Fringe rebuilding begins with search for new chief
THE Edinburgh Festival Fringe will today finally begin moves to hire a new head as part of a massive shake-up of the way the event is run.
An international recruitment drive for the first chief executive in the event's 62-year history has been unveiled – five months after the festival was taken to the brink of bankruptcy by box office failures.
Three other new posts have been created in an attempt to help restore the fortunes of the Fringe, while plans have been unveiled for major international showcases to drum up fresh interest in the Fringe overseas.
Key issues to be addressed by the new chief executive include restoring the festival's reputation among venues, companies and ticket-buyers; coping with predictions that ticket sales could fall 10 per cent in 2009 due to the economic downturn, and how to pay for long-running events such as Fringe Sunday.
The Scotsman has learned that applications will be welcomed from around the world for the 55,000 chief executive post, created after months of debate over whether the historic post of Fringe director should be retained. Previous chief Jon Morgan resigned in the wake of last year's box office debacle.
The other new posts are aimed at attracting big-money sponsorship deals; improving the Fringe's PR and communications as well as lobbying funders and stakeholders, and providing better services to venues, producers and performers.
The shake-up has been unveiled just weeks after The Scotsman revealed a total bailout for the Fringe is likely to run to well over 500,000. Days earlier it emerged emergency funds of 250,000 had been secured from the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Arts Council.
Some of the cash will go to promoting the Fringe overseas: a New York roadshow will coincide with the Association of Performing Arts conference; a visit to Adelaide will be during that city's Fringe and the Korean Arts Management Association has invited the Fringe to Seoul to speak to performers about bringing shows to Edinburgh.
A Fringe spokesman said: "The international appeal of the Fringe is something we're keen to build on."
Tim Hawkins, the acting general manager, is said to have warned the Fringe's funders that, if the recession has a major impact on ticket sales, the emergency funding for the event may need to top 600,000.
Internal reports produced by the city's festivals are believed to state ticket sales may fall by up to 20 per cent over the next two years, while there are warnings levels of sponsorship could be hit to the same extent.
A spokesman for the Fringe said the 600,000 estimate included the 250,000 already secured, and had been projected on the basis of ticket sales falling by at least 10 per cent.
Among those linked to the Fringe's new top job are:
IM HAWKINS Appointed acting general manager last summer, he has been left in charge during reviews of the box-office failures, the festival's finances and the future of the event.
FAITH LIDDELL The former Edinburgh International Book Festival director became head of umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh in 2007, months before the previous Fringe director Paul Gudgin resigned.
MARY SHIELDS A leading programmer for the Assembly Rooms over the years who is an artistic adviser on the Year of Homecoming.
KATH MAINLAND Administrative director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
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