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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
'Boost' in arts festivals attendance
Edinburgh
Edinburgh's population is thought to double during festivals
Arts festivals are enjoying a boom in popularity that has seen attendances rival those of the English football Premiership, according to the British Arts Festivals Association (Bafa).

It said that about 12.3 million people went to cultural events ranging from small community events to carnivals and music festivals last year.

The figures is just short of the 12.5 million who went to Premiership football matches last season.

Between 300-500 mainstream events - including music, performance, film and literature festivals - take place every year, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

More sponsorship

Bafa said 6.9 million people paid to go to festivals last year, while 5.4 million went free - although they say there is no sure way of measuring crowd figures at many free events.

This year's figures are likely to be even higher thanks to more events, according to Bafa chairman Tim Joss.

Sir Paul McCartney
McCartney: Helped stir interest in the Hay Festival
The FT reported that sponsorship from businesses has also increased, although there are fears that a coming recession could mean spending on such events is reduced..

And a recent poll suggested that more than one in five people in Britain had been to a festival in the last 12 months.

Britain's festival calendar takes in events showcasing work in all creative areas across the country - from the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to the Billingham International Folklore Festival.

This year, the major events include the Edinburgh Festival, which is currently under way, and is said to double the city's population.

Other landmark events are the Reading Festival - the biggest date in this year's rock music diary - as well as the wide-ranging Brighton Festival and Hay-on-Wye's literary festival, which was boosted by appearances by Bill Clinton and Sir Paul McCartney.



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