Fringe operator ‘facing collapse’ over £1.5m debt

People standing near the Assembly box office at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
09 Aug 2023

Assembly Festival, which operates a major venue at Edinburgh Fringe and delivers around a fifth of the annual festival, is set to run out of money by the end of the year.

Divided opinion over Scottish theatres plan

08 Aug 2023

A new report calls for a commercially-driven theatre company specialising in popular work to be established in Scotland.

Edinburgh Fringe performers criticise 'poster censorship'

08 Aug 2023

Performers at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe claim posters advertising their shows are being censored or defaced as the rules surrounding promotional materials are more strictly enforced.

The Guardian reports that Out of Hand, the printers who produce the posters for shows at the fringe, are required to check all promotional images with Edinburgh city council before proceeding to print. 

Obscenity has always been banned, but this year’s performers say that attitudes to nudity, swearing and sexual content have become stricter. According to Out of Hand’s Commercial Director Nigel Muntz the rules have not changed, but are being “enforced with more rigour”.

Posters that have fallen prey to censorship include images of a line of bare buttocks and a large pair of breasts. A children’s drag performer and an American actress whose show title included a swear word have also had their promotional materials altered.

Producer Richard Lambert, who was asked to pixilate the five pairs of bare buttocks on one of his posters, said that the matter was resolved “amicably but after a minor battle”. He said that similar posters had been approved in previous years.

“We’re sanitising arts and culture,” he said.

Backlash over Edinburgh International Festival ticket pricing

The London Symphony Orchestra pictured at the Barbican.
03 Aug 2023

Concerns raised that introduction of dynamic ticket pricing will impact overall sales and the composition of audiences. 

Edinburgh Fringe programme grows to second largest ever

03 Aug 2023

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is set to present the second-biggest programme in its history after an influx of last-minute additions.

Despite fears that performers would be “priced out” by the high cost of accommodation in the Scottish city, the festival, which begins on Friday (4 August) is set to feature more than 3,600 shows, the second-largest number in its 76-year history.

More than 600 productions and 28 new venues have been added to the official programme since its initial publication in June.

Concerns around accommodation were raised in the run-up to the event after 87% of artists polled following last year’s festival said they felt that the affordability of accommodation and living costs in Edinburgh in August would be a barrier to future participation. 

But an increased amount of student housing made available for this year’s event, coupled with deals agreed with venue operators, is thought to have helped reign in prices, the Scotsman reported.

The flurry of late bookings is partially attributed to the return of the official Fringe app, which was not used at last year’s festival, creating less reliance on inclusion in this year’s printed programme.

The app, launched on July 11, has been downloaded more than 21,000 times.

“We always say that we don’t judge the success of the Fringe by the number of shows that are on,” said Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Fringe Society.

“For us, that’s more about people actually seeing and supporting work, audiences connecting with shows and artists having a positive experience in Edinburgh.”

Lyndsey Jackson, the society’s Deputy Chief Executive said that “signs are positive and ticket sales are going well”.

“They are definitely ahead of this time last year and people are seeing audiences from 2019. Venues are broadly indicating the same,” she said.

Protests over proposed Glasgow Life staff cuts

31 Jul 2023

Demonstrations to take place at Glasgow museums against staff cuts as union demands government help.

Guide to Scotland’s next multi-year funding programme

Three Scottish flags on the Scottish border
31 Jul 2023

Applicants must register intent to apply before 10 August to be in with a chance of receiving multi-year funding from April 2025 onwards.

Creative Scotland publishes updated guide for freelancers

25 Jul 2023

Creative Scotland has published the third edition of its Illustrated Freelancer’s Guide, offering a practical overview of the business and working rights of self-employed and freelance workers.

Updated for 2023/24, the guide is written by author and editor Heather Parry and illustrated by book artist and author Maria Stoian. 

“Freelancers know how difficult it is, increasingly, to protect their rights within the creative industries. Issues with low or late payment, disproportionate administrative burdens, increasing NI and rights grabs are endemic across our sector,” said Parry.

“Change is needed at Government levels to protect freelancers – not least on the matters of parental leave/pay and pensions as well as – but in the meantime we hope the latest iteration of this guide will help freelance workers to understand that they do have rights, and crucially, that they are not alone.”

It follows the publication of Creative Scotland's Illustrated Fair Work Guide last month, aimed at helping employers better understand how to create workplaces that prioritise fair working practices for everyone, including freelancers.

“Freelancers are a large and hugely important part of the creative and cultural sectors in Scotland. It’s more important than ever that their work is recognised and supported,” said Alastair Evans, Interim Director of Strategy and Planning at Creative Scotland.

National Galleries Scotland to open extension

18 Jul 2023

New galleries at the National Galleries of Scotland will open to the public from 30 September.

The 10 new galleries form part of a £38.6m extension, part-funded by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will double the physical display space.

More than 130 works of art from the nation’s historic Scottish art collection will be showcased in the new spaces.

Sir John Leighton, Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, said the project has “been driven by an ambition to transform the experience of visiting the National and to show the extraordinary collections of Scottish art with pride in beautiful, new, light-filled spaces”.

“We believe that we have created a National Gallery that is more open, engaging and inviting than ever before.”

Youth-led arts fund awards £65,000 to young people

17 Jul 2023

A youth-led fund launched in partnership by Youth Scotland and Creative Scotland has awarded £65,000 of funding to young people across the country to pursue creative arts projects and experiences.

After receiving applications from more than 100 young people aged between five and 25, Step into the Art has awarded funding to 45 creative projects.

For some young people, the grants will support them to take lessons to explore or develop their skills in all kinds of artistic expression, from fine-art painting and fashion design to drumming and special effects makeup.

For others, grants will provide equipment or other practical support to get them started with specific projects, including everything from an educational film about bullying, to a podcast about the experience of being an immigrant in Scotland, to a Wild West-style play promoting positive masculinity.

Colin Bradie, Head of Creative Learning at Creative Scotland said: ‘We’re grateful to all the young people involved in the creation of this fund. Involving young people at the heart of decision-making ensures that they’re listened to and respected, making the opportunities more relevant to other young people. 

"They’ve created a vital opportunity for many more young people across the country to step into the arts. Not only will they be able to realise their creative ambitions but they’ll also be making friends, creating communities, and having fun along the way."

Edinburgh festivals contribute £500m to city's economy

06 Jul 2023

Edinburgh’s festivals are ‘world leading cultural brands’ that contributed nearly £500m to the city’s economy in 2022, according to the Edinburgh Festivals Impact Study.

However, the report found most of the economic impact benefits hospitality and tourism rather than the cultural programmes themselves, which includes the Fringe, Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival.

It reveals the 11 annual festivals generated 3.2m attendances from 700,000 attendees across 2022, putting them on a par with the FIFA World Cup.

The festivals created 5850 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in Edinburgh, while the rest of Scotland also enjoyed an economic uplift, with an impact of £367m and support for 5000 FTE jobs.

The impact study surveyed more than 22,000 people for the report, conducted by BOP Consulting, and found 51% of festival-related spending in the city was on accommodation last year, while 25% was on food and drink.

While welcoming the “positive impact our festivals have on businesses, jobs and livelihoods”, Simon Gage, Festivals Edinburgh Chair, said: “In this instance our impact is primarily felt by the tourism and hospitality sectors, not by the festivals themselves and the people who make them happen”.

He added the “unique cultural programmes” of Edinburgh's festivals “are hanging each year by a precarious financial thread, damaged by Covid lockdowns and over 15 years of declining investment”.

Gage continued: “We call on all funders and supporters to come together to consider their long-term role in helping the Edinburgh Festivals remain Scotland’s world leading cultural brands and a crucial economic powerhouse for people’s jobs and livelihoods”.

Scottish Culture Secretary Angus Robertson added: “This report highlights the major impact of Scotland’s international festivals”.

“We recognise the impact of the pandemic and cost of living crisis, and are currently reviewing the national events strategy with VisitScotland and the sector to ensure Scotland continues to be the perfect stage for events.”

Creative Scotland warns of ‘extremely challenging’ funding climate

image of the Kelpies structure of two giant iron horses located near Falkirk, Scotland
04 Jul 2023

The funder says it could be forced to reduce the number of organisations it supports if it does not recieve an uplift in funding from the Scottish Government.

Holyrood seeks cultural sector views on budget 'perfect storm'

03 Jul 2023

The Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament is seeking the views of arts professionals on the impact of rising costs on the sector.

The call follows last year's pre-budget report for 2024-25 which said arts and culture organisations were facing a "perfect storm" of long-term budget pressures, reduced income generation and increased operating costs.  

The committee called on the Scottish Government's "refreshed" Culture Strategy Action Plan to provide a "clear and strategic sense" of how government plans to create a more sustainable future for arts and culture in Scotland.

Their report concluded that the current funding crisis "provides an opportunity to accelerate innovative solutions to the budgetary pressures within the sector". 

The committee is now inviting responses to what it sees as three key questions for Scotland's culture sector.

Firstly, how has the sector responded to the perfect storm outlined in the pre-budget report, and what is the impact of the 2023-24 Budget on the sector?

Secondly, what progress has been made in the last 12 months to accelerate innovate solutions and what could the Scottish Government implement to support the sector?

Finally, how can future budgetary decisions in the sector be informed by the Culture Strategy Action Plan?

The consultation is open for responses until 18 August 2023.

Creative Scotland reopens fund for theatre and dance touring

27 Jun 2023

New funding is available for Scotland-based artists, producers and venues planning to tour live theatre and dance work in 2024.

Creative Scotland’s Touring Fund for Theatre and Dance, supported by the National Lottery, has opened its seventh application round, which will remain active until September.

The fund has disbursed over £8m since its inception in 2018, funding new and restaged productions spanning modern adaptations of classic works, new autobiographical pieces, physical theatre, circus, street dance and spoken word performances.

This round has an overall budget of £2m and there are no upper or lower limits on the amount applicants can apply for. Work of all scales, presented indoors, outdoors or as site-specific pieces, is eligible for funding.

“Building on previous rounds, we expect applications from a broad range of artists ready to take the brightest and boldest of ideas and stories out on the road,” said Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Head of Theatre at Creative Scotland.  

“We anticipate being able to support a mix of new and familiar names who will share their magic with first time and seasoned audiences in a whole host of settings.”

Guide promotes fair working practices in Scotland

16 Jun 2023

A guide aiming to help workplaces develop fair working practices in Scotland’s creative and culture sectors has been published.

Commissioned by Creative Scotland and published by Culture Radar, the Ilustrated Fair Work Guide for Employers features case study examples and illustrations to promote fair work practices for employers.

The guide, which includes support for both employees and freelancers, outlines five dimensions of Fair Work: effective voice, opportunity, fulfilment, respect and security.

It has been developed following the implementation of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Action Plan 2021, which set the goal of Scotland becoming a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025, through developing progressive workplace policies including the adoption of a Real Living Wage.

Creative Scotland Chief Executive Iain Munro said the guidance “will help to create the conditions for more meaningful and sustainable opportunities to work across, and progress through, the sector.”   

Culture Radar’s Jeanie Scott, who wrote the guide, added: “The creative and cultural sector is a complex and varied beast, with no two workplaces the same and a heavy reliance on freelance workers at all levels.

“For this reason, this short guide could never be a step-by-step tool, or a rule book for applying Fair Work across the board 

“Instead, we’ve laid out this guide with key information about Fair Work, alongside inspiring, real-life examples of what Fair Work looks like in practice in our sector now.”

Perthshire festival cancels over low ticket sales

07 Jun 2023

A music and arts festival in the grounds of a historic country house in Perthshire has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

The organisers of the Otherlands Music and Arts Festival at Scone Palace, Perth also cited rising production costs and the loss of grant funding as reasons for pulling the plug on three-day event planned for 11-13 August.

Describing the decision as "devastating" and "heart-breaking", they said in a statement they were "absolutely gutted that we could not make the festival a reality this year".

The statement continued: "An independent festival comes with a whole host of challenges and despite doing everything we can, we are unable to deliver the show to the high standard it needs to be, and therefore it is no longer viable to continue".

The announcement comes as the Association of Indepedent Festivals says the costs associated with putting on an event are becoming "untenable" for indepedent festivals.

This year would have been the second outing for the festival, which took place for the first time in August 2022.

The festival has committed to refunding all ticket holders within 14 days.

Edinburgh Fringe: Cruise ship accommodation plan emerges

Old Leith Harbour at Dusk, Edinburgh, Scotland.
07 Jun 2023

A cruise ship with capacity for 1,300 people will dock in Leith during the 2024 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of efforts to address a shortage of accomodation in the city during festival season.

Scottish arts funder accused of 'big city bias'

06 Jun 2023

Scotland's arts funding body has been accused of bias toward the country's major cities.

New figures for 2022/23 show that Creative Scotland spent the equivalent of £50.85 per person on arts projects in Edinburgh and an average of £39.75 per resident of Glasgow.

Dundee – Scotland's fourth biggest city by population – received £24 per person.

However, across the Kingdom of Fife – one of Scotland's largest council areas by population – just £3.15 per person was spent.

Fife Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said that “big city bias” needs to be addressed.

He said: “The differences in spending are stark. Some variation between different parts of the country is to be expected, but if you live outside of Scotland’s biggest cities you will rightly be feeling short-changed."

He added that spending by both Creative Scotland and the tourist body Event Scotland should be reviewed.

A Creative Scotland spokesperson said: “The reach of the work through Creative Scotland and Screen Scotland extends across the whole country, and our funding routes are devised to help people from all parts of society to bring their ideas to life."

Workplace guides address sexual harassment in theatre

06 Jun 2023

Two "vital" and "long-needed" guides addressing sexual harassment in the performing arts have been launched as part of efforts to support organisations and individuals working in the sector.

Published by the Federation of Scottish Theatre, the guides have been informed by the Harassment in the Performing Arts (HiPA) Working Group, an independent working group convened by the federation.

The first guide, Navigating Sexual Harassment at Work: A Guide to Support Freelancers and Individuals, hopes to help those experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The second, Tackling Sexual Harassment at Work: An Action Guide for Theatre Companies and Arts Organisations, aims to support organisations in their response to complaints of sexual harassment.

The guides' author Lisa Sangster, who was also co-chair of the HiPA working group and is a trained sexual violence support worker, said: "The new HiPA guides are an important contribution towards supporting a culture change in the sector.

"They aim to empower individuals to take action when they witness harassment, and support people experiencing it to feel reassured that they have options and deserve support."

She added: "Having resources that are easy to read, jargon free and open to all is critical in improving responses to incidents of sexual harassment.”

Edinburgh Comedy Awards endangered by lack of sponsor

31 May 2023

The future of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards is at risk following the end of a two-year title sponsorship deal with UKTV channel Dave.

The awards have failed to secure a new sponsor for 2023 and will not run this year without last-minute support from sponsors.

The awards were established in 1981 by West End producer Nica Burns. She continues to oversee them and funded them herself in 2009 and 2018, in the absence of an official sponsor.

The awards are now being moved into ownership of a charitable trust and will seek funding from several smaller sponsorship deals in future years, British Comedy Guide reported.

The awards cost more than £200,000 a year to run, including events, prize funds, administrative costs and judging and scouting teams.

“As everyone across the arts knows, post-Covid the commercial landscape has changed significantly: marketing and sponsorship budgets are under huge pressure and the pool of ethically appropriate sponsors diminished,” organisers said.

"It has become clear that we need to change the funding model, to think beyond one large title sponsor, to raise money from a mix of sources.”

They called for "potential heroes” to offer support that might allow the awards to be distributed at this year’s edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“As the comedy section [of the Fringe Society's annual programme] has expanded to become such a significant genre of the Fringe, so have the costs of running the awards,” Burns said.

“Having stepped in and personally sponsored them twice over the years, I will be the first to put money on the table for 2023, but post-Covid I can no longer do it on my own. 

“I am therefore inviting the comedy industry and all potential partners to get in touch immediately to help make the awards happen this year."

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