Artists and performers 'priced out of town' during Fringe, venues warn

The soaring cost of festival accommodation is putting the Fringe in “very real danger”, the organisers of the eight biggest venues have warned, as they revealed ticket sales are 25 per cent lower than in 2019.

Edinburgh's Royal Mile on the first day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Edinburgh's Royal Mile on the first day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The venues, speaking under the EdFest.com consortium – which comprises Assembly, Dance Base, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic, Pleasance, Summerhall, Underbelly and ZOO – said that the cost of accommodation for both performers and visitors is the biggest risk to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s future.

They said that the cost-of-living crisis, the lingering effects of coronavirus, the cost and uncertainty of international travel and the recent train strikes had also affected numbers this year, but said high hotel, B&B and self catering prices meant audiences and artists were being “priced out of town”.

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The official ticket sale figures are due to be released on Monday, but EdFest.com said its members had sold an estimated 1,486,746 – compared to 1,965,961 sold in 2019.

A spokesperson for EdFest.com said: “It has been fantastic to be back at the first full Fringe since 2019 – to see the live performance industry come roaring back to life in this post-pandemic world. There has been a real appetite and energy for shared, live experiences in Edinburgh over the last few weeks and the quality of the programme has been incredible – yet, the forecast number of tickets we’ve collectively sold is down 25 per cent compared to 2019 which is a major threat for everyone involved in the festival.”

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“It is clear to anyone spending time in Edinburgh, that there are fewer people in the city this year than in 2019. While there are certainly other factors that have affected audience numbers this year; the cost of accommodation is a perennial problem across the board. Disruption with public transport, delays with artist visas, and high fuel costs are even more insurmountable when people and performers simply cannot afford to stay in the city.”

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Earlier this year, organisers of the Fringe issued an appeal to residents to take in performers in their spare rooms to help tackle the rising cost of taking part in the event. The housing crisis is more widespread, with university students and workers also struggling to find affordable accommodation amid a shortage of supply.

The spokeswoman added: “We know that a lack of safe, affordable housing is not just an August problem, but one that affects the artists, staff and audiences who call Edinburgh home. It’s imperative that local and national government, landlords, the universities, Fringe venues and the Fringe Society all come together to find a lasting solution for this issue, or the future of the Fringe is in very real danger. Long term we also have to find solutions that allow the festival to be affordable to performers and the audience.

“Given the extent of the reduction in sales the overall festival has a major job to do in restoring the event to normality, which may take several years and require some public support. We need to stabilise the current situation where many people have made significant losses; to address the accommodation issue; to find ways of supporting work; and a major marketing campaign to get the audience back to the festival.”

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