Organizers confirmed Tuesday morning that the festival, which is a key stop in the U.K. TV industry’s calendar, will not be held as a physical event from August 26-28, but will instead virtually offer its flagship sessions, including the MacTaggart Lecture, controller sessions and awards, and talent schemes.
Crucially, the festival has been made free for freelancers this year, with organizers acknowledging that the self-employed are “particularly affected by this crisis.”
The festival is also set to create a stream of online content that will launch in the coming weeks. Applications are now open for the festival’s assortment of schemes, including The Network for new TV talent, Ones to Watch for rising stars, and TV PhD, which unites television and academia.
This year’s rejig of the festival — which is well attended by local industry and acclaimed for its editorial curation and innovative programming — comes just months after the event unveiled new leadership in Campbell Glennie, the event’s former director of education and talent development who was promoted to managing director; and former Variety international correspondent Stewart Clarke, who took on the role of creative director.
The decision to cancel the physical TV festival comes a week after Edinburgh called off its world-renowned Fringe Festival, as well as four other major summer festivals.
Glennie promised Tuesday that the 2020 festival will “not be the festival we know, but it will still be the festival we love.”
“We have decided that, in the best interests of everyone we would seek to bring together, educate and support, that we will not be staging the TV Festival physically in Edinburgh this August. However, our industry is based on creative innovation and so too is the Festival,” said Glennie.
“For the past week we have been in consultation with our board, partners and supporters to re-examine not just what we could achieve this year, but more importantly what we should be doing to connect, discuss and find solutions to issues both perennial and particular to the evolving challenges we all face,” he said.
Patrick Holland, this year’s advisory chair and BBC Two controller, added: “I believe that Edinburgh’s role as a lightning rod for our industry is more important than ever this year. The key themes we’ll be discussing; the future of the PSBs in the U.K. ecology, the role of TV in the climate emergency, reflecting the diversity of the audience in who makes and is featured in our shows — are brought into even sharper relief by the coronavirus crisis. I look forward to working with the team to bring that spirit to everyone between now and August.”