Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Union leaders demand compensation for performers over app failure

Union leaders have called for organisers of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to compensate performers for failing to disclose that they would be dropping the official mobile app for the event.

Equity, which represents nearly 50,000 actors, singers, dancers and comedians throughout the UK, is demanding a partial refund for fees of up to £400 which were paid per show to register for its 75th anniversary season.

The union has reignited a row over a decision to abandon the app because it did not have enough resources in place at the end of last year when a decision had to be made on whether to upgrade it for this year.

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Less than a week before the first shows in this year’s festival are due to get underway, Equity has called for compensation to be offered as a “goodwill gesture” which would help repair the “damaged relationship” between performers and the Fringe Society.

Comics Janey Godley, Greg McHugh, Daniel Sloss, Susie McCabe, Al Murray, Rob Deering and Mark Watson were among more than signatories to an open letter raising concerns about the decision and how the run-up to the festival was being handled by the Fringe Society, the charity responsible for its official programme, box office and website.

The open letter called for “immediate, meaningful action” to address a host of concerns about the handling by the Fringe Society of the run-up to the festival.

The absence of the app only confirmed on social media earlier this month days before the festival’s official programme was due to be launched.

Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy later issued a “heartfelt apology” in the wake of the rebellion triggered by the open letter, admitting that communication with participants had been mishandled.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe will celebrate its 75th anniversary in August. Picture: Neil HannaThe Edinburgh Festival Fringe will celebrate its 75th anniversary in August. Picture: Neil Hanna
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe will celebrate its 75th anniversary in August. Picture: Neil Hanna

She had earlier blamed a form of “post-Covid" stress for the publication of the open letter, expressing dismay that the Live Comedy Association, which instigated the open letter, had gone into “nuclear mode” without speaking to the society directly.

An official statement from Equity confirmed it had recently met with the Fringe Society to discuss concerns which had been raise by its members, incluing the dropping of the app and the “extortionate and rising” accommodation, venue and transport costs for participants in the event.

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Rob Lugg, Equity’s organiser for comedians, said: “We appreciate that the Fringe Society has apologised and acknowledged that they got the communication badly wrong regarding the removal of the app.

“We’re also pleased to note their assurances that the ‘nearby now” function will be available on a website that is properly optimised for both desktop and mobile devices.“However, after consulting our members, we feel that the Fringe Society should go further and offer partial refunds to those who paid for registration before the announcement that the app would not be available this year. This would be an important goodwill gesture and help repair the damaged relationship with performers this year.”

A Fringe Society spokeswoman said: “The Fringe registration fee covers a wide range of opportunities for artists, including year-round support, workshops, events, marketing advice, press list access and our dedicated team each August within Fringe Central.

"While we understand it is disappointing that the Fringe app is not here this August, much of the functionality will be live on our mobile-optimised website from next week.”

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