Edinburgh Festivals cancelled for 2020

The Edinburgh Fringe, Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival are off for 2020

Feature by Peter Simpson | 01 Apr 2020
  • Fringe Population

Edinburgh’s August festivals have been scrapped for 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent global cultural shutdown. The festivals – which bring hundreds of thousands of artists, performers and audience members to the city every August – have pulled the plug on this year’s events after weeks of speculation over whether or not they would go ahead.

In a statement on their website, the Edinburgh Fringe Society’s Shona McCarthy said: “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.”

Artists who have already applied to perform at the Fringe will receive a full refund of their registration fee or the option to roll it over for 2021. Ticket-holders who have purchased tickets for 2020 shows, many of which have been on sale for weeks, will be refunded.

In a statement, Summerhall – who run one of the largest theatre programmes at the Fringe – announced that they are scrapping their 2020 programme and returning deposits to artists scheduled to perform. Summerhall’s programme manager Verity Leigh said: “While we are of course sad that our Fringe programme cannot go ahead, our absolute priority is the safety of our audience, artists and all those involved in the festival.

“2020 was set to be a special year for Summerhall as we celebrated our 10th Fringe programme. That means that in planning 2020 we’ve already taken some time to look back on the previous 9 years and the many amazing theatre-makers who have shown their work at Summerhall. We are so proud of that legacy, and we look forward to celebrating some of those artists and makers, along with plenty of new voices, as part of our 10th Fringe in 2021.”

EIF, Book Festival and Art Festival all cancelled

Away from the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival has announced that it is cancelling its 2020 edition. Fergus Linehan, EIF’s director, said in a statement: “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.”

The Edinburgh International Book Festival and Edinburgh Art Festival have also announced that their 2020 editions will not go ahead as planned. Nick Barley of the Book Festival said the festival has plans to host some online events in 2020, but that “planning to bring large numbers of people from all over the world together in Edinburgh in August is not appropriate this year.” Edinburgh Art Festival’s Sorcha Carey said: “While it has become impossible to deliver a festival this year, we remain fully committed to doing all we can to continue to support our visual arts community during what is going to be a hugely challenging time in the weeks and months to come.”

The 74th edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, originally set for June, was postponed indefinitely in mid-March.