Edinburgh Festivals' legacy reaching every corner of the globe

Published: 19 July 2017

This article was published on the City A.M. website on 19 July 2017 as part of Invest Edinburgh Talk.

Edinburgh conjures up many images and emotions – from its landmarks and geography, architecture, history and role as muse, to countless original thinkers over the centuries.

A UNESCO World Heritage site; the original UNESCO City of Literature; one of Europe’s most influential financial service centres; a thriving, cosmopolitan student city … but one reputation outshines them all – Edinburgh: the world’s festival city. Every year Scotland hosts an international programme of events matched only in their size and scope by the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games.

It’s no wonder Edinburgh’s festivals are coveted by other international destinations. What city wouldn't want a major festivals programme that attracts more than 25,000 participants from across the globe, more than 1,000 accredited media and total audiences of approximately 4.5 million, while generating £313m for the national economy?

Festivals are not all about the numbers, but about the events, the conversations, and to employ an overused word, the legacy.

Nick Barley, Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival


As the city prepares to mark 70 years of its world-renowned cultural showcase, 2017 promises to be yet another memorable year.

However, as Edinburgh International Book Festival Director Nick Barley says, it’s easy to get distracted by the numbers: “Festivals are not all about the numbers, but about the events, the conversations, and to employ an overused word, the legacy.”

Hope and unity

Edinburgh’s reputation as the world’s leading festival city has deep roots, charting back to 1947 when Europe sought a much-needed platform for ‘the flowering of the human spirit’ after the devastation of WW2. This aspiration, to bring people and nations together, has been central to the Festivals ever since and continues today. In 2017, participants, media and audiences from every corner of the globe will be brought together in endlessly creative ways.

Innovations include the development of the first ‘thrust’ or ‘apron’ stage at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1948, the creation of the world’s first Science Festival in 1989, the launch of the world’s first commercially available mobile app, at the Fringe in 1999, to today’s development of one of the world’s largest listing APIs.

The Festivals celebrate the extraordinary: offering a world of creative experiences, inspirational moments and entertaining recreation to people of all ages, generating the cultural energy that sustains the city and nourishes its people.

Collectively, the Festivals have helped to shape and evolve the city we see today, defining its unique character and acting as an exciting, cultural magnet for visitors, a dynamic creative home for residents, and a rich stimulating working environment for companies and their employees.

This ‘quality of life’ factor also positively influences inward investment and talent attraction among Edinburgh-based businesses such as Baillie Gifford, one of the UK’s leading independent asset management firms. It recognises the Festivals’ role as a strong magnet for people to come to live and work in the city, helping the business attract and recruit the best people.

Clearly Edinburgh Festivals are a source of national pride in a country whose national identity is rooted in a passion for creativity and ideas. They represent Scotland at its most open and welcoming. They are distinctively Scottish and yet profoundly international.

In the words of renowned historian Sir Tom Devine, they have “undeniably given the nation and its capital city a priceless brand, which has resonance across the globe and especially makes an impact on some of the most influential opinion formers in overseas countries.”

So, in this their 70th anniversary year, the Festivals re-affirm their world-leading status and more than ever, echo the maxim of another great Edinburgh innovator, Patrick Geddes: Think Global, Act Local.


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