Edinburgh Fringe crowds grow by nearly a million in a decade

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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s official audience has grown by almost a million in under a decade after organisers announced another record-breaking year.

Organisers of the event, which recorded its best-ever box office returns for the sixth year in a row, with 2,838,839 issued, said almost half its tickets were sold in Scotland.

Monday 27th of August 2018:  Edinburgh's festivals season culminates with the Virgin Money

Monday 27th of August 2018: Edinburgh's festivals season culminates with the Virgin Money

The Fringe’s final day tally was five per cent increase on its record-breaking 70th anniversary season in 2017 and a 52 per cent increase, of 979,604, on the 2009 event.

The Fringe figures did not include the biggest pop and rock gigs staged over the past month. The Summer Sessions shows at the Ross Bandstand were not in its programme, while Leith Theatre’s shows were in the International Festival.

However the International Festival saw its own box office takings slumped by around half a million pounds compared to last year, when it also celebrated its 70th anniversary.

Organisers insisted 85 per cent of tickets had been sold for this year’s programme, which had scaled down theatre and opera line-ups.

A very busy Edinburgh Royal Mile packet with festival goers''' Picture: Neil Hanna

A very busy Edinburgh Royal Mile packet with festival goers''' Picture: Neil Hanna

The event also suffered the cancellation of one of its most high-profile plays, Notes From The Field, when the West Wing actress Anna Deavere Smith pulled out after only weeks after tickets went on sale.

Organisers of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said they had also broken their own figures for footfall and book sales, but did not disclose any ticket sales.

The EIF said it either gave away or heavily discounted 46,095 tickets, worth nearly £570,000, to events, many of which were programmed to mark the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People.

Director Fergus Linehan said: “We have done what we budgeted to do. We are going to either break even or make a surplus and everything has gone exactly as we had planned. We had a different programme last year, particularly opera, which we got special funding for and really front-loaded our ticket sales.”

The Fringe’s 70th anniversary ticket tally of 2,696,884 was about nine per cent up on the previous 12 months. However 56,796 performances of 3548 shows were staged in 317 venues this month, compared to 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues in 2017.

Anthony Alderson, artistic director of the Pleasance, which runs the EICC, said its audiences had trebled there this year, helping boost its overall tally by ten per cent.

He said: “I see Pleasance as one large family and this is reflected in both the acts who form our amazing programme and the staff who inject Pleasance with its contagious personality. We’ve hosted over 200 premieres and seen over 100 acts making their Pleasance debuts. I’m thrilled to welcome them to our fold.”

William Burdett-Coutts, artistic director of Assembly Festival, said: “We have had another incredibly successful Festival this year with nearly half a million tickets sold across our 200-plus shows.

“I’m delighted to see the number of international performers continuing to grow, despite our uncertain political climate, and we’ll continue to work closely with our partners in Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Australia and many other European countries to ensure we bring the very best artists and work to Edinburgh each year.”

The 900-capacity McEwan Hall, which was in use after a three-year hiatus, played host to the biggest shows in Underbelly’s programme, which sold more than 420,000 tickets.

Directors Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood said: “For us, particularly this year, it has been about much more than numbers.

“It has been about the opportunity to support artists to perform here, to develop and invest in shows, to present a strong line-up of new writing, innovative comedians and the best of international contemporary circus, and give space to those who want to create work which not only entertains but also addresses issues which affect us all.”

A spokesman for Space UK said it had seen an 11 per cent increase attendances and a 20 per cent increase in sold out performances.

Artistic director Charles Pamment: “As the 2018 festival draws to a close its with great pleasure we can report a very successful Fringe.”

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which attracted more than 260,000 people to Charlotte Square Gardens and saw an eight per cent increase in book sales, said: “It’s wonderful to know that the festival has been so popular and has broken records again in all the ways these things are usually measured.

“But I wish there was an index of enlightenment, or an ‘exuberance-ometer’, to show how the book festival also contributes to Scotland’s knowledge, happiness and wellbeing.”