A message from Shona, Christmas 2022
14 December 2022
We’re in the final weeks before Christmas, and there’s a buzz in the Edinburgh air akin to August: people excited to be out with friends and family, reconnecting and socialising in a way that seemed impossible a year ago. The streets are bustling and the theatres and halls have shows aplenty. Edinburgh is stunning at any time of year, but there is something particularly special about how it comes alive to the joy of both residents and visitors in August and December.
Our festivals couldn’t go ahead as planned in 2020, were scaled back in 2021, and are having to be reinvented as we face an uncertain future. So I made it my mission this summer, and again this Christmas, to focus on the joy, on what is possible, and where we can find and contribute to uplifting moments and opportunities for recovery.
To quote Freddie Mercury, in one of the all-time great Christmas songs: “my friends, it’s been a long hard year.” (It’s been more than one, Freddie!) On the other hand, a personal favourite from Judy Garland is, “next year all our troubles will be out of sight”. We’ve got to keep hoping so.
That sense of joy is one of the reasons I feel so proud of the Fringe community and all who came together to make Edinburgh’s festivals happen this year. Even in the face of global traumas – pandemic, war in Europe, political turmoil in the UK and a cost-of-living crisis, coupled with the localised issues of rail strikes, bin strikes and the rising costs of everything – artists and creatives still came together to tell their stories and put on their shows, and helped us find not only a sense of respite, but of celebration. The 2022 Fringe was a joyous experience, and that’s something necessary and vital to preserve.
I’m not saying we should bury our heads and pretend that everything’s great. I’ve talked elsewhere about the myriad issues facing artists and arts organisations, and the need for greater support, investment and advocacy. The signs in Edinburgh are indicative of the wider sector: arts institutions are closing their doors, both literally and figuratively, or being forced to downsize dramatically. It isn’t hobbies or past-times or small things we’re fighting for – it’s jobs, vocations, livelihoods, not to mention a sizeable chunk of this country’s economy. The arts are so vital to our lives, it feels odd to still have to keep making the case that they matter. But if you’ve ever enjoyed a film, loved a book, cried at a song or a piece of music, been touched by a photograph, connected with a painting, or sat mesmerised in a theatre – it ALL matters, and has a huge role to play in our collective emergence from the increasing mess we find ourselves in.
I’d like to thank all the artists who have continued to create, tell stories and perform, who have kept bringing the humour, the empathy, the laughter and played a part in bringing the joy of the Fringe and other festivals back to the stages and streets of Edinburgh. Massive thanks as well to the audiences, venues, producers, workers, sponsors and wide variety of supporters, particularly our Fringe Friends, Patrons and Angels.
The Fringe Society team is small – there’s around 30 of us year-round – but every member of the team is dedicated to this amazing festival and what it brings to the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Edinburgh, Scotland and the UK, and the platform it provides for international connection and understanding. We’ll be closing our offices over Christmas and Hogmanay – giving the team a chance to restore their own reserves of comfort and joy – before show registration re-opens on Monday 09 January and this whole crazy cycle begins anew.
Personally, I can’t wait – I hope you’ll join us. In the meantime, I wish you the best Christmas possible.
Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
Thumbnail photo credit: A Ladder to the Stars (2022), Gilded Balloon. Photographer: David Monteith-Hodge.