Scots should show their appreciation for Festival performers helping to keep the show on the road, writes RUSSELL DALGLEISH
Recently I was reminded by a senior figure in the world of event management in the US that the largest ticketed events on earth have been the Olympics, the football World Cup, and the Edinburgh Festivals. However, while the celebrations of sport occur every four years, the August festivals in the Scottish capital take place annually. Makes you proud!
In 2019, the Edinburgh festival Fringe alone sold a record of more than 850,000 tickets for 750-plus shows and, importantly, attracted more locals to events than ever before. The London-based Centre for Economic and Business Research estimated its value to the economy at more than £1 billion.
Last year Covid-19 caused the first ever cancellation of the festivals and there was a high probability that it would claim this year’s festivities too, leaving a big hole in the economy of the city and beyond. Thankfully, the shows will go on this month, though because many travel restrictions are only now being lifted we will see a fraction of the number of international visitors that even a reduced range of events deserves to attract. Also, with health and safety remaining our number one concern, shows will play to reduced capacity to meet social distancing rules.
Against this backdrop I felt that we had to find a way to use the resources of our global Scottish diaspora to assist, hence I was delighted when contacted by Foodtank, an American not-for-profit organisation focused on alleviating hunger and obesity through promoting change in food systems. It is bringing its US show, wecametodance, featuring a Scottish cast, to Edinburgh for a three-week run. The show addresses concerns about climate change in a unique, inspiring, and interactive way and will be on three times a day in Nicholson Square (venue 209).
Bernard Pollack, chairman of Foodtank told me that one of the key reasons for putting on the show in Edinburgh was the world’s focus on Scotland ahead of COP26, a reminder to us all of how much attention the UN gathering in Glasgow this November is attracting.
The last 18 months have been tough for all, but we must take every opportunity to support those who are now trying to drive our world forward positively, which is the case with Foodtank. I have nothing but admiration for this theatre production group who have come to Scotland from the US despite the need to physically isolate in hotels only to discover that many Scots remain unaware the Festival is even taking place in 2021.
Our goal at SBN is to benefit Scotland, hence our naturally positive reaction to help promote this show. We receive no financial return for this effort, but simply “get involved” because it’s the right thing to do. If you would also like to get involved, then please get in touch – how about a private show in your office?
In true SBN tradition I have a laser-ask of you. Please look to attend at least one Festival show this August to show your support for those who have taken on the incredible challenge of supporting Scotland. Not only will you be supporting individual productions, you will be demonstrating that Scotland is open for business to the world.
Russell Dalgleish is co-founder and chairman of Scottish Business Network and writes regularly for Daily Business
Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe run from 6 to 30 August