded as a commercial venture.

Bad News on Arts Funding Merry-go-round

The Scottish Art Council has announced 7m worth of grants. The main winners are in the areas of experimental music and art, disabled companies plus newer dance and visual arts groups. Losers include the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues festival, the Queens Hall plus theatre companies Borderline, 7:84 and Suspect Culture.

Festivals Forum Chair Appointed

Susan Rice, Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland has been appointed as chair of the Forum. The Forum is made up of senior executive and political representatives from Festivals Edinburgh, the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council, EventScotland, the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Screen, Scottish Enterprise, VisitScotland and Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, was set up last year following a recommendation in the Thundering Hooves report.  (When clicking the links in this news item beware that the Scottish Arts Council web site can be very slow).

Time will tell if this forum will simply become another "talking shop", a political move to avoid coherent support and funding for the festivals.

More Concerns over Visas

The issue relating to the costs of the recent visa laws which was raised last year (see 2007 news snippets) has been brought up again by the Fringe director, Jon Morgan, who fears that the international flavour of the Fringe may be affected, as non-EU performers become loath to pay to get visas.

Trouble finding sponsor for proposed Tracey Emin retrospective

... according to the Edinburgh Evening News.

First Moan about Film Festival moving to June?

... certainly the first that I can remember seeing - Calum Waddell in the Guardian. The commenters after the blog seem to put him in the minority.

Yet more on "Comedy gang of four in cultural revolution ... "

The Herald uses the final moments before time is called (mid-April) on applications to perform at this year's Fringe to produce a longer measured piece on the controversy surrounding the introduction of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival by the gang of 4. See the previous entries on this topic below.

Major Outdoor Gigs unlikely at 2008 Festival

The Evening News reports that there are unlikely to be any major outdoor gigs in venues such as Princes Street Gardens or Meadowbank stadium at this year's festival.

Increased Funding for Film Festival

The International Film Festival is one of several newly defined Cutural Cinema Hubs in Scotland to be awarded funds by Scottish Screen. It will receive 250,000 this year, an increase of 100,000 over last year.

No Visual Arts in 2008 International Festival

Having reintroduced the visual arts in 2007, it is being dropped again this year. Jonathan Mills, artistic director of the EIF, blames a lack of money but promises that it will be included every second year. This punter thinks that Brian McMaster, the previous artistic director, was right in his assertion that the Edinburgh Art Festival caters satisfactorily for the visual arts; it hosted an excellent programme in 2007. Mills should not waste his inadequate funds by competing in this area.

"Comedy gang of four in cultural revolution ... "

says The Scotsman. Assembly, Pleasance, Underbelly and Gilded Balloon are planning to promote an Edinburgh Comedy Festival in 2008. As the shows will still be part of the Fringe, this appears to be a purely marketing device for the moment, one of the major aims being to attract sponsors. Naturally, smaller venues see this venture as a further move to marginalise them, while some critics speculate on the possibility of a breakaway from the Fringe as early as 2009. The Scotsman also quotes some comedians, including Stewart Lee, who are unhappy with this idea. A shorter, less colourful article on this news can be found in The Stage.

More on "Comedy gang of four in cultural revolution ... "

The controversy surrounding the introduction of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival is gathering pace. Brian Logan, comedy reviewer for the Guardian, writes a thoughtful blog on the subject, lamenting the potential loss of "the spirit of the Fringe". The comments after the blog are also well worth reading.

The Edinburgh Evening News has got round to producing a more measured article than previously found in the Scotsman's stable.

Ah! the gang of four speak via Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance and spokesperson for the Edinburgh Comedy Festival.

David Lister at the Independent weighs in with us cynics.

Philanthropist to return to US over non-domicile tax

Carol Hogel, an American pianist turned philanthropist, is to return to the US in protest over the UK government's plans for a tax on non-domiciles. Hogel, who has lived in Scotland for the last 24 years, has reportedly gifted 20m to the arts over the years through her family charitable trust, the Dunard Fund. Beneficiaries have included the Edinburgh International Festival, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the The Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

6m funding over 3 years for Scottish talent at the Festival

As reported in the Edinburgh Evening News, the Scottish Executive has announced the Edinburgh Festival Expo fund. 6m will be made available over three years to productions, artists or events that premiere at the festival and which feature Scottish-based talent.

BBC coverage of International Festival Criticised

The Herald reports that the Scottish Broadcasting Commission considers that broadcasting in Scotland lacks "ambition and imagination". Their interim report includes strong criticism from Jonathan Mills, artistic director of the International Festival, of the BBC's coverage of the event.

This punter would expand that criticism to the Beeb's coverage of the entire festival which has degenerated over the years.

Funding for Film Festival

The UK Film Council has awarded the International Film Festival 1.88m, spread over three years. This represents a 50% increase in the festival's funding. Official press release can be found here.

George Square Theatre to Concentrate on Musicals at Fringe 2008

In a joint venture between The University of Edinburgh Festivals Office, the Pleasance, and Chris Grady, founder of the Musical Theatre Matters company, The George Square Theatre will focus on musical shows at the 2008 Fringe.

125m Contemporary Art Collection Secured by National Galleries & Tate

The National Galleries of Scotland and the Tate have obtained a collection of modern art works from Anthony d'Offay, the art dealer, in a part gift / part sales agreement; they are paying the original cost price of 26.5m but the collection is currently estimated to be worth 125m. It includes works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Ron Mueck, Andy Warhol and Diane Arbus. See the press release.

InvAsian at 2008 Fringe

InvAsian will provide an Asian cultural theme to the 2008 Fringe with acts from Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan and China. It will be based at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh's Quincentenary Hall. InvAsian is the result of a partnership between production company clubWest and Tartan Silk Public Relations.

More Plaudits for Edinburgh and the Festival in Wanderlust Awards

Wanderlust, a magazine for the independent-minded traveller, will announce its awards in the March 2008 edition. Luang Prabang in Laos has come first in the Best Cities category with Edinburgh in 10th place. The Rio de Janeiro carnival tops the Best Festival category with Edinburgh managing 3rd place for the "festival" and 6th place for the Fringe.

Demise of T on the Fringe

T on the Fringe, a partnership between Tennents Lager and DF Concerts which has been bringing music gigs to the Fringe for the last eight years, has been scrapped. Tennents Lager says that it has taken the format as far it could, while DF Concerts hope to continue the theme under a new name.

Study Commissioned to Look at Edinburgh's Cultural Needs

PMP, a UK-based consultancy firm, has been commissioned by The City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh & Lothian (SEEL) to review the requirement for cultural venues in Edinburgh over the next 20 years. As well as looking at existing events the study will include events that do not currently visit the city due to a lack of appropriate venue space. The report is scheduled for delivery in Spring 2008.

This study follows on from Thundering Hooves which was commisioned in 2006 by the Scottish Arts Council to compare Edinburgh's Festival against the global competition.

Squabbles Over Funding and Refurbishment

There are plans to refurbish the Assembly Rooms although the details relating to the precise scope of the work and the proposed dates appear to be somewhat fuzzy. William Burdett-Coutts, the artistic director of Assembly at festival time, had complained that he was not consulted. He was not happy with the idea of the refurbishment taking 18 months with the potential loss of the venue for one festival - in 2010 or 2011 depending on which date you believe - or with the potential loss of the ground floor to a restaurant and bar. It is unclear what the current position is.

The Queen's Hall and the King's Theatre, who both see themselves threatened with closure, have subsequently weighed in with their own requests for funding, coveting the money that is earmarked for the Assembly Rooms. The Queen's Hall made their initial play during the 2007 festival with the King's Theatre following suite in November 2007. See SaveTheKing's web site for recent information.

No doubt this squabbling is in part fanned by the media. We shall just await events.