VETERAN Scottish arts impresario Richard Demarco has branded the Edinburgh Festival a “money-making racket”.
Professor Demarco has been involved with the internationally renowned festival since its inception back in 1947.
But the 86-year-old, who was named European Citizen of the Year in 2013, feels that the celebration of arts and culture has moved too far away from its core values.
Demarco,a former professor of cultural studies at Kingston University in London, feels that the festival has become too focussed on making money.
He said: “The Edinburgh Festival was not founded to make money for Edinburgh City Council.
“It was founded on the basis that, in 1947, the world was in a state of shock and the people of Edinburgh and Scotland were suffering from terrible wounds and pain so the Edinburgh Festival was created to help heal the wounds of war.
“That has been forgotten about now. It is now a money-making racket.”
In 2015, English comedian Richard Herring boycotted the Edinburgh Festival because it was too expensive.
He said it had “changed so much and got so big that it’s unmanageable,” and that after losing money at the Festival in recent years, it was “no longer worth the gamble” for him to perform.
Ticket prices at the Festival have been increasing in recent years, with the average price thought to be around £12 for a show, however it can cost well over £20 to see bigger-named acts perform.
A study by polling firm YouGov in August this year found that 44% of Scots feel it’s too expensive to go to shows at the Edinburgh Festival compared to 30% who don’t.
Demarco’s comments about the current status of the Edinburgh Festival come as he visited a new exhibition in Dunfermline, Fife.
The famed Scottish artist founded Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre and was appointed a CBE in 2007.
Demarco has previously held some of his own Festival shows in the Kingdom of Fife and was speaking at the opening of an exhibition called ‘Falling Up Into a Redemptive Community’, which aims to raise awareness of mental health.
The exhibition takes place in an old fire station and Demarco says he is keen to introduce an aspect of Fife in to his show at the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival.
He continued: “I would like to thank the people of Dunfermline for coming to the rescue.
“It reminds everyone in Edinburgh that the Edinburgh Festival was founded on the basis as art as a healing balm, as a kind of medicine.
“I have a connection with Fife as my father was born in Kelty. I would like to introduce a Fife dimension in the Edinburgh Festival 70th anniversary celebrations.
“I want to point out that if you have a fire station, it is dealing with emergency situations and that is how I think you should look at art.
“It is not something you enjoy when you have the time and are relaxed. It shouldn’t be equated with playing golf or watching football. It is much more serious for that.
“I would recommend that every member of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood go and see that exhibition.”
Earlier this year, Demarco spoke of his concern that the Brexit vote could prompt difficulties for the Edinburgh Festival.
Speaking in August he said: “It was decided that Edinburgh would become a world capital of culture. How on earth can you maintain that idea when the Edinburgh Festival is no longer about Europe?
“The whole event is really pretty unrecognisable to the festival that I loved for the first 40 years or so.
“Next year is the most important in the history of the Edinburgh Festival. It is now reaching retirement age.”