Edinburgh festival fringe threatened by Covid rules, says organiser

The survival of the Edinburgh festival fringe is at stake unless social distancing rules for venues are relaxed within a fortnight, its organiser has said.

Shona McCarthy, the chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, called on ministers to replace the 2-metre rule with the 1-metre distance used in hospitality in order to help secure the future of the world’s largest arts festival.

“Within another two weeks, it’s going to be impossible for any [Edinburgh promoter] to put on anything,” McCarthy told the Times Escocia.

“There’s a real danger for the future of the fringe. One year of no festival was manageable, and we were able to keep it in hearts and minds and everybody still held that space in their calendar, as that annual moment for reconnection and getting together. At two years, you jeopardise the solid space the fringe has held for 75 years.”

She urged the government to “have that leap of faith” and trust venues to deliver services safely in the same way as the hospitality sector.

Under level 2 restrictions, theatres and other similar venues are allowed to host a maximum of 100 people – a cap that is subject to distancing measures.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “We do not underestimate the severe impact this pandemic has had on the performing arts. We want the performing arts sector to be able to reopen fully and plan future activity with confidence, but we must continue to move very carefully to ensure continued suppression of Covid-19.”

She added that the government was producing guidance which may allow higher numbers in some venues, adding that the outcome of a review of distancing rules was also due to be announced ahead of the planned move to level 1 restrictions on 7 junio.

After being forced to cancel last summer for the first time in 75 años, this year’s festival will take place from 6 a 30 agosto.

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