Gender pay gap at Edinburgh Fringe exposed in new research

Men are said to earn 60 per cent more than women at the famous arts festival. Picture: PA
Men are said to earn 60 per cent more than women at the famous arts festival. Picture: PA
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Men are earning an average of 60 per cent more than women at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, according to new research published today.

Their pay packet for the month is said to be nearly £200 more than for the average female worker - both on and off-stage.

The disparity is despite the research finding that women are “dominating” almost every sector of the Fringe, apart from stand-up comedy.

The study was carried out by the activist theatre company Power Play, which was set up in 2012 to fight for gender equality in the industry.

The group pointed out that the gender earnings gap was around seven times the national average.

The research, which examined data relating to nearly 1500 Fringe workers, was compiled in collaboration with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and the Pleasance, one of the event’s biggest venues.

The study states: “The Fringe is often characterised as a tough but memorable experience, a ‘rite of passage’ for many in the performing arts. This is part of its success as a vibrant open-access platform.

“However, our findings reveal the culture of low earnings and inequality within earnings at the Fringe, raising concerns about the Fringe’s financial sustainability and who, in actual fact, has access to this platform.”

A spokeswoman for Power Play said: “These findings add to a wider picture of the structural practices that both limit access to theatre and prevent women from being rewarded for their work and talent on a par with men.

“These systemic problems, visible across the theatre industry, are already discernible at the Fringe, where we already see the pattern of women’s work being undervalued and under-rewarded.”

The same study found that around 30 per cent of people taking part in the Fringe were doing so unpaid, while the average income for a festival practitioner was just £400.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Fringe Society, said: “Whilst it is heartening that equal numbers of women and men are now taking part, the Fringe – and the arts sector as a whole – needs to do more to identify barriers to progression for women, and to play its part in discovering, commissioning and funding work by female creative talent.

“As a non-funded, open access festival, the Fringe is a vital springboard for artists of all backgrounds. We are committed to ensuring that the opportunities it provides are available to everyone.”