JOBS at what is thought to be the world's biggest books festival will be cut in a "heatbreaking" move caused by bleak economic conditions and the lasting impact of the pandemic, it has been announced. 

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has said it will scale back its programme to weather “highly challenging” times as the UK officially entered a recssion.

Festival bosses plan to drop live-streaming of events after income this year was 40% down on 2019, the last time a full-scale festival took place.

They hope to reduce costs by about 25% and have begun redundancy talks with the 32 full-time staff at the festival, which will mark its 40th anniversary next year.

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Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) said the changes in audience booking behaviour since the start of the pandemic and the continuing hesitancy around Covid among some of the festival’s core audiences, have been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

As a result, people are attending fewer events and spending less money while costs are continually rising, with indications the situation will continue into 2023 and beyond.

EIBF said: “We have prepared a prudent strategy to weather this highly challenging period.

"For the Book Festival charity to deliver an economically sustainable festival in 2023, the scale of the operation will be reduced, including cutting expenditure across all areas of the organisation and revising the delivery of the festival itself.

“This has required some tough decisions, most heartbreakingly the resizing of the incredibly talented team behind the festival and charity’s work, and pausing our streaming activity, which has been such a success in opening up the festival but costs a significant amount and is unaffordable in the current climate.”

The festival will take place as planned from August 12-28 next year at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), but it is expected there will be about 100 fewer events than this year.

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The cuts are expected to reduce the workforce of about 150 temporary and core staff that was in place this year for the festival, which moved from its previous home in Charlotte Square to ECA in 2021.

EIBF director Nick Barley told The Scotsman figures for ticket and book sales were “pretty brutal” in 2022. He said: “Our programme this year was two-thirds of the size of 2019 as we’d predicted lower demand.

“Our ticket sales forecasts were lower than what we’d always achieved at Charlotte Square, in terms of the percentage of seats sold for each event.

“But the figures were well below what we’d predicted. The number of people booking tickets was only 9% down. But the number of tickets they bought was 33% down.

“As a number of tickets were to watch online, for which the average income was lower, the amount of money we earned was 40% down. That’s the new benchmark for us.”

Festival chiefs said there will still be a varied programme of events for adults, children and schools and next year’s festival will still feature a large range of author talks, creative workshops and discussions with Scottish, UK and international authors.

The Book Festival charity continues to bring free events and books to schoolchildren via its Baillie Gifford programme and the Baillie Gifford transport fund which offers support toward travel costs, while the communities programme continues to connect creatively with people in their own communities.

Work will also continue to prepare for the planned move from ECA to the book festival’s new permanent home at the University of Edinburgh’s Futures Institute in 2024.

The charity which runs the Edinburgh International Film Festival called in administrators last month after facing a “perfect storm of sharply rising costs, in particular energy costs”. The Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) also ran the Filmhouse Cinema and Cafe Bar in Edinburgh and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen.