Welsh backs rival festival for locals

It is the biggest annual arts celebration in the world, ploughing £120m a year into the Scottish economy. But in recent times, local people have begun to view the Edinburgh Festival as over-priced, elitist and out-of-touch.

It is the biggest annual arts celebration in the world, ploughing £120m a year into the Scottish economy. But in recent times, local people have begun to view the Edinburgh Festival as over-priced, elitist and out-of-touch.

Now a collection of amateur performers from the city's most deprived areas are fighting back. In a bid to "reclaim" the festival on behalf of communities marginalised by rising ticket prices and the central locations of most performances, they are launching their own "People's Festival" as an alternative to the mainstream event and its traditional Fringe.

Irvine Welsh, whose novel Trainspotting challenged the perception of Edinburgh as a picture postcard tourist destination, warned that the festival was turning the city into a "cultural desert" and a "shortbread Disneyland". In a BBC radio interview, Mr Welsh said: "It [the festival] is now a playground for rich kids from the Home Counties, for festival kids who want to make it big in the arts, for toy-town career politicians, for anybody, in fact, but its local citizens." He is due in Edinburgh later this month to promote the book's sequel, Porn.

Yesterday, the founder of the new "People's Festival", Colin Fox, confirmed that it would be inaugurated on 24 August with a gala extravaganza at the Jack Kane Centre, a community venue in Edinburgh's impoverished Craigmillar district. Tickets for the show will cost £2. "Even Fringe shows can now cost up to £35 or £40 to attend, which makes them impossible for many local people to afford," Mr Fox said. "Locals seem to be here just to do the mucky job of cleaning up after the big all-night parties."

Mr Fox's initiative, dedicated to the founding fathers of the original festival, has the support of trades unions and the Fringe mavericks OutoftheBlue, whose alternative comedy awards ceremony, The Tap Water Prize, will this year go head-to-head with The Perrier Awards.

A spokesman for the Fringe said 41 per cent of its audience came from Edinburgh and the surrounding area, while some 17 per cent of its performances were by local people.

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