2007 - 2021

Fringe Benefits

The Edinburgh Fringe festivals major venue companies have come out with pleas for a bailout from the Scottish Govt.

In documents revealed by the Scotsman, an alliance of venue producers has told MSPs that most of them have been unable to access any financial support during the Covid-19 crisis.

Representation has been made in letters to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee ‘Inquiry on the Impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s Culture and Tourism Sectors.

The Holyrood inquiry has been told that these companies are “micro-entities operating without fixed premises”, which in many cases beggars belief.

One letter states: “With the Fringe not taking place, shows don’t perform, venues don’t operate, smaller local businesses don’t get that work and accommodation providers don’t benefit – the overall impact and picture is immense, and extends beyond 2020, especially if these organisations and businesses are unable to survive.”

“Therefore, a catastrophic year, brought on by Covid-19, could lead to the loss of Edinburgh’s infrastructure as the world’s leading festival city, and the pivotal role the Fringe plays for Scotland’s creative industries.”

Read the alliance of venue producers here.

On page three (bullet point four) the Association of Independent Venue Producers state: “Many venue producers are based outside Scotland, leaving organisations struggling to access support”.
This is an extractive industry based in, but not of Edinburgh. Some of these are gigantic organisations, not micro-entities at all.
This is a mirror to our entire societal response to the current crisis. Those in power and profiteering well from the old order want us to pay them to return to their former status.
The idea that the same players should produce their same bland output in the same venues forever, as if by some divine right, is ridiculous. But it also fails to reflect the long-term changes to tourism, to travel and to the city.
Further, it’s an astonishing reveal that a festival that has been going on for so long has no resilience whatsoever. It’s almost as if the Edinburgh festival has created no legacy for the city at all. Here are private companies – which notoriously refuse to publish their profits – begging for a bailout.

The signatories include C Venues who in January 2019 the Fair Fringe campaign accused of imposing poor conditions on workers and paying them as little as £200 for the entire Fringe run, and demanding the Fringe Society ban C Venues over “an unacceptable model built on exploitation, underpayment and overworked staff”.

Last year the Evening News reported the company being accused of paying 
“sweatshop” wages of just 50 pence an hour – which led to calls for the company to be barred from taking part.

Underbelly’s Etonians Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood operate around the world with events at the South Bank, Hong Kong, Christmas in Leicester Square, and (memorably) Christmas in Edinburgh.
If the cancellation of the 2020 festival has any silver lining it is the opportunity to re-think who the festival is for and who benefits. Bailing out these companies without transparency or accountability – and without a set of criteria about why they should be given public funds would be a serious mistake.

Comments (8)

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  1. Iain Miller says:

    Bailing out these companies without transparency or accountability – and without a set of criteria about why they should be given public funds would be a serious mistake – I agree 100%.

  2. Bill says:

    They probably do not pay taxes in Britain and they certainly take more from Edinburgh than they give. The Debacle at Christmas, ruining Princes Street Gardens and burning memorial benches indicate the type of people they are. Simple answer *uck off. Let us get back to a Festival of the people for the people and by the people. Enough of Old Etonians.


  3. Aldi says:

    Edinburgh Fringe festival market stalls are allocated to many foreign and English based traders. Scottish traders are hardly given any slots. There has never been any transparency as to why genuinely hand made in Edinburgh is rejected for traders selling commercially produced cheap products that flouts the supposed rules of those who can apply for the handmade artist stalls.
    Scotland should not bail out the Fringe Festival. Every trader world wide has access to its own government where they pay taxes…for Covid 19 relief. Just because you came to Edinburgh to make money doesn’t mean Edinburgh owes you.

  4. Meg says:

    Our society is ever widening into two..on one side the independent small creative and the big boys on the other….sadly this article once again brings focus on ordinary folk falling through the cracks..so sad

  5. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    An excellent characterisation, Mr Small – “extractive industry”.

    These organisations and the property rental Industry, mainly based elsewhere in the world, never mind Scotland, extract rents from the visitors to Edinburgh and from working people and squirrel them away, usually without paying any taxes. There is some expenditure in local Edinburgh based business, but it pales into insignificance with the huge extracted rents and the destruction it wreaks on the housing market in Edinburgh and the quality of life of its real residents.

    The ‘plea’ demonstrates a Cummings and Branson like sense of entitlement and contempt for the local people.

    1. Paul McMillan says:

      I avoid Edinburgh like the plague when the festival is on. Looking forward to visit my daughter (hopefully) and walk the streets of Edinburgh and take a relaxing pint without been accosted by ‘street artists’. BLISS

  6. Morag Williams says:

    As I understand it:

    (a) the Fringe has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic,
    (b) the the pandemic began in China in 2019 (hence the 19) in the name of the disease,
    (c) the disease could only get in to the country via a person entering the UK and
    (d) immigration is a responsibility retained by Westminster.

    Hence any and indeed all claims for compensation should be referred to Westminster and no further correspondence should be entertained.

  7. Jim Ferguson says:

    ‘pivotal role the Fringe plays for Scotland’s creative industries,’ really? The actual Scottish content is usually minimal and tokenistic.

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