Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Still Planning to Go Ahead in 2020

Submitted by edg on Sat, 21 Mar '20 7.59am
Virgin Money Fringe Festival Arches 2019 - Pre Covid-19
Robert Alstead

As emergency measures are implemented to control the spread of Covid-19, Edinburgh Fringe Society Chief Executive Shona McCarthy has said that this year’s Fringe will go ahead.

“A Fringe will happen, a programme will happen, but it just might not look as it has before,” said McCarthy in a statement yesterday. The Fringe Society is the official face of the freewheeling Fringe, with its key responsibility the publishing and marketing of the Fringe programme each year. 

McCarthy admitted that there remain many unknowns around how long this period of social distancing and self-isolation would need to carry on for. 

“We still don’t know what the future holds. There’s science and modelling and graphs coming at us from every corner and they all tell us something different. So we will keep focused, carry on with a view that there will be a Fringe in August,” she said.

In the past week, the Edinburgh International Science Festival, which was due to take place in April, was cancelled, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, due to take place in June, was postponed. 

Theatres in Edinburgh went dark this week and cinemas have closed. Pubs, clubs, restaurants, gyms and other public gathering places were ordered to close by PM Boris Johnson yesterday. 

With more and more countries enforcing travel bans, Edinburgh Airport has seen a massive fall in passenger numbers and will be implementing a consolidation plan with job cuts as it moves into “a period of zero or close to zero passenger demand”.

Festival Programmes Delayed

The Edinburgh International Festival also cancelled its programme launch, planned for earlier this week, due to “the rapidly changing Coronavirus situation”.

The EIF said: “It is important to emphasise that we are still planning to deliver a Festival this August but we think it best to wait a number of weeks before launching our programme.”

“We are working as quickly as we can to provide certainty to everyone. Our focus remains on presenting the Festival, getting artists back on our stages and audiences back into concert halls and theatres as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The Fringe is delaying production of the printed programme “by at least four weeks” and has left open the possibility of not printing a programme this year. The programme launch is currently planned for 6th July.

McCarthy said: “We will keep an open mind about the printed programme, what it might look like and what other tools Fringe audiences can use to navigate the festival. There are no fixed positions in the current environment, but neither do we want to make rash or damaging decisions for participants, audiences, staff, or the community of businesses and partners who work hard to make this festival happen every year.”

In spite of the uncertainty, many Fringe tickets have already gone on sale. The Pleasance, Assembly Fringe and Underbelly have all released tranches of tickets for shows in August.

More tranches of Fringe tickets are due to go on sale on 16th April, 14th May, and 10th June.

“We continue to make plans to present our 36th consecutive year on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August,” said Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance.

New timeline for Fringe Programme registration and launch:

16 Apr – on sale four

6 May – registration deadline

13 May – advertising deadline

14 May – on sale five

21 May – deadline for changes to the programme

10 Jun – on sale six

Week commencing 6 July – programme launch