Exclusive:Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Biggest venues join forces to launch subscriber scheme to raise funding

Venture targets 18,000 memberships for first year

The biggest venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are joining forces to launch a new subscription service which will give members access to free and discounted tickets from this summer.

Assembly, Underbelly, Pleasance and Gilded Balloon are among the key players in the "Love the Fringe” initiative, which has been unveiled ahead of the festival's programme launch this week.

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The new venture is aiming to attract more than 18,000 members and generate more than half a million pounds in its first year.

The Pleasance Courtyard is one of the most popular venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture: Andrew PerryThe Pleasance Courtyard is one of the most popular venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture: Andrew Perry
The Pleasance Courtyard is one of the most popular venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture: Andrew Perry

Proceeds from the initiative, which is being run independently from the Fringe Society, will be split equally between participating venues and shows.

Love the Fringe memberships will range between £20 and £1000, with the number of free tickets on offer increasing with each tier. Shows are being asked to donate two of their total ticket allocations to the scheme.

Local businesses will be encouraged to back the venture by taking up memberships for their staff and employees, or offering discounts and benefits to Love the Fringe members.

Other benefits are expected include discounted access to The Scotsman website in August and priority access to free ticket offers in The Scotsman.

Assembly has staged shows in George Square Garden during the Fringe in recent years. Picture: William-Burdett-CouttsAssembly has staged shows in George Square Garden during the Fringe in recent years. Picture: William-Burdett-Coutts
Assembly has staged shows in George Square Garden during the Fringe in recent years. Picture: William-Burdett-Coutts

The venture has emerged from a new Fringe Alliance, which was formed at the end of last year’s festival to bring together venues, producers and companies involved in the event to try to safeguard the future of the festival.

Key aims included financial support for the Fringe community, including ensuring that “appropriate support reaches those operating in all parts of the Fringe ecology.”

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Eight venues operators have agreed to work together on Love the Fringe: Assembly, C ARTS, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic, Pleasance, theSpaceUK, Underbelly and Zoo.

However some of the best-known venue operators at the Fringe, including the Traverse Theatre, Greenside, Summerhall, the Stand Comedy Club and Monkey Barrel, are not initially involved.

And Love the Fringe is being launched despite the Fringe Society, which is responsible for the official festival box office and programme, having its own membership scheme, Friends of the Fringe.

The official Love the Fringe website, which launches today, states: “Love the Fringe is a new membership scheme created by the organisations that form the Fringe, offering exclusive deals and offers across the festival.

"A membership offers you the best possible return on your Fringe, allowing you to see more shows than ever before. You can go and see the big television names, as well as explore the abundance of incredible shows that come to Edinburgh from around the world.”

William Burdett-Coutts, artistic director of Assembly, said: “We’ve been trying to find a way of everything working together to do something positive.

"There are elements of negative publicity around the Fringe and we’re trying to change the tone around the festival. It’s too important a festival for us all to keep knocking each other. Rather than fighting each other, we need to work together to keep it alive.

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"We’ve got to work harder to get and retain public interest, and keep the Fringe viable for people to come to Edinburgh.

"At the end of the day, everybody needs to raise more funding. This scheme is a means of trying to do that."

Pleasance director Anthony Alderson said: “Love the Fringe is more than just a subscription scheme. It’s a unifying initiative to align the interests of the diverse organisations and individuals that make the festival happen.”

City council leader Cammy Day said: “"Edinburgh’s festivals continue to command the

world’s attention each and every year – but we can’t be complacent.

"Any scheme that supports, encourages and enhances our fantastic festivals programme is to be welcomed, not least when the income it generates goes directly into the pockets of the artists, venues and producers.

"I’d encourage all festival lovers – whether you’re a resident, visitor or business – to support and sign up to Love the Fringe."

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