ORGANISERS of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have defended a move to start selling hundreds of shows three weeks before the festival’s official programme launch.
Around half the shows in this year’s printed programme are now believed to have been loaded onto the Fringe website.
Most major venues have started selling shows early, with many announcing their headline acts even though the official Fringe launch is not until 30 May.
However some Fringe venues have not revealed any of their shows as yet, while others have only announced a handful of productions.
Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Fringe, said the move was being made in response to audience demand and requests from show producers and promoters.
There has also been a growing trend over the last decade for some Fringe shows to be put on sale well in advance of the programme launch , but last year was the first time the Fringe had released any tickets in advance.
All Fringe promoters and venues who met the final programme deadline of 29 April were given the chance to start selling tickets three weeks early.
The Traverse Theatre and Summerhall are among the venues who have yet to lift the lid on their festival programmes, with both planning to hold their official launches to coincide with the Fringe launch.
Fringe spokesman Neil Mackinnon confirmed 1200 shows had been added to the Fringe website, on top of 300 that were already on sale. He refused to say what proportion this was of the overall total.
However there were 2695 shows in last year’s Fringe, compared to 2542 in 2011 and 2453 the previous year.
The Fringe insists that it is merely “responding to the needs” of Fringe companies and venues by selling tickets when they want to. It also claims that internal research had found that audiences want to book up shows earlier than in previous years.
Ms Mainland said: “We want people to enjoy every second of this year’s festival.
“Last year we experimented with advance booking and it proved to be a huge success so we’re very excited about doing it again this year. We know that Fringe audiences often begin making plans early and tell us that many of them want to make their plans for August as soon as possible.
“The producers and performers who are at the heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe need to make the most of the opportunity and sell as many tickets as possible and it is our responsibility to respond to this by putting their tickets on sale as soon as they are ready.
“The Edinburgh Festival Fringe remains the first choice for performers, producers, artists and creators to show their wares to an eager public. We are proud that the Fringe is still the place to see and be seen for performers and audiences alike.”
Meanwhile a host of other new Fringe shows have emerged, including a one-man show about the life of the late Monty Python star Graham Chapman, a tribute to the 1970s heyday of wrestling icons Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy, and the world premiere of a new drama playing homage to comedy double act Morecambe and Wise.
Additions to the music line-up include veteran folk singer Richard Digance, while former Eastenders star Anita Dobson will be directing a former “Stringfellows Angel”, Xara Vaughan, in her Fringe debut in her cabaret show.
Playwright John Godber will make a return to Edinburgh after a 10-year break with a brand new comedy, Losing The Plot, featuring Full Monty star Steve Huison.
While Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern is appearing elsewhere on the Fringe with her country-folk outfit Sadie & The Hotheads, impressionist Luke Kempner will be presenting The Only Way is Downton, which will see the characters of the costume drama call on modern-day celebrities to resolve a crisis.
New comedy acts confirmed include Richard Herring, Russell Kane, Nicholas Parsons, Gyles Brandreth, Tig Notaro and Adam Hills.