Cancelled Scottish festivals that we're going to miss this year
- Megan Forsyth
- 2 April 2020
A list of cancelled festivals that will not go ahead in Scotland in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
As a result of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and government advice, a growing number of Scottish festivals have made the difficult decision to cancel spring and summer 2020 events.
Early in the week, people were taking to the internet to ask 'is the Fringe cancelled?' and 'is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo cancelled?' Sadly, yesterday's announcements confirmed the cancellation of the five major August festivals in Edinburgh – Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This will certainly cause a ripple effect on other major Scottish festivals that were set to take place in the summer. What does August in Edinburgh look like without the festivals that have shaped this city over the past 70 years? It's uncharted territory for festival organisers, performers and local residents alike.
While we're still coming to terms with this news at The List, it's not all doom and gloom. We're finding comfort in knowing that the Fringe and other festivals will only come back bigger and better in 2021 – that is, after we've all done our part to flatten the curve of this pandemic by staying home in the weeks and months ahead.
We have compiled a list of cancelled Scottish festivals that we are desperately going to miss this year but look forward to attending next year. It's important to note that it is going to be extremely challenging for many festivals to come back from this year's financial losses – if you have the means, please consider supporting your favourite Scottish festivals either by not requesting ticket refunds or by making a donation. They need support now more than ever.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
7–31 Aug (cancelled)
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world's largest and most iconic arts festival, catering to everyone and featuring theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, musicals, operas, children's shows, music and cabaret.
'As a charity, the Fringe Society's job is to bring all the parts of the Fringe jigsaw puzzle together and, whilst we do not own or control the festival, we can consult, inform and connect people from across the Fringe to reach a collective decision about its future,' said Fringe Society Chief Executive Shona McCarthy in a statement on 27 Mar, promising to provide another update soon. The difficult decision to not move forward with this year's Fringe as planned was made in consultation with the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, venues, partners and other stakeholders and announced on 1 Apr.
'Today's decision that the Fringe will not go ahead as planned was not taken lightly,' Shona McCarthy said. 'We have spent the past month listening to a broad cross-section of Fringe participants, as well as to government, healthcare professionals, residents and many more; however, in light of present circumstances it was unavoidable. Public health must and always will come first.'
As the Fringe is an open access festival, some performers could still stage shows come August, if it is deemed safe to do so. Elements of the festival may be present, but it certainly won't be anything like the Fringe that Edinburgh and the rest of the world have known in years past. Donate to Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Edinburgh International Festival
7–31 Aug (cancelled)
Created in 1947 to celebrate the human spirit, the Edinburgh International Festival is the world's leading performing arts festival, featuring the finest dance, opera, music and theatre performers. Confirmed for the 2020 programme was The National Theatre of Scotland's new staging of Liz Lochhead's adaption of Euripides' Medea and a special performance by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO). After delaying the announcement of the rest of the festival's programme in March, the Edinburgh International Festival sadly announced its cancellation on 1 Apr.
'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,' Festival Director Fergus Linehan said. '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.' Donate to Edinburgh International Festival
Edinburgh International Book Festival
15–31 Aug (cancelled)
Edinburgh is the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, making it the perfect setting for the world's largest public celebration of the written word. Held in the beautiful Charlotte Square Gardens, the Edinburgh International Book Festival typically features leading Scottish and international authors, poets, politicians, historians, journalists and children's authors. The festival announced its cancellation on 1 Apr, promising to return in 2021.
'The Edinburgh International Book Festival is an integral part of the Scottish cultural offering, and we will return next year,' said Edinburgh International Book Festival Director Nick Barley. 'We are already looking forward to authors and audiences coming together to celebrate the written word in 2021. In the meantime, please keep reading and please keep supporting your local independent bookshops, many of whom are offering a mail order or door drop delivery service.' Donate to Edinburgh International Book Festival
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
7–29 Aug (cancelled)
The world-renowned international event held at Edinburgh Castle Esplanade draws crowds and performers from all over the world with its massed pipes and drums, military bands, display teams and dancers. The 2020 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was going to mark the 70th anniversary of the event, however unfortunately it was cancelled on 1 Apr.
'The current circumstances are unique and unquestionably challenging, but we are inspired daily by the work that is being done by so many to carry us all beyond the pandemic,' said the Tattoo's Chief Executive and Producer Brigadier David Allfrey. 'As ever, it is our customers, partners and communities that have shaped the remarkable institution that we are today. We would like to thank you all for your continued support of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – and all that we represent – and hope to see you very soon when we return to our stage on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.'
Edinburgh Art Festival
30 Jul–30 Aug (cancelled)
The Edinburgh Art Festival is Scotland's largest annual celebration of visual art. It has offered a platform for over 15 years, bringing together the city's most prominent galleries, museums and art spaces to celebrate the best in visual art. Featuring local, national and international artists over numerous exhibitions, the festival has always been the voice of both well known and up-and-coming artists from all over the world, but this year's edition was cancelled on 1 Apr.
'While it has become impossible to deliver a festival this year, we remain fully committed to doing all we can to continue to support our visual arts community during what is going to be a hugely challenging time in the weeks and months to come,' said Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival. 'We hope that it will be possible for galleries, museums and production spaces across the city to reopen their doors in the coming months; and in the meantime, we will work creatively to find alternative ways to share the work of artists with audiences.' Donate to Edinburgh Art Festival
2–5 Apr (cancelled)
The four-day Counterflows festival showcases underground experimental and international music in venues across Glasgow. The 2020 line-up included Will Guthrie, Still House Plants and Soft Tissue, however the event was cancelled on 16 Mar.
'Putting international artists through the stress of cancelled flights and being potentially quarantined is just too much of a risk to take given the current situation,' said festival curators Alasdair Campbell and Fielding Hope. 'On top of this, it feels increasingly irresponsible to be holding social events of our scale given the risk of the virus spreading.'
The organisers now plan to focus on the 2021 edition of the festival, which will also mark the 10th anniversary of Counterflows. They hope to reschedule as many of the artists from the 2020 lineup as possible and have also compiled a list of artists whose music can be purchased on Bandcamp. Support Counterflows festival artists by donating via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Edinburgh Science Festival
4–19 Apr (cancelled)
The Edinburgh Science Festival, which offers hands-on science experiences in venues across the city is always a family favourite. The 2020 festival was cancelled on 17 Mar, however the festival announced plans to launch a digital #EdiSciFest in its place for April.
'With the Science Festival less than three weeks away and a programme of over 270 events, this has been a complex process for the organisation to manage, but the health and wellbeing of our visitors, participants and staff remains our number one priority,' Festival and Creative Director Amanda Tyndall said. 'The latest official guidance makes clear it is no longer possible or advisable to try to deliver the exceptional experience we have worked so hard towards.' Donate to Edinburgh Science Festival
24 Apr–10 May (cancelled)
The biennial Glasgow International is one of the UK's largest and most influential art festivals, known for its notable programme of new commissions and exhibitions. This year's theme was Attention which would have been more timely than ever, asking participants to consider how, where and in whom our attention is placed in the age of social media and the 24/7 news cycle. Sadly, Glasgow International announced the festival's cancellation on 17 Mar.
'A decision like this was unimaginable only weeks ago,' the statement read. 'Making it now, although difficult, we believe gives us the best chance of protecting what makes Glasgow International unique, in the long term. Glasgow International provides a critical moment for the city's artists, arts organisations, galleries and audiences to come together with artists, curators, galleries and audiences from all over the world.' Donate to Glasgow International
Edinburgh International Film Festival
17–28 June (postponed)
The Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world's oldest continuously running film festival. The festival is often thought to kick off the summer of festivals in Edinburgh and the 74th edition in June was going to pay tribute to film soundtracks and scores. On 18 Mar, the festival announced its postponement, vowing to look at which elements of the festival it might be possible to deliver later in the year.
'It is with huge regret that we have taken the necessary decision to postpone the 74th Edinburgh International Film Festival,' said Edinburgh International Film Festival CEO Ken Hay. 'Film festivals are critical platforms for films and filmmakers to reach and engage with audiences, and EIFF has done this uninterrupted for 74 years. However the health and wellbeing of our staff, filmmaker guests and audiences has to be the first consideration.' Donate to Edinburgh International Film Festival
Edinburgh International Children's Festival
20–31 May (cancelled)
Organised by Imaginate, this year's Edinburgh International Children's Festival programme of live theatre, dance and music was set to feature 15 international productions and nearly 100 Scottish artists performing at the event's Family Day. Imaginate made the difficult decision to cancel the festival on 19 Mar, vowing to focus its efforts on supporting the artists they work with and find innovative ways to deliver its year-round programme.
'Our priority is now on supporting those we work with and minimising their potential loss of income,' said festival director Noel Jordan. 'I want to ensure the cancellation of the Festival does not mean financial hardship for the small arts organisations, freelancers and independent artists we rely on to make our Festival the special event that it is.'
Imaginate has generously launched an Ideas Fund to support artists and give them new opportunities to inspire children and families living in isolation. Donate to Imaginate's Ideas Fund
Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival
4–24 May (cancelled)
The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, which aims to support the arts and challenge preconceived ideas about mental health, unfortunately made the decision to cancel the festival in its current format on 17 Mar. Knowing the importance of continuing to support the arts and raise awareness about mental health at a time like this, the festival is currently developing an online programme which will be unveiled on their website in the coming weeks.
'We know that this is a difficult time for everyone and will have a big impact on everyone working in the arts,' the festival's statement said. 'As a festival that prides itself on bringing together the arts and mental health, we plan to be part of the important, ongoing conversation around ensuring a strong and healthy future for the arts and artists in Scotland, and exploring innovative ways of connecting us all at this difficult time.' Donate to the Mental Health Foundation
Islay Festival of Music and Malt
22–30 May (cancelled)
Islay Festival of Music and Malt (Fèis Ìle) boasts a diverse programme of traditional music, ceilidhs, Gaelic lessons, golf, bowling and whisky tasting. It's easily the busiest weekend of the year on Islay, attracting visitors from all over the world. The festival made the difficult decision to cancel on 18 Mar after lengthy discussions between its committee and the festival's distillery partners.
'We are devastated to have to announce this. We love our festival and welcoming people from around the world,' the festival's statement read. 'We have considered the impact on islanders, local businesses and visitors alike. Please continue to support our island and we look forward to seeing you for Fèis Ìle 2021.'
19–21 June (cancelled)
Solas is a midsummer music and arts festival in the heart of Perth and Kinross with performances and workshops in world music, theatre, dance, literature and visual arts, as well as talks and debates. The 2020 line-up was set to include Admiral Fallow, Tinderbox Orchestra, Stanley Odd, Carla J. Easton, Kapil Seshasayee, Zoe Graham and more, however it was announced on 20 Mar that the festival would be cancelled this year.
'We know how important Solas Festival is to so many of you, and we very much hope that we will be able to organise an event that will enable us to gather, sharing music and ideas at some point in 2020, not least in the run-up to COP 26,' the festival's statement said. 'But what the future holds is uncertain for us all: for now we, like you, are monitoring the situation as it develops, and like you, we are now really looking forward to Solas Festival 2021!' Donate to Solas Festival
Radio 1's Big Weekend
22–24 May (cancelled)
Radio 1's Big Weekend was set to be held in Camperdown Park in Dundee this year with an incredible 70,000 people expected to attend. This would have marked the second time that the major festival was held in Dundee – it was also held on the same site in 2006. This year's star-studded line-up included Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello, Calvin Harris, Biffy Clyro and AJ Tracey, but unfortunately the event was cancelled on 13 Mar.
'This decision has been made in conjunction with our event partners, in line with the advice from the Scottish government, and while we know fans looking forward to purchasing tickets will be disappointed, it is important that we prioritise the health and safety of all those involved,' BBC Radio 1's statement said.
Tiree Music Festival
10–12 Jul (cancelled)
With its picture-perfect white sand and world-famous surf, the Tiree Music Festival has been described as one of the most stunning festival locations in the world – the tiny Hebridean island of Tiree is even nicknamed the 'Hawaii of the North'. The festival was set to showcase some of Scotland's best folk artists in its 10th anniversary year before announcing its cancellation on 24 Mar.
'Up until the past few days we were still in strong hope that we would progress with TMF2020 as planned however with the impact of the pandemic on the travel operators to the island and the uncertainty around restrictions on gatherings and events, this sadly means it will be impossible to plan and manage the audience numbers that attend the event,' the festival statement read.
Beltane Fire Festival
30 Apr (cancelled)
Set atop the picturesque Calton Hill in Edinburgh, this modern interpretation of the ancient fertility festival of Beltane encourages attendees to celebrate the birth of summer and the fertility of the land. Organised by Beltane Fire Society, the festival is a truly unique experience featuring blazing pyrotechnics, immersive theatre and elaborate costumes. On 17 Mar, the Board of Trustees for the Beltane Fire Society announced the cancellation of this year's festival.
'We are committed to ensuring our events are a safe space for all attendees to celebrate the changing seasons,' said Bradley Mcarthur, Chair of Beltane Fire Society. 'With the recent statements from the First Minister of Scotland concerning large public gatherings over 500 people and the continued spread of the coronavirus, it was felt irresponsible to allow the event to go ahead as usual.'
In place of the festival, Beltane Fire Society has now announced that the first Beltane Online Festival (BOnFire) will take place on Thu 30 Apr. Volunteers who typically lead Edinburgh's world-famous fire festival have been encouraged to submit ideas for BOnFire to help tell the Beltane story online through video, art, photography, poetry and song. These pieces will be shared as part of a series of chapters, which will each be similar to various parts of the festival's traditional journey around Calton Hill.
Tickets are not required for BOnFire, however participants have the option to purchase a 'pay what you can' ticket as a donation to the festival. Donations can be made on Citizen Ticket's website, where a suggested gift of £5.50 has been set, but the price can be amended to what participants feel they can afford to donate.
Glasgow Zine Fest
18 & 19 Apr (cancelled)
Glasgow Zine Library's flagship event is a two-day festival celebrating self-publishing and DIY culture. Held at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, the festival hosts over 75 makers from across the world each year and also includes workshops, talks, performances, and readings in its programme. Glasgow Zine Fest actively encourages people to learn, collaborate and share ideas. Glasgow Zine Library announced the cancellation of the festival on 16 Mar.
'Due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in the interest of our community and staff, we have taken the decision to temporarily close Glasgow Zine Library and cancel Glasgow Zine Fest 2020,' the statement read. 'Keep an eye on our social media for online events that we are currently delivering.' Donate to Glasgow Zine Library
Take Me Somewhere
14–31 May (cancelled)
The spirit of Glasgow's the Arches (an arts venue which closed in 2015) lives on in this festival of contemporary international performance founded in 2017 by Jackie Wylie, now the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland. Take Me Somewhere provides support and a platform for Scottish artists, combined with some of the world's most innovative contemporary performers. Sadly, the 2020 festival was cancelled on 19 Mar.
'We are of course heavy of heart that we're not able to welcome the incredible artists from near and afar, or to gather with you all to witness what we consider to be the spectacular and the vital. But we know there will be other opportunities,' the festival's statement said. 'Our focus now is on the artists that surround us who are going through challenging times, our tight-knit team, and our partners, friends and allies who are finding their own way through these tumultuous times.'
Puppet Animation Festival
28 Mar–18 Apr (cancelled)
Organised by Puppet Animation Scotland, the UK's largest and longest established annual performing arts event for children pulls some strings to present a feast of puppet-based entertainment, working with local authorities, organisations and venues throughout Scotland. The unfortunate cancellation of the 2020 Puppet Animation Festival was announced on 18 Mar.
'This has also been a challenging decision to make because of its potential effect on the Scottish and English puppetry companies we have programmed and the festival venues in which they were due to appear,' the festival's statement read. 'The practical support of puppeteers has always been one of Puppet Animation Scotland's fundamental purposes. To this end, we will be working with both artists and venues to reschedule, in the second half of 2020, as many performances and workshops as they and we can.'
Colonsay Book Festival
25 & 26 Apr (cancelled)
An intimate book festival held on the beautiful Hebridean isle, the Colonsay Book Festival programme features readings and performances, as well opportunities to meet with the writers, debates, and good craic in the pub. Writers Catherine Brown, John D. Burns, Karen Campbell, Martin Edwards, Robin Robertson and Andrew O'Hagan were confirmed to speak at the ninth edition of the festival before it was cancelled on 18 Mar.
'Further to the recent change in Government approach and advice, it has become clear we can no longer deliver anything like the festival we had promised and in the interests of our audience, authors, supporters, volunteers and the local community, we have taken the sad decision to cancel this year's Colonsay Book Festival,' the festival's statement read. 'We hope that by this time next year, we will again be able to welcome all those who were planning to join us in 2020 for Colonsay's famed 'literary lock-in'.'
Shetland Folk Festival
30 Apr–3 May (cancelled)
The internationally-renowned Shetland Folk Festival showcases not only folk music, but blues, jazz and swing, along with a programme of workshops sessions and concerts. The 2020 event was going to mark the 40th edition of the UK's most northerly folk gathering, but the festival was cancelled on 13 Mar.
'We want our 40th Festival to be a celebration of everything good about our islands, and recent measures such as global travel restrictions, limits on public gatherings and an understandable uncertainty amongst the most vulnerable in our community has led us to conclude that it's better to wait another year to really do Shetland and its musical family justice,' the festival's statement read.
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
17–26 July (cancelled)
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is Scotland's biggest jazz festival and presents concerts over ten days all over the capital, in parks, churches, clubs and concert halls. The festival announced its cancellation, along with the Edinburgh Festival Carnival, on 16 Apr.
'I believe music can continue to unite us and bring joy in these worrying times, and we are working on how we can still share that with you in the coming weeks via our online platforms,' said Chair of Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, Councillor Jason Rust. 'Our staff are unearthing interesting footage and content to share and working with closely with Scottish musicians to bring you new digital content which is an artistic response to the times.'
The Great Eastern
9 May (cancelled)
The Great Eastern was due to be Edinburgh's answer to Glasgow's successful multi-venue music festival The Great Western. The Great Eastern announced the cancellation of its inaugural event on 16 Apr and the festival has been rescheduled for Sat 22 May, 2021. Many acts that were scheduled for this year's festival have already been confirmed for the 2021 event, including Free Love, Swim School and Rachel Sermanni.
'All original tickets will of course remain valid and we hope that you will all join us next year to kick off this exciting new festival of musical exploration and discovery in the capital,' the festival's statement read.
Kelburn Garden Party
3–6 July (cancelled)
Established in 2009 and set on Scotland's West Coast at the grounds and glen around a 13th century painted castle, Kelburn Garden Party has become known for being one of Scotland's most unique and magical music and arts festivals. The 2020 edition of the festival was cancelled on 20 Apr and new dates have been set for 2–5 July 2021.
'We've been lucky enough to have 10 years of amazing Garden Parties, creating memories and friendships we will cherish forever and with your help Kelburn will be back next year with more magic, music and good vibes for us to enjoy together. It is our intention to roll over this year's line-up where possible in order to present the festival we were looking forward to sharing this year,' the festival's statement read.
9–18 Oct (cancelled)
The award-winning Hidden Door festival was set to take place in a secret Edinburgh venue in October across 10 days with a programme showcasing a variety of talented performers and visual artists. On 12 Apr, Hidden Door announced the postponement of this year's festival to spring 2021. Dates have not been confirmed but it is expected the festival will take place around May 2021.
'The current situation means we are unable to move forward with so much of the work needed to deliver a 10-day multi-arts festival in a secret new venue,' the Hidden Door team said in a statement. 'It takes many months to pull together our packed programme of inspiring content, and with so much on pause right now we need to ensure it is the best possible event for our artists, our audience and the city.'
Doune the Rabbit Hole
17–19 Jul (cancelled)
The beloved boutique music festival held at Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire produces a strong lineup of music, theatre, comedy and spoken-word performances each year. The festival announced on 20 May that this year's edition will be rescheduled to 2021, thankfully with many of the same artists confirmed for the lineup.
'Rest assured we will be with you in 2021 and those who can retain their tickets can expect to enjoy performances from Belle and Sebastian, John Cale and a host of hotly tipped bands including Tide Lines and Girl Ray. Full details on roll over 2020/2021 tickets, refunds and the 2021 festival can be found on our website. If you do require a refund, please don't hesitate to contact us,' festival director Jamie Murray said.
Updated 21 May.
Looking to find out more about an event that was cancelled and whether you can get a refund? Here's what to do next.