Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been cancelled for 2020

Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been cancelled for 2020

credit: David Monteith-Hodge

The world's largest open access celebration of arts and culture has been called off due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

The Fringe Society has announced that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will not be going ahead due to the health and safety risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the city's other August festivals, the unprecedented decision to cancel has been made for the first time in the Fringe's 70-plus year history. Since its inception in 1947, when eight theatre groups came to perform on the 'fringes' of the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has become the largest celebration of the arts on the planet, welcoming performers and artists of all stripes from all over the world, and making a name for itself as a testing ground for up-and-coming talent, avant-garde forms and launching the careers of many artists and performers.

As an open-access festival, the Fringe is not 'owned' or operated by any single entity, but following the announcement of the Fringe Society, many venues and programmers have echoed their intention to suspend all events for this year, such as Pleasance, Underbelly, ZOO, Summerhall, Assembly and more. In the coming days, the Fringe Society will be continuing their support of Fringe artists, including refunding registration fees.

The loss of the Fringe and the other August festivals this year will be a significant blow to performers, staff and venue operators, but also to the cultural and economic fabric of the city itself, which hosts over 5,000 events and welcomes audiences of 4.4 million to the Scottish capital every summer. This difficult decision was made in light of the ongoing dangers to health and safety posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has enforced unprecedented restrictions around travel, as well as self-isolation and social distancing measures across nations throughout the world.

The Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Shona McCarthy, says, 'It's heart-breaking that the Fringe and our sister August festivals will not take place as planned this summer. However, having taken advice and considered all the options, we collectively believe this is the only appropriate response.

'The safety of participants, audiences, local residents and indeed everyone connected to our festivals will always come first. Our thoughts today are with the doctors, nurses, health and social care professionals on the front line, as well as all those affected by this dreadful pandemic. Our sympathies too are with the thousands of artists and participants directly affected by today's decision – we will do everything we can to support you over the coming months.

'Culture brings out the best in us. It gives the marginalised a voice, it shapes and reshapes how we think of ourselves and, crucially, it unites us. Since their inception in 1947 the Edinburgh festivals have existed to champion the flowering of the human spirit and, in the face of this truly unprecedented global emergency, we believe that this spirit is needed now more than ever.'

Read the Fringe Society's full statement here.

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