The first collective Festivals Strategy and Business Plan ran from 2008-14 and the second from 2015-20. In 2019 the Edinburgh Festivals and Festivals Forum stakeholders launched a mid-term review of their previous strategy and began developing a new future vision reflecting on the latest opportunities and challenges. after the Covid-19 pandemic struck, this work was updated to propose principles for how the festivals and the festival city could rebuild and support wider renewal in a changed era.

A series of collective conversations gathered feedback from local residents through Community Councils, from artists and creatives through Creative Edinburgh, and from businesses through Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. This was part of a wider period of reflection and rethinking by individual festivals and others at local, national and international levels.

The result of this collective internal research and external discussion is City of Imagination: 2030 Vision which highlights our overall aim to be a world leading sustainable festival city, and identifies six ambitions [see below] to protect and develop our position, encompassing shared values of being globally minded, locally rooted, and creatively led.

2030 Vision - 6 Ambitions

Ambition 1: Global Solidarity

Edinburgh’s Festivals are proudly and fiercely internationalist: it was a defining value of the festivals’ foundations in 1947, which sought to establish Scotland as a cultural hub for global understanding, connecting people and ideas through shared creative experiences.

This internationalist spirit now needs to be reimagined in the context of the uk being outside the European union. It will be vitalto see festivals, national agencies and governments at all levels working togetherto push forthe best possible conditions forthe free exchange of people and ideas across borders. 

The seismic shifts of brexit and Covid-19 have also brought into sharp focus the importance of restarting pipelines of cultural export and inward investment for nationalrecovery and renewal.

Creative industries, major events and tourism have been identified as key opportunities at local, regional, scottish and uk levels to contribute to a thriving economy. It is imperative forthe festivals to regenerate to a scale of global ambition that will enable Edinburgh to reassert its position as a world leading sustainable festival city. Hosting artists, crew, producers and programmers gathers a pool of skilled talent and investment from home and abroad, creating the global marketplace that allows scottish and uk talent to find their livelihoods.

The festivals play a crucial role in fulfilling Edinburgh’s commitment to being a welcoming, international city. The city also makes a special contribution as Scotland’s capital, which needs to be nurtured so that it can continue to be a global powerhouse in supporting regional and national prosperity, at the same time as increasing opportunities forlocal people to enjoy its success.

As worldwide conflicts and tensions deepen, our festivals will create opportunities for building understanding, connection and debate between people. Different festivals will uncover stories that need to be told from home and abroad; raise awareness of humanitarian issues; champion freedom of expression; and connect global issues with the diversity of local communities.

In the short term, a key priority will be to protect and rebuild global content aftertwo years when the hosting of international festivals in person has been a near impossibility. in doing so, the different festivals will pilot a range of models for international exchange, in the wider context of environmental concerns.

For the longer term, the festivals are determined to champion ideas for a more progressive new era in the shocking context of war in Europe and a geopolitical landscape sometimes ominously compared to the 1930s. Further development of the festivals’ links with leading academics can strengthen the power of culture to generate new insights about ourselves, each other, and our intertwined past and future.

For global decision-makers, Edinburgh could provide thinking spaces that shed a different light on the world we live in and the great shared questions of our age. A latter-day Creative Enlightenment, spotlighting artists and thinkers, could aid the much needed transition to a more sustainable and peaceful future.

And among wider audiences, there is a panoply of stories about how a lifelong affinity with scotland’s culture andvalues can startwith a visit to Edinburgh’s Festivals for people who then choose to study, work, do business orlive here. Scotland’s national strategy ofresponsible tourism for a sustainable future will involve Edinburgh’s magnetic pull being used to encourage curious and loyal visitors who stay longer and explore further, helping to optimise the capital’s role as a gateway for the region and country.


  • Edinburgh’s Festivals will champion 21st century enlightenment, with Scotland as a global cultural hub for thinkers and creatives
  • Edinburgh’s Festival City stakeholders will support festivals’ international missions, reach and relevance, demonstrating Scotland as a creative, open and progressive nation


Ambition 2: Valuable Skills and Work

For the re-emerging Edinburgh Festivals, the quality, range and innovation of each festival’s programme remains at the heart of their ability to support creative careers; secure industry and partner interest; create opportunities; and attract audiences in their millions. although our festivals have grown to be among the country’s strongest cultural entrepreneurs – generating 85% earned income from 15% public grants – core public funding remains essential to business models to take risks on new work, uncover hidden themes, and support participants whose voices would not otherwise be heard.

The festivals rely on, and help nurture, Scotland’s wealth of culturaltalent, connecting them with international peers and ideas. Many programmes spotlight Scottish creatives on a global stage, supporting their livelihoods and development. at the world’s leading performing arts gathering in 2019, nearly 1000 or 25% of Fringe shows were from Scotland, though we have less than 0.001% of the global population; and together the festivals supported over 6,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the wider Scottish economy. For the festivals not in receipt of core grant funding, including the Fringe, it will be important to consider the case for increased support where there is a drive to deliver more long-term public value.

The uk music, performing and visual arts sectors lost 30% of total jobs in 2020, with young people worst affected, and many have not returned. It is imperative that opportunities for Edinburgh’s artists and workers are rebuilt, along with scotland-wide pathways for creation, production and participation, and the pool of technicians and specialists in the events supply chain. This creates both a need and an opportunity forinvestmentto work with schools and colleges to help more young people from every social background into the labour market. online resources could also increase the transparency of, and accessibility to, information about the festivals’ opportunities.

Beyond direct employmentin the culture and events sectors, the festivals play a criticalrole in supporting manythousands ofjobs forwider service businesses and localtraders. Edinburgh has a 24% higher employment share in accommodation and food services than most uk cities. this sector together with arts, entertainment,recreation and other services account for 44,000 jobs between them. these are sectors of major importance for the city along with finance andinsurance, and the education sector,which each employ 33,000 people. in orderto rebuild prosperity,the growth ofmore extensive local supply chains, labour markets and investment flows are cornerstones of public policy – and many festivals are already reviewing procurement policies to bring increased benefits to city,regional and national suppliers.

Increasing equality of opportunity, diversity, and inclusion inworking conditions will also be prioritised. A joint approach by funders to reviewing the framework of current policies could ensure that all such policy priorities are fully embedded in wider contractual agreements. Already, all of the Festivals Edinburgh members pay at least the real Living Wage, and have a code of practice on volunteering developed with Volunteer Edinburgh. The most complex model is the open access platform of the Fringe, which is proud to lead with its vision ‘to give anyone a stage and everyone a seat’. the new Fringe vision and values published in June 2022 outline core values for Fringe makers to subscribe to, with clear goals and pledges against key areas, including thriving artists, fair work, good citizenship, climate action, an equitable Fringe and digital evolution. This includes the aim for 95% of all paid employees at Fringe venues to be paid the real Living Wage by 2027.

At a wider level, the nationwide event sector networks that developed during the pandemic could open up opportunities in the area of skills development through schools and further education partnerships. Edinburgh already has a retail and hospitality academy, and there may be latent demand for a sector skills initiative in sustainable live events,which couldbe taken forward at city region scalewhere the shared economic development framework has already identified creative, digital and tech industries as specific strengths.


  • Edinburgh’s Festivals will rebuild and maximise access to the skills,
  • employment and development opportunities the festivals create
  • Edinburgh’s Festival City stakeholders will sustain the maximum
  • possible long-term funding for festivals’ core programmes, to secure the public value of the work they generate


Ambition 3: Connected Local Communities

Prior to the pandemic, Edinburgh’s Festivals had developed extensive links with more than 130 community groups and over 90% of schools in the city. However, a pattern of short-term grants and fundraising made it difficult to sustain continuous relationships. The situation was improved when community engagement, along with programme innovation and creative development, was made one of three priorities for the 5-year Platforms for Creative Excellence programme (PlaCE) – a partnership investment between the City of Edinburgh Council, Scottish Government, and the festivals themselves. This programme provided a long-term model for festivals’ community engagement and creative learning ambitions forthe first time.

Early results in 2019 were impressive – in the first 15 months, collaborative projects tripled, while festivals engaged over 3,000 scottish artists and freelancers in professional development. When the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, the original scale of plans could not be realised: but despite this, the effect on those festivals who were supported to expand their work in local communities was transformative. As the programme comes to an end in 2023, festivals are working to secure future resources from across their funders and supporters to continue this work at scale. Whatever the volume of activity, the skills, values and working practices of those festivals have evolved forthe long term. 

At the same time, the festivals are very conscious that they rely on strong specialist community infrastructure to develop high quality targeted engagement. With non-statutory local authority budgets hard hit over the past decade, cultural capacity has been substantially affected in local venues and community centres, grassroots arts, and libraries.

The commitment from the festivals to deepen their local partnerships is widespread but has been made in the knowledge that they are not community arts organisations and need to balance such contributions while fulfilling a range of other roles. Sustainable resourcing of wider cultural and social services is needed for a thriving community-based capability, if the ambitions forfestivals to grow deeper community links are also to flourish.

The priority for the festivals post-pandemic will be to create deeper and longer-term relationships with local community partners, with an equitable
recognition of each organisation’s expertise, costs and contributions. much has been learnt during Covid about the value of small-scale focused personal interventions. Those festivals best suited to expanding opportunities for community creativity and well being want to see these lessons widely recognised, with quality and depth of engagement prioritised over volume. These targeted approaches will sit alongside continuing action by festivals to increase accessibility for all audiences.

Working with schools under pandemic restrictions has also been challenging but has offered new insights into how to support teachers and provide different formats to enrich activities. Festivals will take this experience into future programmes aimed at deepening creative learning opportunities for young people – both through planning with curriculum areas in mind such as expressive arts, health and wellbeing, and literacy; and through designing experiences that help develop personal achievements and skills forlearning, life and the world of work.

Collectively, the festivals will nurture relationships with third sector partners who can help develop new collaborative models for community-led cultural planning; and will seek new investment to empowerlocal people’s choices to express their voices, celebrate their communities and share new experiences and ideas.

Digital accessibility has also emerged as a key opportunity to reach more isolated people in their local settings – whether in Edinburgh, countrywide or around the world. While digital programmes will never be the primary focus, several of the festivals will continue to innovate and reach out through digitally augmented offers to new audiences from home and abroad.


  • Edinburgh’s Festivals will deepen equitable community partnerships and connect local with global ideas
  • Edinburgh’s Festival City stakeholders will explore ways to
  • strengthen wider year-round community and cultural capacity


Ambition 4: Vibrant, Sustainable Gathering Places

Edinburgh’s citizens value their festivals for the communal joy they bring; the pride they create in our city’s quality of life; and the livelihoods they support locally, regionally and nationally. All of this relies upon the quality and range of creative live experiences the festivals can offer, catering for a myriad of tastes.

Thanks to the festivals, Edinburgh is well placed to adapt to the changing nature of city centres by providing responsibly managed experiences that generate value through human creativity. For audiences, they can serve the growing appetite for prioritising meaningful encounters as part of more sustainable lifestyles. and for the UK creative industries, they are a fixture in the annual calendar as a global testing ground and nexus of talent that increasingly reflects the interplay between live and screen arts, and between online and immersive design. Securing investment for works of excellence, innovation and risk as the festivals return will feed this pipeline of ideas exchange and talent attraction.

Local communities, businesses and creatives would also like to see more festival experiences widely distributed across the city – sometimes with local participation in mind and sometimes to drive new visitors. This is matched by a desire among many festivals to ensure that each year, some performances are staged in different neighbourhoods, guided by local audience demand. scope for expansion is often dependent on confidence that wider audiences will attend on a scale that will make such shows financially viable, driven by factors such as city transport infrastructure.

The city centre will always remain popular in august during peak holiday season – and festivals, the City Council and other partners are committed to working together to improve city management. Pre-pandemic footfall of 2.7 million, split about equally between festivals and wider city attractions, dropped to 0.7 million during 2020 restrictions. As numbers rise from this lowpoint, management of people flows and public safety will draw on the adaptations and innovations of the past two seasons.

At the same time, Edinburgh must still respond to the wider pressures on public services, housing and affordability driven by factors underlying the city’s overall growth in the past decade – including population increases, visitor numbers, and our thriving tech, finance and education sectors, as well as the attractiveness of the city’s built and cultural heritage. These growth pressures impact allwho live and work here, especially those on lower incomes and many of the creatives who rely on freelance livelihoods. The city’s development plans are geared towards taking action to promote fairness and tackle inequality, to build affordable and sustainable homes and to create safe and welcoming communities.

In this context, supporting the FestivalCity to develop successfully will require integrated multi-year planning from local and national authorities across infrastructure, regulation and regeneration. Key stakeholders will come together to examine how the framework for such integrated planning could be strengthened for long-term benefits.

Sustaining the attractiveness of Edinburgh’s cultural quality of life requires infrastructure plans backed by many levels of public and private support - developing facilities for future generations; upgrading the public realm for accessibility and sustainability; creating state-of-the-art connectivity for digitally enhanced live events; and supporting year-round and community cultural hubs.

Beyond the central area, investment through development and regeneration initiatives could help to test new citywide offers – in the knowledge that post-pandemic, many artists and festival organisers cannot afford the risk of exploring these opportunities alone. The coming years offer scope for funders and festivals to work together to secure resources so that festivals can support the establishment of new, more widely distributed cultural and creative economy hubs – and so that local authority development plans can take account of the vital contribution of creatives to a thriving city.


  • Edinburgh’s Festivals will work to sustain our capital’s world
  • leadership in unique creative live experiences
  • Edinburgh’s Festival City stakeholders will examine how integrated
  • multi-year planning can be strengthened across local and national
  • levels to secure long-term benefits


Ambition 5: Net Zero Carbon Future

This decade is a critical one for humanity’s impact on the climate. Edinburgh’s Festivals recognise that in order to flourish, they need to find innovative, sustainable ways of operating and fulfilling the function of festivals in a net zero carbon future. This is driven not just by ethical responsibilities and business drivers; but crucially by the desire of the creative community to engage with the great concerns our era and have a wider influence on society.

The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan recognises the importance of boosting public and private investment in delivering the transition to net zero. By 2032 the nationaltarget is for at least 50% of heat, transport and electricity demand to be met from renewable sources – and Edinburgh will need to take full advantage of available investment to meet the capital city’s even more stretching targets. UK Government action, in parallelto the decisions of the Scottish Government, is also essential if Scotland is to
meet its targets.

The City of Edinburgh’s plans to transform the city centre, transport and travel networks to meet carbon reduction goals – and to protect the natural and built environments – will influence policies on the use of public spaces. Key civic spaces in the public realm will require more resilient infrastructure and clean power, so that events can continue to animate our cultural capital forthe benefit ofresidents and visitors.

For the wider purposes of responsible tourism, it will be vital to understand how national ambitions translate into priority visitor segments and markets. This will encourage everyone involved in the visitor economy to take action in
line with scotland’s long-term plans to deliver a green recovery, and play an integral part in the global solution. It will be important to look closely at how Scotland maximises our appeal to audiences who have options forlower-carbon travel, as well as taking forward national efforts to optimise strategic air connectivity for our island nation and use it as efficiently as possible.

The Festivals are committed to take action and have created a shared carbon reduction route map in addition to individual environmental strategies. This identifies the areas of operations and wider systems that need to change, to reduce emissions in line with Edinburgh’s goal to be a net zero carbon city by 2030. The starting point is rigorous management of internal aspects of operations under their direct control including production activities, procurement, and travel by staff and programmed artists. All festivals in receipt of core grants willreport their emissions to funders annually, with many already obtaining an independent assessment of their baseline emissions and engaging with advisers to verify their planned carbon reduction measures. 

The forthcoming festival seasons will show progressive implementation across all commitments, including expanding new ways to sustain future cultural exchange without such intense global mobility – such as international
residencies and digital industry programmes. Festivals are also committed to influencing the attitudes and behaviours of artists and audiences beyond the city, although this is not formally included in the city’s carbon footprint.

Many of the carbon reductions required mean engaging in areas beyond festivals’ control to seek to accelerate necessary changes, whether with landlords and venues, or with wider policy and industry bodies. Particular key areas of focus will include the refitting of historic city venues to modern standards, and the planning of new cultural infrastructure aligned with sustainability targets.


  • Edinburgh’s Festivals will plan and implement actions to reduce
  • festivals’ direct emissions in line with city 2030 net zero targets
  • Edinburgh’s Festival City stakeholders will work towards
  • decarbonisation of cultural infrastructure, power and transport systems


Ambition 6: Increased Resilience, Partnership and Investment

The Covid-19 crisis brought into stark relief the fragilities of the entire culture sector, especially its long-term financial sustainability and ability to invest in change. Pre-pandemic, the sector had already seen a difficult decade since the 2008 global financial crisis with the festivals seeing a 30% real terms reduction in public grants which they had balanced by diversifying their income streams. Government finances at all levels now face even greater challenges, so it is a priority to identify new investment models that can support maximum resilience and public value.

Learning from existing recent approaches should be built upon – such as the Covid-19 adaptation funding in 2021 and 2022 which enabled selected festival organisers to offer more support for artists to restart the production of live work. New sustainable income streams will be needed to support wider city and community collaborations. Exploring the case for reinstating transientVisitor Levy legislation in the legislative programme of the scottish government would support this, as well as Scottish Government exploration of the policy to create a Percentage for the Arts funding scheme.

Supporting the enterprising creativity of individual artists and organisers through the festivals’ platforms is an important part of rebuilding livelihoods, but Edinburgh must avoid over-commercialisation which could affect its world-class quality of life. It remains crucial to reinvest in the management and quality of the city environment, and support a balance between income-generating and subsidised activities. 

Building on the festivals’ proven strength in attracting match funding, businesses also have a key role to play in supporting the live events, culture and tourism sectors they benefit from. Examples of Edinburgh’s leading private sector supporters of culture can be used to seek to inspire other corporates, and to encourage businesses to back environmental, social and governance shifts for a more sustainable and equitable city. 

The Scottish Government resource spending review to 2026–27 shows a challenging picture with projected real terms reductions in culture and major events spending. Funders will need to make difficult choices about spending priorities within competitive public funding processes. An opportunity to secure greater grant effectiveness in a constrained environment would be to put schemes such as the Festivals Expo Fund on a long-term footing.
Momentum for change could also be sustained by the festivals and funders working together to create a next generation framework for programmes such as Platforms for Creative Excellence (PlaCE), capitalising on current successful outcomes. Greater streamlining of metrics and reporting requirements across different public funders in areas of common interest will also help to direct maximum effort towards delivery, recognising that there will always be some differences in aims and outcomes between funders. 

The festivals will make the case for these changes, and for investment into the whole cultural landscape, through continuing to prioritise the development
of robust evidence for cultural, social, economic and environmental impacts; and through active membership of national sector groups looking at future policy models. Such networks will also be vital to build resilience and partnerships through exchanging knowledge and contacts nationally and internationally. The festivals are also committed to working together to develop collective programmes aligned with the key 2030 ambitions, that will support the next phase of Festival City transformation. 

Alongside these sectoral discussions, specific partnerships and networks will need to evolve to support this next phase of development. Festivals and stakeholders will review and develop the collaborative infrastructure supporting this effort, and identify the opportunities for regular dialogue with diverse city communities of interest. This will help to ensure that the immediate work of re-establishing resilience from a fragile position is firmly founded within the wider 2030 Vision for a world leading sustainable festival city.


  • Edinburgh’s Festivals will create cross-sector partnerships to attract
  • resources for renewal of festivals and cultural provision
  • Edinburgh’s Festival City stakeholders will identify new investment
  • models and streamline shared public funding metrics and reporting
  • to maximise efficient use of funds