Edinburgh’s international festivals were cancelled for the first time in 70 years on Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said.

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”.

“However, having taken advice and considered all the options, we collectively believe this is the only appropriate response,” she added.

The festivals, a platform for both professional and amateur performers, are estimated to be worth around GBP 300 million (USD 371 million, 340 million euros) 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.

The International Festival, which sees musicians, actors and dancers perform at venues in the city, began in 1947 as a way to reconcile people and nations through art after World War II.

The Tattoo, which started in 1950, brings together military performers in a concert outside Edinburgh Castle.

McCarthy said the performing arts had “an important role to play in providing a prism through which to process and understand the multiple traumas of this pandemic”.

 

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It is with deep sadness that today we announce the cancellation of Edinburgh Art Festival 2020. Our decision is taken in response to the ongoing risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to prioritise the safety of our audiences, artists, participants and staff. See our full statement through the link in our bio. Image: Bobby Niven, Palm House, 2017. Photo: Johnny Barrington.

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

“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,” he added.

“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.

“Work begins straightaway on a 2021 Festival season that will boost both our spirits and our economy.” The festival’s organisers will refund all participant registration fees and tickets for the events.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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