This year’s Edinburgh Fringe will not go ahead, the official Festival Fringe Society has confirmed.
The news from the body which puts together the official programme ends uncertainty over the fate of the world’s biggest arts festival amid the coronavirus lockdown will end.
Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said: 'It’s heart-breaking that the Fringe 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.
"Culture brings out the best in us. It gives the marginalised a voice, it shapes and reshapes how we think of ourselves and, crucially, it unites us. Since their inception in 1947 the Edinburgh festivals have existed to champion the flowering of the human spirit and, in the face of this truly unprecedented global emergency, we believe that this spirit is needed now more than ever.'
The society, which says tickets and show registration fees will be refuded, made the decision with the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council. However, it does not have the power to shut down the festival completely if the country is not in lockdown.
It conceded: 'The Fringe remains an open-access festival, which means the Fringe Society does not decide who can and cannot put on shows. We are advising all venues and companies to follow the latest government and public health advice, and will continue to provide support and guidance for all participants as the situation progresses. '
Ever since it began in 1947, the Fringe has comprised individual performers and producers staging shows under their own steam, so it is possible that a smaller-scale event could go ahead without central coordination.
The so-called ‘Big Four’ venues – Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly – are also putting their planning for the Fringe on hold.
These venues are now in negotiations with producers about returning deposits already paid, but producers are being given the option of keeping the money on deposit for this year in case a festival does still take place.