What's the price of culture if Festival is at 'breaking point'?
Plus parents protest at childcare cuts for special needs children, Winter Festivals shake-up and fundraiser for CodeClan students
THE BACKDROP FOR OUR FESTIVE CAPITAL
BREAKING POINT: The Chief Executive of the Edinburgh International Festival stepped into the limelight on the opening weekend to warn that the Festival is “stretched to breaking point” because of a lack of public sector funding. Francesca Hegyi, speaking to Scotland on Sunday, also posed the question of why the Scottish Government can find money to support the first ever UCI Cycling World Championships, but not recurring festival events.
“We should all celebrate the fact that Scotland has attracted this internationally important event [UCI Cycling World Championships], but we can also wonder why one-off events like this are backed with levels of public investment that festivals can only dream of, when arts organisations up and down the country have been told for over a decade that the cupboard is bare,” she said.
Julia Amour, director of Festival Edinburgh, representing all of the Edinburgh festivals, speaking at a recent Chamber of Commerce event, said: “There is a debate to be had about what is Scotland’s strategy for home-grown and inbound events, such as the UCI Cycling World Championships, because what has tended to happen in Scotland is that we are being very opportunistic. The national events strategy is now being reviewed and this is a really great time to say this is not just about sporting events.” [See our Festival First Weekend report below].
The Edinburgh Inquirer is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber, if you haven’t already.
FESTIVE SPREAD: The summer Festivals are only just underway, so why are we talking about Christmas? Well, a far-reaching overhaul of the Capital’s Christmas and New Year celebrations has just been ordered, perhaps the biggest since the launch of the official Hogmanay Street Party in 1993.
After the Festival dropped its August fireworks, the Hogmanay ones may be about to go too, as well as the large-scale Street Party and New Year pop concerts. Drone displays and light shows will be considered as alternatives, while the popular Torchlight Procession is set to make a comeback.
Festivities will be staged across the Capital, in line with council plans to spread events more widely, like The Proclaimers summer concerts on Leith Links. Events will be staged in Corstorphine, Gorgie/Dalry, Leith, Morningside and Bruntsfield, Nicolson Street and Clerk Street, Portobello, Stockbridge and Tollcross, as well as the city centre.
The new-look celebrations will run from next year for the Christmas Festival and for Hogmanay in 2025. The different direction is designed in part to minimise the impact on Princes Street Gardens. The cost of staging the combined Christmas and New Year festivals is believed to have risen above £6.5 million, but council funding will be limited to a little more than £800,000.
YOUR EDINBURGH BRIEFING
CODECLAN CROWDFUNDER: An Edinburgh-based student at CodeClan has launched a crowdfunder to help fellow students at Scotland’s first digital skills academy finish their training. CodeClan announced their liquidation and closure last week, and ceased all operations on Friday, with around 60 staff losing their jobs. The company was set up in 2015 to help fill the digital skills gap in Scotland by offering full-time training courses in coding and data analysis.
Student Stuart Ure (34) from Edinburgh, set up the crowdfunder to help students complete their courses. He told visitors to the website he gave up his job and spent his savings in order to attend a 16-week professional software development course. You can read about his efforts at Crowdfunding to help CodeClan students to finish their Professional Development bootcamps on JustGiving
CHILDCARE PROTEST: Parents of disabled children in Edinburgh have launched a petition to defend the right of their youngsters to attend vital after-school clubs. They are concerned that the council appears to have cut funding for the Edinburgh Childcare 4 All scheme just weeks before the new school year starts.
The online petition states: “Disabled children returning to school after the holidays have been told that they can no longer attend their clubs and play with their friends. And their parents have been left scrambling for alternative after school care with two weeks' notice.
“These families need your help to tell CEC to reverse their cruel funding cut. We believe that Edinburgh Childcare should be accessible 4 All children! You might think this is obvious, but if your child has additional support needs, it’s not necessarily so straightforward. After school clubs and other childcare providers may not have enough staff to support them if they need an extra person to help them with additional needs such as mobility, learning, or toileting.”
The petition claims there has been no consultation with parents, and that local MSPs and councillors appeared unaware. The issue is also gaining significant traction on the influential Facebook site Edinburgh EGG, which has more than 14,000 members, and is a platform “powered by women, supporting each other.” To read more about the petition, you can visit it on Keep Edinburgh Childcare 4 All! | 38 Degrees
IT’S A GAS: The transformation of the landmark Granton gasholder into a public park has taken a major step forward with the dismantling of the huge bell that used to float up the historic structure as it filled with water. The work is part of a £1.3bn restoration of the Granton Waterfront into a ‘sustainable coastal town’. The 122-year-old gasholder will house a large outdoor space hosting public art, sports, markets, community events, festivals and more. McLaughlin & Harvey began work on the site in January on behalf of the Council using £16.4m from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund. The Scottish Government has also provided an additional £1.2m to provide a high quality public park. [Don’t miss Edinburgh Inquirer’s on-the-ground examination of Granton’s regeneration in forthcoming issues.]
MUSIC TO THE EARS: Scotland's first vinyl pressing plant is set to open later this year – and they are inviting ambitious young musicians to join them on their venture. Seabass Vinyl will be family-owned – by David and Dominique Harvey – and situated at Macmerry Industrial Estate in Tranent, East Lothian. The finishing touches are being put to the facilities there, and production is expected to begin this Autumn. They are targeting a production run of between 50,000 to 60,000 records a month and intend to focus on local and Scottish talent whenever possible. To that end, they have partnered with The Scottish Album of the Year awards with applications open for the Sound of Young Scotland, an award for emerging talent, to offer a deal worth up to £10,000 including a run of up to 500 vinyl pressings of the winner’s debut album.
RIGHT ROAD: The chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, Prof Devi Sridhar, has praised the city’s efforts to encourage active travel and invest in public transport as life-saving. In an article in the Guardian, she said measures such as segregated cycle lanes increased travel by bike and decreased car journeys, helping make the city a healthier place to live. The city was making significant progress, she added, but was still lagging behind many major European cities, including Amsterdam and Paris. Amsterdam, Paris, Oslo, Barcelona or Copenhagen.
HOMELESS RISE: A dramatic increase has seen the number of people finding themselves homeless in the city return to pre-Covid levels. More than 3,300 households registered as homeless, meaning they had no secure accommodation, in the year to April, a rise of 30%, although the number rough sleeping has fallen. With almost 200 applications for every council home advertised, the city council’s housing convener councillor Jane Meagher said the root of the problem is a lack of affordable housing.
COOL SUNDAY AFTERNOON SOUNDS: The Buskin’ Sharks Big Band giving it licks at the Boardwalk Beach Club on Cramond Foreshore yesterday. The Boardwalk Beach Club, a Scottish Business Award 2023 finalist, is run and owned by livewire Eddie Tait, an advocate for the regeneration of the Silverknowes waterfront as a shining coastal asset for Edinburgh. Eddie Tait told Edinburgh Inquirer that the waterfront’s development needs a plan to make it a popular tourist venue. [Watch out for our upcoming coverage on the future of Cramond Foreshore.]
SETTING THE STANDARD: Investors in abrdn will be looking for the finer details on the strategic priorities of Asia, Sustainability, Alternatives, and UK Savings & Wealth in the half-yearly results in Edinburgh on Wednesday. The issue of how to achieve strong returns on UK savings and wealth remains in sharp focus as funds are being squeezed by poorly performing global markets. Chief Executive Officer Stephen Bird will also be able to give more details on the acquisition of ii in May 2022.
SALES NEWS: The monthly British Retail Consortium sales monitor comes out on Tuesday, with an update on the performance of UK high streets. Retailers will be hoping that the uplift reported in June continues through July, although given the change in weather that may be in doubt - the sunshine of June was a well-noted factor in the stronger performance.
MORE THAN HOT AIR: Just in case you think there isn’t enough to do in Edinburgh, why not try the Green Home Festival, which is 11 free shows on low-carbon living? It is being organised by the Construction Industry Collective Voice (CICV), with contributions from Home Energy Scotland, Scottish Water, and industry bodies SNIPEF and SELECT, Scotland’s trade association for electrical and architectural contractors.
The Herald on Sunday recently had Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, tell us that the biggest challenge the nation faces is bringing existing properties – 2.5 million homes and 100,000 other buildings − up to climate friendly heating standards. “For most people, it means either a very energy-efficient heat pump or another modern form of electric heating.”
The very mention of heat pumps in Edinburgh brings out a flurry of protest. Harvie’s heat pump plan hit immediate criticism from the likes of Lord Willie Haughey, who made his money through selling refrigeration units around the globe, so he knows a thing or two about heat transfer. While the idea of blended-hydrogen for domestic gas boilers has been dismissed by certain engineering experts and shunned by community trials.
The big Edinburgh Inquirer question is how will our sandstone tenement homes and the stone-built town-houses with high ceilings [in a rainy climate which is often very damp and requires heating – even during the Festival] be able to use heat pumps which cannot reach the required level for consistent home heating? The Green Home Festival session on 16 August at 11am, entitled Cut Bills and Get Heat Pump Ready could give us better answers. The Green Home Festival sessions, all at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors at 10 Charlotte Square, should be much more than a lot of hot air. (14-18 August).
BURRY MAN: Perhaps the strangest tradition to be found anywhere in Edinburgh and the Lothians returns on Friday as the Burry Man takes to the streets of South Queensferry. Said to date back to the 12th century, the custom sees a locally-born man dressed head to toe in a suit of prickly burrs take a day-long tour of the town, stopping to share a whisky toast at many of the places he visits. The biggest challenge for whoever receives the honour of being the Burry Man is taking a toilet break while wearing the ceremonial outfit. The Burry Man procession is one of the highlights of the week-long Ferry Fair. (The Ferry Fair, 6-12 August)
FOURTH SERVINGS: Michelin star chef Stuart Muir Dine and business partner Paul Brennan are opening their fourth venue in the Capital. Dine Craiglockhart will follow the successful format of affordable, high-quality, seasonal food on offer at the Dine brasseries in Cambridge Street and Murrayfield and the Tollhouse in Canonmills. (Dine Craiglockhart, 101B Colinton Road, opening date tbc)
VINYL REVIVAL: Umbrella Vinyl opened its doors in the Southside on Saturday to a warm welcome from music fans. Run by Nick Langford and husband and wife Josh and Laura Thompson, who originally met in Hong Kong, it stocks an eclectic mix of new and secondhand vinyl, including jazz, blues, funk, soul, Latin, Afro-beat, highlife, ska, reggae, dub, world, experimental, soundtracks and Bollywood. (Umbrella Vinyl, Valleyfield Street, Southside)
EDINBURGH FESTIVAL EXTRA
PROFOUND AND EXHILARATING OPENING
First Festival Weekend: The torrential rain followed by brief periods of sunshine have not dampened the festive spirits in the opening weekend. The Edinburgh International Festival was given a rousing start with Tan Dun conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus in the Scottish premiere of Dun’s Buddha Passion. Ken Walton, in The Scotsman, found the soloists “exhilarating”, while the “stentorian throat singing of khoomei overtone vocalist Batubagen added a visceral mysticism.”
In the Lyceum Theatre, Dusk, based on the film Dogville by Lars von Trier, from Comedie de Geneve and acclaimed director Brazilian Christiane Jatahy, was a worthy five-star opening theatre piece about Grace’s journey for acceptance by a hostile community, described by critic Joyce McMillan as “profoundly moving”.
The outstanding American violinist Stefan Jackiw & Frends [Jessica Bodner, viola, Sterling Elliott, cello, and Orion Weiss, piano] was an uplifting and dynamic start to the Queen’s Hall series. Jackiw plays with verve and exemplary technique with his folksy-style playing on Sir James MacMillan’s Violin Sonata, and a Brahms Quartet with its exuberant gypsy violin flourishes. While Ives’s Piano Trio was described by Mary Miller in The Scotsman as “A fine piece of chaos and reflection”.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth, were in scintillating form at the Usher Hall last night. Hans Abrahamsen’s orchestral song cycle Let me tell you, based on Shakespeare’s Ophelia’s story and performed by Jennifer France.
All of this will relieve and delight Festival Director Nicola Benedetti, on her first outing as director.
Tonight Cecile McLoran Salvant [her opening show was described as ‘marshalling diverse musical styles and tonal shifts with seamless storytelling skills”] makes her second appearance at the Usher Hall.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, under the baton of Ivan Fischer, begins three evenings of music including Dvorak’s Symphony No8, Bartok’s Piano Concerto No3, Kodaly and Mendelssohn’s sparkling Violin Concerto and Scottish Symphony at the Usher Hall.
CLIMATE CHANGER: We’ve got a great deal of sympathy for Baillie Gifford, blamed by climate activist Greta Thunberg for her decision to pull out of the International Book Festival. Pension fund investor Baillie Gifford have been a main sponsor of the book fest for nearly 20 years and have helped secure literature, writing and ideas within the Edinburgh festivals universe. There is no denying that the capital’s leading fund management house still has substantial funds tied into fossil-fuel related investments [only 2% according to the business], but this is a long-term business that has embraced the new low carbon technologies. The fund managers were first to support TESLA, the US electric car makers, and have been heavily invested in Zoom, which did well to keep the planet moving during the Covid crisis. “Currently, 5% of our clients’ money is invested in companies whose sole purpose is to develop clean energy solutions,” stated Baillie Gifford.
Greta Thunberg’s reasoning is clear. “As a climate activist I cannot attend an event which receives sponsorship from Baillie Gifford, who invest heavily in the fossil fuel industry. Greenwashing efforts by the fossil fuel industry, including sponsorship of cultural events, allow them to keep the social licence to continue operating. I cannot and do not want to be associated with events that accept this kind of sponsorship.”
Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said he was disappointed and applauded Thunberg’s principled stance. However, he said: “We strongly believe that Baillie Gifford are part of the solution to the climate emergency. They are early investors in progressive climate positive companies, providing funds to help them grow. While they acknowledge there is still work to do, we have seen them make rapid progress throughout our 19-year relationship.” The Book Festival is refunding all ticket-buyers in full.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival begins this Saturday, 12 August until 28 August. Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place, [Look out for our preview on Saturday].
OUR PICK OF THE FRINGE
Six Chick Flicks… Or a Legally Blonde Pretty Woman Dirty Danced on the Beaches While Writing A Notebook on the Titanic. Two actors, KK Apple and Kerry Ipema, on hilarious form give their take on the Chick Flick genre – with a full Dirty Dancing routine. (Underbelly, Bristo Square (Ermintrude), 9-13 August, 15-28 August).
Alba, Action Theatre Scotland. How do a class of S4 Scottish students handle life during the 2014 Independence Referendum when they have a chance to vote. With new songs and new writing. (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Other Yin) 7-13 August ).
Bloody Elle, Traverse Theatre and Cloudrise Productions. This show, in association with Royal Exchange, was one of the stand-out Fringe First hits of 2022. Now it’s back with a chance to see how Elle gets on with Eve. Original live music. (Traverse Theatre (Traverse 1) 8-13 August).
The Ballad of Truman Capote, written and directed by Andrew O’Hagan, one of Scotland’s finest writers and novelists. Set in the New York Plaza Hotel in 1966. New writing. (TheSpace Niddry Street (Upper Theatre Round), 7-26 August , not 13th).
Absolute Weller. We’ve heard Fringe 2023 is ‘the year for tribute acts’. The back catalogue of The Jam frontman and smooth sounds of The Style Council icon Paul Weller is on for only two nights, via Absolute Weller. Wild Wood released in 1993 remains a pop classic. (The A Club at the Merchants Hall (Main Hall) 12 and 19 August only).
SOME EXTRA DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Exam Results Day, tomorrow. Good luck to everyone waiting on SQA results!
Stobo Castle Ladies Day, Musselburgh Racecourse, this Friday. High fashion and top class horse racing at Scotland’s most popular Ladies Day, plus After Racing Party hosted by JLS superstar and DJ Marvin Humes.
Party at the Palace, Bonnytoun Farm, Linlithgow, Saturday and Sunday. Musical nostalgia fest starring Shed Seven, Happy Mondays, OMD and Sister Sledge .
First Aid Kit, 02 Academy, Wednesday, 16 August. The two-time Brit Award-nominated Söderberg sisters return to the Capital for another sell-out show as they tour their fifth studio album Palomino.
Scotland’s men’s rugby team, who beat France at the weekend, in a battling 25-21 display, play France once again on Saturday in Saint-Etienne, and Georgia on Saturday, 26 August at Murrayfield. That will be Scotland’s last home game before their opening Rugby World Cup game in France against South Africa in Marseille on 10 September.
COMING UP: Don’t miss tomorrow’s edition for our first in-depth look at the city’s faltering attempts to regulate short-term letting businesses.
The Edinburgh Inquirer is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.