Festival

/ Nicola Walls / Arts & Culture

It is hard not to be impressed by the dynamic that lights up our cities whether the grand dame of festivals, the official Edinburgh Festival and its maverick Fringe sidekick, or in Glasgow its Merchant City Festival or neighbourhood celebrations like the West End Festival.

Historically festivals celebrated the passing of time and were for the most part tied to the marking of religious ritual. This characteristic remains today, a regular and repeating event, now less focused on devotional support and rather more a creative cauldron of cultural activity.

Whatever type we are talking about, what captures our imagination about festivals is their seeming spontaneity, sense of adventure and experimentation - entertainment value all achieved by the occupation of unheralded or neglected spaces and public environments.

A number of venues stood out at the Fringe in occupying that weird injection of energy – from the remarkable transformation of the old Edinburgh Vet School into the Summerhall venue - where retained memories of the old school functions have been retained juxtaposed against challenging contemporary contributions - to the evocative 52 room Underbelly - an aptly conceived and discovered Valhalla under Edinburgh. And it is some scale of occupation, with 2871 shows, 24000 artists and 200 venues said to contribute £250m to the local economy as well as upwards of 5000 jobs.

That is a lot of money and a lot of access, but given the scale of undertaking it is a surprise to learn that of the venues only 110 said they were wheelchair accessible. Only 20 shows were signed, 10 captioned and 9 shows audio described. This disparity between earnings, always the boast of the enterprise and business community, and the failure of venues to be truly accessible, should allow at least a proportion of these citywide earnings to be reinvested back into facilities.

What is more, the design community could be supported in creating unique, novel and experimental ways of meeting these broader needs. This would be a great all round win.

James Morrison St street party