For the first time in over 70 years, the five festivals that transform Edinburgh into the world’s leading cultural destination every August are not going ahead this year due to concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are not happening as planned in 2020.

Together, the five August festivals comprise over 5,000 events across Scotland’s capital each summer, welcoming audiences of 4.4 million and over 25,000 artists, writers and performers from 70 countries, making them the second biggest cultural event in the world after the Olympics.

The festivals’ history stretches back to 1947, where in the aftermath of the Second World War the Edinburgh International Festival was founded to reconcile and reunite people and nations through art, in an event that transcended political and cultural boundaries. Many years later the International Festival continues to present the world’s leading theatre, dance and music artists in Edinburgh’s magnificent venues.

Sorcha Carey, Director, Edinburgh Art Festival, said, “It is with deep sadness that today we announce the cancellation of Edinburgh Art Festival 2020. Our decision is taken in response to the ongoing risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to prioritise the safety of our audiences, artists, participants, staff and indeed all those working to combat coronavirus.

“We will be back next year – as always working closely with our partner galleries, and alongside our extended network of sister festivals, to celebrate the work of artists with audiences and communities across the city.”

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said, “It’s heart-breaking that the Fringe and our sister August festivals will not take place as planned this summer. However, having taken advice and considered all the options, we collectively believe this is the only appropriate response.

“The safety of participants, audiences, local residents and indeed everyone connected to our festivals will always come first. Our thoughts today are with the doctors, nurses, health and social care professionals on the front line, as well as all those affected by this dreadful pandemic. Our sympathies too are with the thousands of artists and participants directly affected by today’s decision – we will do everything we can to support you over the coming months.”


Photo of Festival Theatre Edinburgh During International Festival 2019 © Ryan Buchanan