Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Spotlight on Edinburgh Festivals

04 September 2014

Attracting around 4 million visitors each year, the Edinburgh Festivals are the largest arts festivals in the world. Entertaining, thrilling and sometimes shocking us, artists from across the globe descend on the capital and perform to willing audiences which sees Edinburgh's population double in size to over 1million. 

This doesn't happen by chance. Working hard throughout the year is a top team who ensure that our world class festivals are brought to a worldwide audience. Now that this year's Summer festivities have drawn to a close, we are delighted to catch up with Susan Russell, Marketing Manager at Festivals Edinburgh, who gives us a sneak peak behind the scenes.

How many are in the team at Festivals Edinburgh?

There are eight full time staff within the team at Festivals Edinburgh.  During the peak summer months our team expands with additional support to help us in hosting our domestic and international journalists and delegations here to visit the Festival City.  Festivals Edinburgh is the strategic umbrella organisation for our city’s 12 major festivals and we lead on their joint strategic development, working to ensure the festivals maintain their world-leading status.  Within the Edinburgh Festivals 2010 Impact Study we identified that our festivals support some 5,242 FTE jobs in Edinburgh across the year, with our festivals all expanding their teams during their peak festival seasons. 

How do you work with media?

Our festivals host hundreds of arts and news journalists at their individual festivals throughout the year.  The Festivals Edinburgh team add additional support to the festivals by bringing in key UK and international travel and lifestyle media.  The focus of these trips is to showcase the festivals and the city and encourage publication post-festival, when many potential visitors are considering booking their future holidays.  We run these trips throughout the year, and encourage a cross-festival message, to position Edinburgh as the Festival City and ideal for a trip at any time of year.

What’s the strangest request you’ve had to deal with from an overseas visitor?

We receive strange requests from people all the time – questions, comments, observations and everything in between!  However, we recently received a query from an academic who wanted to know when the Edinburgh International Festival programme was launched this year.  He records dreams and had one featuring their programme.  He feels that if he can prove the information came to him before the festival launched its programme, then it would be very useful evidence for an argument for the paranormal!

What’s the best thing about your job? 

As the Marketing Manager at Festivals Edinburgh my role is extremely varied – and I love that.  Edinburgh’s Festivals are world-class brands; distinctively Scottish yet profoundly international; and I am extremely lucky to be able to work with them all each day.  From working with creative agencies on our campaigns to meeting international journalists or coordinating events, there is never a dull day – and a highlight is definitely working closely with all the festivals teams.

Any top tips for festival goers to make the most of their time at the festival?

All our festivals are unique and as such I would recommend planning some elements in advance and then leaving time to pick up recommendations or top tips on arrival.  For example, make sure you purchase your tickets to key events such as the Concert in the Gardens at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay or the Opening Concert at the Edinburgh International Festival – things you know will sellout in advance.  Having just concluded their busy August season, a top tip at the Festival Fringe is to leave some spare time – so that you can chat to those promoting their shows on the Royal Mile, or find out recommendations for performances from locals – it’s all part of the experience.

When showing press groups around the city, what Edinburgh view has the biggest wow factor?

Edinburgh is beautiful and a natural stage for our festivals.  Whether media are visiting us in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, there are some fantastic outdoor locations that are great at any time of year.  The views from Calton Hill are stunning, or similarly from Edinburgh Castle.  If they can handle the walk with all their kit, then Arthur’s Seat provides a different perspective on the city landscape.  During Edinburgh’s Hogmanay the views of Princes Street as you watch 80,000 welcoming in the New Year is a unique perspective for something different and in August many of our media flock to the Royal Mile to capture the hundreds of performers and promoters selling their shows to eager audiences.

What is your favourite Hidden Gem?

In October the Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs an evening event most nights called ‘Open Hearth’.  As the nights draw in, it’s a great opportunity to gather with locals to share stories and explore ideas.  This year, on Halloween, they’re running the Guid Crack Club in the Waverley Bar – it’s going to be a fantastic night and definitely something different to do on All Hallow’s Eve! A real gem as the nights draw in.

Team Photo: L-R Kate Bouchier-Hayes, Susan Russell, Louise Gilbert and Anna Fawcett