Edinburgh arts festivals cancelled for the first time in 70 years

EDINBURGH • Edinburgh's international festivals were cancelled for the first time in 70 years on Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said, in the latest blow for Britain's thriving arts scene.

Theatres, galleries and museums have been shut and music festivals such as Glastonbury called off, in line with government measures to cut close-contact transmission of the virus at mass gatherings.

In Edinburgh, Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said the decision to cancel The Fringe, International Festival, Jazz And Blues Festival, Book Festival and Military Tattoo was "heartbreaking", but "the only appropriate response".

The festivals are estimated to be worth about £300 million (S$533 million) to the local economy. They comprise more than 5,000 events in Scotland's capital every August, featuring some 25,000 artists, writers and performers from 70 countries, and audiences of 4.4 million.

Mr Fergus Linehan, director of Edinburgh International Festival, said the coronavirus crisis made next year's events even more important. "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," he said

Along with the Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis tournament - which has also been cancelled for the first time since World War II - it has traditionally been a fixture of the British summer.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Edinburgh arts festivals cancelled for the first time in 70 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe