Five Edinburgh festivals, including the International Festival and the Fringe, have been cancelled due to Covid-19.

The five August festivals attract over almost half a million visitors to the Scottish capital each year across more than 5,000 events, as well as 25,000 performers from over 70 different countries.

The Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival, will face its first ever cancellation in its 70-year history, along with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan said: “There are more important challenges to be faced over the coming months but I know that the Festival plays a central role in the cultural, social and economic lives of many in our city and country. I am very sorry that on this occasion, the show can’t go on. However, this just has made all of us at the Festival more determined than ever that when it is safe, we will be back.

“Like many other enterprises, this cancellation causes the Festival significant financial challenges. We are working closely with our family of public funders, private donors and corporate partners to secure the Festival’s safe passage through this perilous period.”

As the Fringe is an open-access event, the governing Fringe Society cannot formally cancel it in the same way other festivals can. But it can recommend that the many venues and participants stop their planning and refund deposits and tickets.

A joint statement to visiting companies and performers from the Fringe’s biggest venues, the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Underbelly and Pleasance, said: “Whilst we are suspending our activity for the foreseeable future, if there is any chance that we might rekindle the spark of a festival fringe at our venues in August 2020 and rebuild an event for this summer, we will certainly try.

“The undefinable and indefatigable Fringe spirit has always been one of this festival’s most exhilarating characteristics and if there is any way that we can capture just a tiny ounce of that spirit this summer, then we hope you know we will give it our best shot.”

Shona McCarthy, the chief executive of the Fringe Society said registration fees, tickets and memberships would all be refunded.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the cancellation as “heartbreaking, but the right decision”.

Image: Festival Fringe Society