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Edinburgh Festival poised to cash in on Olympics visitors

THE Edinburgh Festival's "once- in-a-lifetime" programme for this year will boost tourism by acting as a decisive draw for visitors already attending London's Olympics, it has been claimed.

The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) will feature three huge theatrical productions at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston, four new operas from Scottish Opera, the first appearance by the Mariinsky Ballet, the first festival performance by Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti and new work by leading composer James MacMillan.

The dramatic sweep of the 2012 programme – which artistic director Jonathan Mills admitted was a particularly "big festival" – will attract more culture fans to the Scottish capital following the Olympic Games, according to Ruth Mackenzie, the director of the London 2012 cultural festival.

The Games run from July 27 to August 12, while the EIF takes place from August 9 to September 2.

Ms Mackenzie said she expects tourism from London to be "even bigger this year, because the EIF programme is very attractive".

The Royal Highland Centre's Lowland Hall is to be converted into a "rough and ready but fantastic" space for three shows: 2008 Macbeth, a sizeable Polish production only staged twice before; Theatre Basel's take on My Fair Lady, called Meine Faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor; and Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir, a work by Theatre du Soleil and director Ariane Mnouchkine.

Ms Mackenzie said: "For me, the interesting question is, what is that once-in-a-lifetime and unforgettable experience in the arts of the summer of 2012 that will rest in the memory along with those great sporting moments? That is always dangerous to guess in advance, but my guess would be this.

"What Jonathan is doing is pushing the boundaries of art in a way that is fit for the challenge of 2012.

"He has been years ahead of us, because Jonathan [who is Australian] saw what happened in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and he saw how that helped all of the culture and tourism of Australia, so he has been leading where the rest of us have followed."

Mr Mills announced the EIF programme at The Hub in Edinburgh yesterday, a programme that for the first time in six years does not have a specific theme.

Instead, he said, the festival is returning to some of the values of the first festival in 1947, which aimed to "inspire and lift audiences" and "provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit".

Mr Mills also revealed the festival is in rude financial health – its turnover has reached £10 million for the first time, and fundraising income has risen by 15%.

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