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Edinburgh Fringe heading towards record year

The Shawshank Redemption. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

The Shawshank Redemption. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

  • by RORY REYNOLDS
 

SEVERAL Edinburgh Fringe venues have reported a massive leap in sales compared to 2012, with some promoters claiming this could be a record-breaking year.

The festival suffered because of a clash with the London Olympics in 2012, but even taking that into account, this year’s event looks like being a major success.

Underbelly said its Bristo Square site in the university district was far busier than 2012 and is 22.5 per cent up on its five-year average.

Assembly Rooms on George Street said it has seen a 30 per cent boost in the first 10 days compared to last year, with larger crowds descending on city centre venues.

The Pleasance reported experiencing one of its busiest weekends on record and sold 14,000 tickets in a single day last week.

The Fringe will run for two more weeks so final figures will not be known until after the last weekend in August, but promoters said they are confident of seeing one of the strongest years on record.

The Fringe itself features 45,464 performances in 2,871 shows at a total of 273 venues across the city, in addition to the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Charlie Wood, co-director at Underbelly, said crowds in recent days have been among the biggest the venue had ever seen.

“I have been involved with the Festival for the past 23 years and I would say the first 10 days are the busiest I have ever seen, truly remarkable,” he told The Scotsman.

“Saturday was our busiest ever box office and the city is booming, and it’s not just our venues at Bristo Square.

“We’re told George Street and other sites are doing extremely well.

“Having looked at our sales, we are 22.5 per cent up on our five-year average.

“Circa: Wunderkammer and It’s Dark Outside by the Perth Theatre Company are among our top draws”.

Hot Dub Time Machine, the club night based at McEwen Hall, is expected to contribute to a boost in overall sales this year.

“It’s been an amazing ten days but we’ll take it as it comes”, he added.

Last year ticket sales fell for only the second time in more than a decade as the first nine days of the Festival clashed with the Olympic Games in London.

Audiences at some venues were down as much as 25 per cent during that period although they made a dramatic recovery and finished just one per cent down on 2011.

Tommy Sheppard, a comedy promoter whose firm operates Assembly Rooms, has previously predicted a shift towards the city centre with the refurbishment of the venue and closure of George Street to accommodate the Spiegeltent.

“It’s been a brilliant first week and we’re considerably up on last year, but the caveat is we don’t have the Olympics to contend with,” he said.

“We’re up over 30 per cent up on ticket sales and although that’s unlikely to be the final sales figure it is a good sign.”

Mr Sheppard said his decision to invest in the Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s novella and one of the biggest budget shows at the Fringe, has paid off with audiences.

“It’s no exaggeration to say I risked my house on this play but we’re breaking even so far and might even make a profit.”

He added: “I brought Michael Che over from New York and we’re delighted he is doing well.

“Perhaps surprisingly one of our kids shows, The Amazing Bubbleman, is among the biggest acts and selling out every day with 500 kids in the main hall.

“We also took a risk on staging our 5:30pm burlesque cabaret show in the Spiegeltent, but we’re seeing workers pouring out of their offices and enjoying the show.”

Anthony Alderson, director at The Pleasance, said that the good weather and a strong roster of shows had helped sales.

“It’s been the most remarkable start to the Festival. We’re exactly on a par with 2012 and 2011 and within a whisker of hitting our record year,” he said.

“The weather has been superb. If you think two years ago we had 24 days of rain, this month has been a huge improvement.”

Rhian Hughes, spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, added: “It’s been a very encouraging first week for the Fringe and we look forward to the next two weeks being just as busy.”

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