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Cancelled Israeli play 'has not damaged Festival reputation'

THE Edinburgh Festival Fringe's reputation has not been permanently damaged by the controversy over the cancellation of an Israeli play, Scotland's Culture Secretary has insisted.

CONFIDENT: Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said she had spoken to many global promoters who wished to come to the Fringe. Picture: Gordon Terris
CONFIDENT: Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said she had spoken to many global promoters who wished to come to the Fringe. Picture: Gordon Terris

During a day at the festivals in Edinburgh Fiona Hyslop reviewed a series of shows, concerts, exhibitions and performances she had attended, but also maintained that the cancellation of The City, by Israel's Incubator Theatre, after protests, had not damaged the Fringe's international reputation as an "open festival".

Last week the show's producer, John Stalker, said Edinburgh should "hang its head in shame" over the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the show.

Ms Hyslop had spoken out against cultural boycotts before protests led to the closure of the show, which was partially funded by Israeli government money, but said: "No I don't think [it has been damaged].

"The Fringe is even more ­international than ever this year, we can see that.

"There has been added interest from people wanting to come in future years, and I have spoken to many international promoters who want to come this week."

Ms Hyslop said she had yet to see any of the 100 or so shows at the Fringe that refer to the independence referendum or matters of national identity, as much of her time in August had been taken up with campaigning for the referendum or engaged in politics at the Scottish Parliament, which is in session during the festival period for the first time.

The Culture Secretary has also been involved in a debate at the festival taking place in the Parliament, as well as taking part in the Edinburgh International Culture Summit with arts ministers from around the world.

She has yet to take in shows at the Fringe that are on the Yes side of the debate, such as Alan Bissett's The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant or the discussion, spoken word and performance show All Back to Bowie's.

Ms Hyslop said: "I am too busy campaigning in the referendum to go and be entertained by the referendum."

Her schedule will allow few breaks this week either.

She added: "This is the first time that the Parliament has ever sat during the period of the festival, so last week I led a debate on the festival's contribution to culture in Scotland and I have the cabinet meeting in Arbroath today, so it is wall-to-wall, so I am trying to see things in between, as often as I can.

"It is very frustrating, because I think at the festivals you should have several days to immerse yourself. I think it is better and more rewarding that way."

Figures released by the Scottish Government say that the combined Edinburgh Festivals attract 25,000-plus international artists, and audiences of more than four million.

More than £260 million is brought to the Scottish economy from the festivals, with £41m spent on accommodation and £37m in cafes and bars.

Ms Hyslop has taken in all three of the National Theatre of ­Scotland's James Plays at the International Festival, exhibitions at the National Galleries and performances at Underbelly and Summerhall. She also took part in an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival celebrating Scottish author Neil Gunn and Irish writer Maurice Walsh.

Ms Hyslop said she was impressed with the Generation shows of contemporary Scottish art she has seen in Orkney and Edinburgh, and there are talks ongoing with the British Council to try to take elements of the nationwide show on tour to other parts of the world.

After failing to find a new venue when protests ended its shows at the Underbelly venue in Edinburgh, The City was performed at the Maccabi Youth Centre in Giffnock, Glasgow, on Thursday and will be performed at the JW3 venue in London this week.

The theatre company said: "We hope that from now on our ­audiences and critics will be able to see and review the show without being forced to focus on the politics."

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