Eight of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s biggest producing venues have issued a collective statement decrying soaring accommodation costs as the biggest risk to the festival’s future.
Assembly, Dance Base, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic, Pleasance, Summerhall, Underbelly and ZOO – the venues behind EdFest.com – collectively sold 1,965,961 tickets in 2019, the last edition of the festival before the pandemic. This year’s combined sales are forecast to reach fewer than than 1,500,00.
“The forecast number of tickets we’ve collectively sold is down 25% compared to 2019, which is a major threat for everyone involved in the festival”, a spokesperson for EdFest.com said.
The ticket sales were achieved “despite the very real continuing challenges to our industry, including the cost-of-living crisis, the lingering effects of coronavirus, the cost and uncertainty of international travel, the recent train strikes and more,” the spokesperson continued.
“Chief among these, however, is the soaring cost of accommodation in Edinburgh in August – audiences and artists alike are being priced out of town, out of experiences.”
The spokesperson said that the lack of safe, affordable housing is a year-round problem that affects the artists, staff and audiences who live in Edinburgh, as well as visitors to the city.
It is “imperative that local and national government, landlords, the universities, Fringe venues and the Fringe Society all come together to find a lasting solution for this issue, or the future of the Fringe is in very real danger”, the spokesperson added, anticipating that restoring the event to normality may take several years and require public support.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society released figures showing that Edinburgh residents accounted for 39% of all ticket sales, up 4% from 2019. Overseas audience attendance also increased, accounting for 10% of all tickets, up 2% from 2019.
Organisers acknowledged that “audience patterns have changed, industrial action caused significant disruption to rail travel and refuse collection and affordable accommodation in Edinburgh was at crisis point”.
“This year’s festival is the first step in what will be a long road to recovery and renewal,” said Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
“We recognise the significant amount of work that is still required to support the long-term sustainability of this phenomenal Festival… Collectively we will work to advocate for greater support for those at the heart of the Fringe – our artists.”