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For the first time in its history, the world’s largest book festival Edinburgh Book Festival, will be staged at Edinburgh’s art school instead of its regular location.

For nearly 40 years, the Edinburgh book festival has been held in the small tented city in Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town, but in due to coronavirus crisis, the festival has quit Charlotte Square’s garden, citing the significant costs and long-term uncertainties of staging an event heavily dependent on live audiences.

Nick Barley, the director of Edinburgh International Book Festival, said it was a wrench but necessary. Erecting the marquees and tents each year, and returfing and maintaining the garden every winter, costs close to £1m.

The festival fears it may take several years for audiences to return in large numbers, and its successful experiment

last year with online events had shown that hybrid events, part-broadcast and part-live, were now long-term fixtures.

“The virus may be temporary but the effects will be long term,” he said. “The hybrid festival is the new story which has emerged out of the pandemic, and that isn’t temporary. So we need a space from which the festival can be broadcast and reintroduce live audiences over time.”

“No festival is able to predict how many tickets it will sell this year, next year or any after that. The economic projections are impossible,” he added.

Over recent years, about 265,000 people visited Charlotte Square every August. Events marquees, food stalls, tented bookshops, open air cafes, yurts for visiting authors and the media are closely packed together.

Due to the difficulties of forecasting what the festival can stage this August, it has also delayed announcing which events will take place this year until June.

Barley said it had signed a long-term agreement with the University of Edinburgh to use the art school. The university, which has also lost tens of millions of pounds during the pandemic from lost rental and events earnings, will provide the catering for live events, adding to its income.

Source: The Guardian