Whistleblowing site launches to ‘expose’ Fringe exploitation

Performers, producers, technicians, front-of-house staff and flyerers have been urged to post anonymous accounts of sharp practice. Picture: TSPL

Performers, producers, technicians, front-of-house staff and flyerers have been urged to post anonymous accounts of sharp practice. Picture: TSPL

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A new “whistleblower” website has been set up to expose the alleged exploitation and abuse of people working at the heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Long hours, poor pay and unsafe working conditions are all being targeted by the online campaign. Performers, producers, technicians, front-of-house staff and even flyerers have been urged to come forward with anonymous accounts of sharp practice.

The campaign wants to highlight those it accuses of profiteering, including landlords, hoteliers, artistic directors and venue owners. Artists and other festival workers are being urged to post anonymous complaints naming and shaming the worst offenders.

The Fringe Whistleblower site has been launched less than a week into the 70th Fringe. It has been created by an un-named collective of artists and producers who are “increasingly dismayed” at the current state of the festival.

Performers, producers, technicians, front-of-house staff and flyerers have been urged to post anonymous accounts of sharp practice. A survey on the site asks festival workers which venue they are working in, how many hours a day they are working on average, whether they are being paid or not, and whether they get any additional benefits.

It states: “We’re interested in stories of poor and unsafe working conditions, bad pay, breaches in employment law, stories of just being miserable and exhausted, lies told by venues and producers, extortionate charges, and any other sort of bad experience you could have. Most artists do not get paid at the Fringe: in fact, many lose money.

“Many venue staff work in very difficult working and sometimes unlawful conditions, including 12 hour shifts for six or seven days a week with minimal pay.

“Meanwhile, landlords and hoteliers make vast sums of money, arts administrators can cream off their wages, and some artistic directors of for-profit and not-for-profit venues take a handsome cut. Those making a profit from the Fringe are doing so through exploiting artists and front-line workers.

“We want to document this in two ways: by collecting anonymous stories of abuse and exploitation at the Fringe, and by starting to gather information about the actual working conditions of front-line Fringe staff.”

A spokesman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “The society is the organisation that underpins the structure of the Fringe - we exist to support the venues and companies who choose to be in the Fringe each year.

“We work with a variety of organisations and partners to develop the infrastructure of the Fringe and to provide advice, information and contacts ensuring the Fringe continues to be the world’s most revered open access arts festival.

“We would welcome the opportunity for an open dialogue with the creators of this website and survey, the results of which we would be keen to see.

“Our aim is always for all those who choose to be involved in the Fringe, in whatever capacity, to have the best experience possible, and we welcome feedback in all forms. We would be delighted to work with the creators, alongside Fringe venues and companies, once the results are known for the good of the Fringe as a whole.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said: “The Fringe is an important event for the city and the safety of venues an important element of delivering the festival.

“Complaints reviewed by the council about venues are rare. If someone has any concerns about a specific premises they should contact the council and it will be investigated.”

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