Edinburgh Festival more local as artists and audiences return post-lockdown

The director of the Edinburgh International Festival has said he is “grateful” to audiences for returning to the arts event as organisers revealed turnout was more local this year.

A total of 60% of bookers to live events came from Edinburgh and surrounding areas, up from 44% coming from the city in 2019.

A total of 18% of audience members were from the rest of Scotland and 17% from other parts of the UK.

Ticket availability was reduced by 63% compared to 2019, with performers returning to the capital for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti
Nicola Benedetti onboard a tram during the festival (Jane Barlow/PA)

Despite the reduction, around 51,200 tickets to live performances were sold during the three-week festival, with more than 350,000 viewers watching online from 50 countries.

More than half (64%) of performances sold out completely, the festival said.

Fergus Linehan, the festival’s director, said its success “can be measured in the joy of audiences attending live performance once again, artists returning to the stage” and theatres re-opening their doors.

“We commissioned new work by companies from Brazil, South Africa and Lebanon,” he said.

“Our music programme expanded to embrace traditional, folk, jazz, electronic and progressively experimental artists from Gambia to the Isle of Skye.

“We are grateful to our audiences who cheered us on throughout the past 18 months and returned to our venues in healthy numbers, and also to those who joined us digitally from around the world.”

Mr Linehan added that the festival needed to innovate this year in order to become a reality.

“We salute our sister festivals for their innovation and creativity,” he said.

“Together we hope we gave Edinburgh a festival season to remember.”

A total of 170 live performances took place across the city and the festival welcomed 988 artists of 25 nationalities.

Highlights included the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s play Medicine, violinist Nicola Benedetti in residence with three projects, and actor Alan Cumming bringing his new show Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age.

Three main venues, Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh Academy Junior School and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad, hosted up to 3,376 people a day.