Festival to target a younger audience of 'culture hounds'

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THE EDINBURGH International Festival launches a new drive this month aimed at catering for a new breed of "culture hounds" in their 20s and 30s.

The INCrowd promotion is designed to tempt young professionals with a "backstage pass" to performers and VIP parties, as well as cut-price tickets, for a one-off 20 joining fee.

As Edinburgh's provider of opera and orchestral concerts in August, the EIF has often been seen as appealing to an older, more establishment audience.

While students have benefited from various cut-price ticket deals, young professionals have faced a much steeper price for their festival outings.

The INCrowd promotion kicks off formally on 23 June with a launch party featuring a guest DJ, Latin and New World music reflecting this year's festival theme, free drinks and a "goodie bag".

With ticket offers part of the package, the INCrowd is designed to "enhance your Festival-going experience and meet like-minded people along the way" – but it is not, organisers stress, a singles night.

The event's sponsorship and development director, Christopher Wynn, said that at present, about 20 per cent of the festival's audience is aged between 15 and 34, and there was a seven per cent increase in tickets sold to students and young people last year.

"It's building upon that," he said. "We were nurturing these audiences as students, but once they are not students we don't have a way of engaging with them. It's a continuing tool to foster their arts education, and love of art."

Top prices for seats at the festival run as high as 64 for big shows like George Gershwin's modern opera Porgy and Bess, at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre.

Student or under-26 discounts can deliver prices as low as 6.50, Mr Wynn said.

"Once you are in the cold cruel world, your 6.50 tickets are no longer possible," he added.

"This is a way of bridging that gap for young professionals in their 20s and 30s for whom it is cost-prohibitive to see as much art as they would like."

The INCrowd promotion offers a way of "getting under the skin" of the festival and involve everything from Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and blogs to interval drinks and "meet the artist" events. It will offer steep discounts of up to 50 per cent on selected shows, with about 12 events on offer at the start.

They include Sin Sangre (Without Blood), the production from Chile mixing cinema and live theatre, Bliss, the Australian opera from Peter Carey's novel, and the dance theatre of Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal.

The festival is aiming the new promotion squarely at those in their 20s and 30s and will "quietly police" it in a bid to keep it focussed on that audience.

With the launch event due to take place at Edinburgh's Roxy Art House on 23 June, details on how to sign up are on the festival's website at eif.co.uk/insider.