Building on a culture of collaborative working the Directors of Edinburgh’s twelve leading Festivals came together in 2007 to formally establish Festivals Edinburgh with a mission to support Edinburgh’s Festivals in sustaining and developing their position as the world’s leading festival city through:
- development and delivery of collaborative projects and initiatives which support growth, product development, leadership and audiences
- acting on behalf of and representing the collective strengths of the Edinburgh
Festivals Edinburgh is a strategic umbrella organisation focussed on over-arching areas of mutual interest. Its sole focus is to maintain the Festivals’ and the Festival City’s global competitive edge, via major collaborative projects and strategic initiatives.
All of our work is dependent not only on the core Festivals Edinburgh team but on a strong commitment to collaborative working and on a sense of shared ambition and responsibility across all 12 member festivals. The Festivals Edinburgh Board is made up of the 12 Festival CEOs or Directors; and each Festivals Edinburgh workstrand is directed and supported by collaborative working groups comprising of staff members from the Festivals themselves.
Festivals Edinburgh is currently funded by subscriptions from its members and significant public sector support. Its Director, Faith Liddell, began work 2 days a week in January 2007. As of 2014, the organisation employs 9 staff.
As well as being the result of the shared understanding, the will and the ambition of its constituent Festivals and Directors, the creation of Festivals Edinburgh was also galvanised by three key documents:
- The City of Edinburgh Council’s Festivals Strategy
- The subsequent Economic Impact Evaluation of Edinburgh’s key Festivals
- And finally and most importantly the Thundering Hooves Report
Thundering Hooves (metaphorically named after the sound of the competition catching up with Edinburgh) confirmed the internationally significant role of Edinburgh’s Festivals and suggested there are grounds for confidence in the short-term of their pre-eminent position. However, the report concluded that when viewed against the sustained development of some of the actively competitive cities over the next 5-7 years, Edinburgh’s current enviable position as a pre-eminent Festival city was less secure. The Thundering Hooves report made recommendations to ensure Edinburgh’s role as the major international Festival city is secured into the future.
Although the festivals had been working together for some time and there was already a draft Business Plan for a proposed Edinburgh Festivals Association, it was the medium and long term agenda set out in Thundering Hooves and summarised in the Thundering Hooves Action Plan that has defined Festivals Edinburgh’s role as a strategic organisation. The fourteen recommendations in the Thundering Hooves Action Plan can be distilled into four key areas;
- Strategic planning
- Programme development
These four areas provide a focus for the work of Festivals Edinburgh and a clear agenda for the work of the bodies it works most closely with. More detail on our strategic priorities can be found here.
Unaddressed they represent significant threats to the festivals and to Edinburgh as the world’s leading festival city. Addressed through our own work and in collaboration with our stakeholders and funders they offer significant opportunities.
Strategic Priority: Programmers
Programming new, challenging and innovative work is the lifeblood of the Festival landscape. Joint Programming work looks at opportunities for festivals to collaborate or work collectively on thematic or strategic projects.
Objectives: To support programme innovation and development among Edinburgh’s Festivals, by;
- Continuation of the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo - this fund was established in 2008 offering the Festivals large scale programming investment to support Scottish-made work to premier across the Festivals and tour internationally
- Embracing a joint strategic approach to programming in key years working with key countries to encourage increased programming and profiling across Festivals including the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
- Integrating key programming initiatives with joint marketing initiatives and exploiting the opportunities that working together offer key partners such as key tourism agencies to promote Edinburgh as a natural destination of choice, particularly in partnership with key events such as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, as we did with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- Enhancing diplomatic relations with key countries to further the profile of the Festivals and Scotland’s national and international profile and positioning; creating opportunities for artists, producers and audiences, as well as government, tourism, business and academia that extend far into the future.
Strategic Priority: Marketing
The marketing activity of Festivals Edinburgh is intended to add value to the ongoing marketing activity of the twelve individual Festivals and is planned in partnership with those festival teams. The added value is seen to lie in working together in markets and through channels where the festivals do not have the resources to operate in separately but see the opportunity of joint activity. For example, our joint PR work is focused on travel and lifestyle media, as opposed to the specialist cultural media which the Festivals undertake themselves.
A number of fundamental principles guide our joint marketing activity and these include - ensure that all marketing adds value to existing festival operations and does not duplicate activity; all work to have cross festival message or opportunity, rather than individual festival focus; ensure plurality in all messaging to counter singular “Edinburgh Festival” perceptions; and primary focus on content-driven digital strategy, ensuring traffic is driven to joint website.
The Marketing Working Group - made up of representatives of each of the 12 major festivals and Festivals Edinburgh staff – has developed a research-driven and customer-focussed Marketing Strategy to guide this work.
Vision: To retain and advance Edinburgh’s position as the world’s leading festival city
Objectives: To support and lead on the joint marketing and audience development of Edinburgh’s Festivals, by:
- directly increasing visits and revenue at Edinburgh’s Festivals
- encouraging cross-fertilisation of visits across Edinburgh’s Festivals
- developing long-term strategic initiatives that drive growth
- cultivating mutually-beneficial relationships, especially with Tourism and Destination bodies
Strategic Priority: Innovation
An innovation audit of the Festivals recommended that, given the capacity issues typical of most cultural organisations, there would be great potential in establishing a programme of work through the existing collaborative structure tasked with identifying and developing innovation opportunities across the festival community. This was the basis of the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab - also known as festivalslab for short - created in summer 2010.
We define innovation as the practice of taking new ways of thinking and doing the work necessary to move past the ideas stage to realise the resultant benefits. Digital technology is often the medium or enabler for innovation but is not synonymous with it. Innovation can either be incremental – supporting existing models, or radical – defining new models, and it requires practitioners to understand how much change and risk they are willing to experience in pursuit of the benefits. All of which means that contemporary innovation practice in the cultural sector needs to recognise and support not only the technological and business elements of innovation but also the human one
festivalslab is managed through the core Festivals Edinburgh team together with a specialist innovation producer and overseen by the cross-festival Innovation Working Group.
Vision: To become an identified innovation leader in the cultural sector in the UK
Objectives: To identify and develop innovation opportunities across the festival community, by:
- delivering innovative and/or Capacity-Building Projects mapped against audited needs or opportunities
- testing common or new innovation models and processes
- introducing the Festivals and working groups to new networks
- providing innovation-related communications and learning opportunities that support festival staff
- being cultural leaders in innovation and share experiences and learning with the wider cultural sector in Scotland
Strategic Priority: Environmental Sustainability
The Edinburgh Festivals have the strength in terms of reputation and impact to create a powerful platform to focus Scottish and international attention on ways of achieving a sustainable future. We work with hundreds of venues, thousands of artists and entertain millions of audiences each year. By working collectively and supporting each other individually we are aim to reduce our carbon emissions, manage the ways we affect the environment and contribute to the global environmental sustainability discussion.
We're focused on the three pillars of sustainability - finding ways to successfully integrate social, economic and environmental demands, and continue to explore better ways of working.
Through the work of the Environment Sustainability Working Group, which is made up of representatives of each of the 12 major festivals and works closely with Creative Carbon Scotland (embed link) we have developed a robust Environmental Sustainability Strategy which guides this area of work.
Vision: By 2020 Edinburgh’s Festivals will be firmly established as excelling in environmental sustainability, by taking responsibility for their environmental impacts and pioneering initiatives to reduce their carbon emissions.
Objectives: To ensure the environmental sustainability of Edinburgh’s Festivals through working together and individually by:
- embedding environmental practice into the core business of the Festivals
- understanding and communicating the carbon profile of the Festivals by measuring, reducing and reporting on their direct and indirect environmental impacts
- exploring, developing and promoting the role of the Festivals, the arts and the cultural sector in changing public and industry behaviour through practice, research, innovation and communication
The work of Festivals Edinburgh, the ongoing success of Edinburgh’s Festivals and the continued development of Edinburgh’s reputation as the world’s leading festival city is made possible by the enlightened advice, support, investment and confidence of a number of key partners and funders. The transformative Thundering Hooves report (2006) was indeed commissioned in partnership with the Festivals by these key national and city partners: Scottish Arts Council (now Creative Scotland), the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), the Scottish Executive (now the Scottish Government), EventScotland and Scottish Enterprise.
It was undertaken by international consultants AEA/Palmer Associates with the purpose of examining the competitive position of the Festivals in Edinburgh and to make recommendations on the strategic developments required in order to maintain the global competitive advantage of Edinburgh’s Festivals. The report contained 14 key recommendations and two key city-wide strategic groups take ownership of, oversee and facilitate the implementation of those recommendations:
1. Festivals Forum: The establishment of a Festivals Forum for Edinburgh was the first recommendation in the Thundering Hooves Report. The Festival Forum was established by the City of Edinburgh Council, Scottish Government, Scottish Arts Council/ Scottish Screen, Event Scotland, Visit Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Festivals Edinburgh in March 2007. It is a high-level, strategic commission bringing together representatives of those with a stake in maintaining the global competitive advantage of all Edinburgh’s Festivals. Membership of the Festivals Forum is at CEO level to enable strategic decision-making and includes representation of all the stakeholder agencies named above. The festivals are represented by Faith Liddell as Director of Festivals Edinburgh. The involvement of independent members in the forum is invaluable and relates directly to the Thundering Hooves recommendation to include external members with a long term perspective on the internationally competitive economic and cultural standing of Edinburgh and Scotland. In April 2008, Susan Rice agreed to take on the role of chair and the other independent members drawn from the business, community and culture sectors are John McCormick, Dr Andrew Cubie and Michael Hayman
2. Thundering Hooves Steering Group: The Thundering Hooves Steering Group, comprising officers from the commissioning stakeholders and representatives from Festivals Edinburgh, work together to take forward the recommendations contained within the report. A Joint Implementation Plan was developed and the steering group co-ordinates the delivery of this, with the appropriate organisations taking a lead on different actions.
A number of other highly productive partnerships with city stakeholders and memberships of key industry groups are essential to the ongoing success and development of Edinburgh’s Festivals. These include:
- Joint marketing and PR campaigns with both VisitScotland and Marketing Edinburgh.
- Ongoing support and championing of The Audience Business’s Edinburgh Pilot Portal Project
- Strategic representation within the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Policy Group
- Membership of City of Edinburgh Council’s City Dressing Group to support the implementation of a City Dressing Strategy for the City
- Membership of City of Edinburgh Council’s Connected Capital reference group aiming to transform Edinburgh into a 'Super-Connected City' by delivering high speed broadband and wireless access through the Connected Capital Programme