Edinburgh International Book Festival is to move some events to a nearby street in a bid to reduce its impact on the private square where it holds most events.
The festival, which has been housed in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square since 1983, is set to move some of its events to nearby George Street. The main festival site will be redesigned so that the garden can be used for other events.
The owners of properties around the gardens said that the annual use of the gardens by the festival has taken a “heavy physical toll” on the space. They are planning £1m worth of improvements, including new landscaping and drainage, which means that there will be less space for the book festival.
According to the Scotsman, the owners are concerned about a “gradual deterioration” of the gardens due to the length of time it takes to recover from the 18-day event. The festival has been in talks with Edinburgh City Council and business group Essential Edinburgh over taking over a section of nearby George Street in August.
A spokesperson for the Charlotte Square Proprietors Association emphasised that there is "categorically no threat" to the continued presence of the book festival in the gardens and that the association and the festival are working together to create an "attractive, affordable and sustainable" solution.
“We’ve welcomed the book festival since it first took place in the gardens, providing it at no cost, and we strongly support its continued use by the festival. We also recognise the heavy physical toll the festival takes on the gardens prevents them from potentially being used for other public events and festivals", the spokesperson said.
“We’ve been working closely with the book festival to develop a management plan which will ensure its sustainable future within the gardens, and the gardens themselves, and would allow other events to take place. There is categorically no threat to the continued presence of the book festival in the gardens. Instead, it is everyone’s ambition to find ways to introduce other events into this historic space.”
Book festival director Nick Barley added: “Over the last 33 years the book festival has become ever more internationally successful and welcomes more authors in more events, and growing audience numbers, each year. In order to maintain our position as the world’s leading public celebration of words and ideas we must look to continually innovate and evolve.
“We’ve been working closely with the proprietors, who generously make the gardens available each year, but who have now asked us to reduce our impact on this private space. We’re exploring different physical configurations to find a way that the festival’s ambitions and use of the gardens are compatible with the needs of the owners, while retaining the elements of this world-class festival that our authors and audiences love.
“This year, we’re looking at ways of improving our infrastructure to ensure a quicker get-in and get-out to minimise damage to the turf and soil. "We’re also in discussion with the city council and Essential Edinburgh to look to expand into new spaces on George Street, which will open up the festival to new audiences.”