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Slimmer Fringe staging a battle with rising costs

Edinburgh Fringe 2022
The show goes on: the Fringe still has Covid bills to pay (pic: Terry Murden)

Rising costs continue to intrude on the world’s biggest arts festival which will be smaller this year as some artists struggle to make it pay.

The programme features about 3,000 shows, a fifth lower than in 2019 when there were concerns about ‘overtourism’ as the streets were packed with visitors.

Through smaller, the range of entertainment on offer is no less varied and neighbourhood venues have been added to take the Edinburgh Fringe to new audiences.

However, the bills have mounted since the Covid pandemic and a £1 million loan from the Scottish government that helped the Festival survive the lockdown will have to be repaid.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Fringe Society, which supports performers and audiences, admitted the event was facing insolvency when Covid hit.

“We’re still sitting on a deficit. We’ve still got the spectre of a £1 million loan that we’ve got to repay to the Scottish government at some stage, because we we’re an anomaly in that we were given a loan rather than a grant to survive,” she told The Times.

She added that it “feels very underinvested and very under-recognised for the global brand that it is, and the values of Scotland and the UK that it promotes across the world: freedom of expression, anti-censorship, giving everyone a voice and everyone a stage.”

The cost of living and accommodation hit audience numbers last year as well as the number of artists able to afford putting on a show.

The Fringe Society is helping by freezing performer registration fees for the 16th year running, and its commission on tickets which has been held at the same rate for a decade.

Politicians being interviewed include Labour veteran Harriet Harman, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, SNP former Westminster leader Ian Blackford, the former Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford, LibDem leader Sir Ed Davey, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham .

This year’s shows will take place in 248 venues, including a school swimming pool in Livingston and a boxing club in Port O’Leith.

Musselburgh Grammar School and Loretto School Theatre have both been repurposed as Fringe venues, as have Craigmillar Park Church, Northesk Parish Church and St Peter’s Church. The Stables at Prestonfield are home to The Fringe at Prestonfield: Hosted by Christopher Biggins and featuring guests including Sir Cliff Richard in conversation with Gloria Hunniford. Former Dynasty star Stephanie Beacham is also in the line-up.

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