New event will help strengthen city's cultural role, says Anthony Alderson.
IT is no secret that comedy on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has enjoyed the largest growth of any genre within the festival over the past ten years. Almost 90 per cent of the audience buy tickets for comedy shows.
Edinburgh has become the world's largest stage for comedy, with established household names like Russell Brand, Ricky Gervais, Simon Amstell, Paul Merton, Omid Djalili and Frankie Boyle playing alongside those less well-known.
For comics across the globe, Edinburgh is their Mecca, to make it in Edinburgh is a pinnacle of success, and the if.comedy award (formerly the Perrier award) is recognised worldwide as the comics' badge of honour. The growth of comedy has seen a staggering rise in ticket sales across the Fringe of almost 60 per cent in the past five years, and it is a platform that continues to excite audiences across the globe.
In the minds of many, the Edinburgh comedy festival exists already, in all but name. The creation of The Edinburgh Comedy Festival is about celebrating the success of comedy on the Fringe, providing a focus to its strength as a genre. The Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon and Underbelly represents almost 90 per cent of the comedy on the Fringe, and by joining our comedy programmes under one umbrella, we are offering our audiences a single guide to what is best in the comedy world.
Whilst it starts in 2008 with four venues, our hope is to include all comedy that exists in Edinburgh. In the future The Edinburgh Comedy Festival will welcome all venues and artists that wish to join.
Running a venue or producing a show in Edinburgh is no laughing matter, The costs of managing and producing rise above inflation, year on year, and the financial ecology of these venues grows ever more fragile. By consolidating our programme we can share our costs, and grow opportunity for sponsorship. With little or no support from other sources, sponsorship has become the vital ingredient. The Edinburgh Comedy Festival will present a unified attraction that is even more compelling.
It is also no secret that comedy at these venues has enabled the support of other work. Alongside the comedy, the joint Gilded Balloon, Assembly, Pleasance and Underbelly brochure will feature theatre, music, musical theatre, dance and children's shows in equal prominence.
If the Edinburgh Comedy Festival can generate more audiences and even more interest in the Fringe as a whole then everyone will benefit, performers and audience alike.
The Edinburgh Comedy Festival is an important addition to the Fringe, and one that once again cements Edinburgh as the pre-eminent capital of the arts world.
• Anthony Alderson is director of The Pleasance and spokesperson for The Edinburgh Comedy Festival