Olympics fail to muscle out Fringe fans as sales leap 70%

When the UK last hosted the Olympic Games, the Festival was barely one year old. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
When the UK last hosted the Olympic Games, the Festival was barely one year old. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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FRINGE venues are reporting increased ticket sales of up to 70 per cent on this time last year despite the scheduling clash with the London Olympics.

Ahead of the first festival previews today, promoters said sales at some venues were running up to 70 per cent ahead of this time last year.

Most of the major venues and promoters put tickets for their shows on sale earlier than usual this year, with many Fringe tickets available in January in a bid to lure visitors to Edinburgh in the face of competition from the 2012 Games.

The Pleasance, Gilded Balloon, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and Summerhall were among the venues reporting bumper ticket sales so far. Although some venues are bringing in television screens to allow festival-goers to catch up on Olympics coverage, promoters insisted sales were unaffected by the Games.

There was a 10 per cent slump in ticket sales the last time the Fringe clashed with the Olympics in 2008, although this was blamed on problems with the Fringe’s ticketing ­system.

This year has seen the return of the Famous Spiegeltent to the Fringe, as well as the reopening of the Assembly Rooms on George Street. Although this year has seen the demise of venues including St George’s West and the New Town Theatre, St Stephen’s Church, also in the New Town, is making a return. A string of venues in the southside, including the Assembly, Underbelly and Summerhall, have expanded programmes this year.

Paul Gillon, publicist at Summerhall, said: “We have got a much bigger programme than last year, but we know that by last week we had already sold more tickets than for our whole run in 2011, which is obviously a great result.”

Sam Gough, event manager at the EICC, which has been selling tickets since the beginning of the year, said: “We’re well ahead of all our targets and are actually 70 per cent ahead of where we were this time last year.

“It has definitely benefited us having shows on sale so early and a lot of our acts are appearing here as part of national tours which has also helped in being ahead of last year.”

Karen Koren, artistic director at the Gilded Balloon, which is reporting a 5 per cent increase in sales year on year, said: “I’m very pleased with how things are going so far. We’ve had some very good sellers like Fascinating Aida and Blanks, but our theatre programme is also very strong.

“I don’t think the Olympics is affecting things. If you’re interested in arts and culture you’re going to come to the Fringe anyway, rather than stay in and watch it on TV, although we are going to be showing it for ­people who are interested.”

A spokesman for the Pleasance said: “We are delighted sales for shows are up by 
almost 3.5 per cent on 2011. ”

Tommy Sheppard, ­director of The Stand, who is also promoting shows at the Assembly Rooms, said: “Our sales at The Stand are in line with last year, which was a record for us.”