Festival City Vision To 2030

The view from 2020

Edinburgh’s international festivals are committed to developing Scotland’s capital as a beacon of creative and intellectual excellence for the new future that societies worldwide must create. Our festivals will do this by connecting local with global as we bring together people and ideas to nurture the human spirit. To realise a truly sustainable future, all those who can lead change need to join forces and help address the key challenges – securing Edinburgh’s world leading festival city for the generations to come.

Our past, present and future

Facing the global challenges of our time, people are more interdependent than ever before - and culture goes to the heart of what connects us.

The ability of the Edinburgh Festivals to connect people and ideas at local, national and international levels is a rare asset that thrives on constant reimagination. Edinburgh, Scotland and the UK are rightly proud of our city’s festivals heritage – generations of citizens have taken part in inspiring new experiences, and the festivals in turn have shown us as pioneers in contemporary creativity on a citywide and national scale.

We all know that the world is changing faster than ever - even before the global pandemic crisis of 2020 - and that yet deeper challenges to wellbeing, livelihoods, intercultural understanding and the health of our planet will face us in the years to come. The way people are now being drawn to culture to find meaning, joy and balance in their lives echoes the founding spirit of the festivals after World War Two. Now is the time to map out how Edinburgh needs to future proof our world-leading festival city so we can be at the forefront of leading positive change.

There is no returning to the status quo: rather a transition to a new future is needed, with solidarity and sustainability as guiding values. Success means achieving a balance of cultural, social, economic and environmental sustainability. For a thriving future, the festivals want to be able to do even more to support people’s quality of life and social bonds.

At the same time Edinburgh’s festivals have a vital role to play in helping to restore a healthy economy across the city and wider region, to offer rewarding work and share the opportunities and benefits widely. Sustaining Edinburgh’s place as host to a reimagined world-class festivals cluster will also deliver nationwide benefits for wellbeing and creative work, and help to rebuild the global standing of our city and nation through a new internationalism.

Thanks to world-leading collaboration across festivals and partners, we have a unique opportunity to address many complex challenges shared by cultural capitals worldwide. By nurturing distinctive, inclusive, sustainable and outward-looking festivals, we will bring people together to champion the human connections that can help people navigate the unknown in our disrupted and potentially destructive age.

Key development pillars for 2030

This vision comprises eight development pillars, reflecting different dimensions of excellence in how a world-leading sustainable festival city could look and feel by the year 2030. The vision aims to function as a statement of shared ambitions to assist collaborative thinking and action, recognising that many players have responsibility for different dimensions of development and decisions of course lie with the properly mandated authorities. Should resources be secured to move towards this vision, the pillars identify the headlines of a programme of innovation, future proofing and leadership across sectors and agencies, to address key needs and serve as a model for the vital role culture will play in sustainable city futures.

This vision is both rooted in the festivals’ own sense of their role and purpose, and seeks to take account of common ground with public policy and the plans and interests of stakeholders at all levels of the festivals’ work - most centrally at the time of writing:

  • The City of Edinburgh’s 2050 City Vision principles of a Welcoming, Thriving, Fair and Pioneering City; its economic strategy of enabling good growth through inclusion and innovation and supporting Edinburgh’s transition to a low carbon economy; and the post-Covid Adaptation and Renewal Programme priorities of addressing sustainability, wellbeing and poverty in line with the findings of the Poverty Commission
  • The three ambitions in the Culture Strategy for Scotland of strengthening culture as a diverse, positive force in society/ transforming Scotland’s wellbeing and cultural, social, economic and environmental prosperity through culture/ empowering through culture as part of every community; and Scotland’s strategy of responsible tourism for a sustainable future
  • Reserved UK Government policies in areas including international relations, cultural exports, industrial strategy innovations and infrastructure developments
  • International shared values and commitments such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant Sustainable Development Goals.

The development pillars below provide an agenda for partnership working between the festivals and city and national partners to influence the positive changes identified as crucial to the future success of our city and Scotland’s cultural capital. New models of alternative investment and support will be needed if we are to rise to this challenge. The outcomes and enablers set out here form the next phase of collaborative leadership across Edinburgh’s Festivals, the City of Edinburgh Council and Festivals Forum stakeholders to unlock these opportunities.

Vision 2030

Key projects and activities

A shared plan for future-proofing a sustainable cultural capital and festival city will need to include developments in infrastructure, city management and inclusive regeneration. Key tools for realising action areas such as the following will include a festival city investment strategy and standing festival city planning group bringing together festivals and multi-agency specialists to map out the annual and perennial cycles needed to manage major events at this level of ambition.

Public spaces and infrastructure

  • Public health protocols securing safe and enjoyable city environments for people to come together
  • Pedestrianisation, high quality permanent traffic management, street managers and security measures in key spaces
  • Hardwired power and state of the art digital connectivity in key spaces
  • Eco-, family-friendly and accessible facilities - recycling, water, picnic stations, advice and resources for people with limited mobility

Inclusive cultural provision

  • Cultural infrastructure for growing population including redevelopment of Edinburgh’s Waterfront
  • Increased opportunities for community-led culture and creativity
  • Inclusive skills development programme

Planning and development

  • Joined-up planning system with capacity to unlock strategic cultural investment by developers
  • Development and enforcement of robust regulations to prevent resurgence of accommodation and dispersal problems
  • Supportive accommodation, workspace and workforce policies for creatives
  • Programme for renewal and decarbonisation of Scotland’s cultural infrastructure

Investment and partnership opportunities

There are both local and national opportunities to support this range of development needs that will put safeguarding and widening the benefits to the people of Edinburgh and Scotland at the centre of the festivals’ transition out of and beyond the 2020 global crisis, including:

  • Platforms for Creative Excellence Programme
  • Leveraging Festivals’ 75th Anniversary and national festivals and seasons in 2022, and marking of 900th city anniversary in 2024
  • Scotland/UK/international resilience and stimulus programmes for post-covid recovery
  • Scotland/UK/international Green Investment opportunities
  • Future private sector property developments in Edinburgh
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