Edinburgh Fringe faces financial crisis as funding cuts threaten its future

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, has revealed a huge financial black hole as it struggles to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Fringe organisers have launched a £7.5 million emergency appeal to secure the event’s survival and ensure its accessibility and diversity in the post-Covid world.

Fringe lost millions during pandemic

The Fringe, which showcases thousands of performances across comedy, theatre, dance, music and more, was completely cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. This year, the festival has operated at a fifth of its normal size, with only about 700 shows taking place, mostly online or in outdoor venues. The Fringe Society, the charity that supports the event, said it had lost millions of pounds in income from ticket sales, advertising and sponsorship over the past two years. It also had to take out loans and use its reserves to keep going.

The Fringe Society’s chief executive, Shona McCarthy, said the crisis had been “devastating” for everyone involved in the festival, from artists and venues to staff and audiences. She said the Fringe needed urgent financial support to rebuild its infrastructure, develop its digital platform, and help artists and venues recover from the losses. She also said the Fringe wanted to ensure that the event remained open and accessible to everyone, regardless of their background, location or financial situation.

Fringe launches emergency appeal

The Fringe Society has launched a £7.5 million emergency appeal, called Fringe Future, to raise funds from the public, the government, and the private sector. The appeal aims to secure the festival’s future for the next three years and beyond, and to make it more resilient, sustainable and inclusive. The appeal has four main objectives:

Edinburgh Fringe faces financial crisis as funding cuts threaten its future

  • To support artists and venues to return to the Fringe and create new work
  • To develop the Fringe’s digital platform and offer hybrid live and online performances
  • To increase the Fringe’s accessibility and diversity, and reach new audiences and communities
  • To reduce the Fringe’s environmental impact and carbon footprint

McCarthy said the appeal was a “moral” case, as the Fringe was not only a cultural and economic asset for Scotland and the UK, but also a “global phenomenon” that inspired and empowered people from all walks of life. She said the Fringe was a “force for good” that celebrated creativity, freedom of expression and human connection.

Fringe receives mixed response from government and public

The Fringe’s appeal has received a mixed response from the Scottish government and the public. The culture secretary, Angus Robertson, said the government recognised the “vital role” of the Fringe in Scotland’s cultural sector and had provided £10 million in emergency funding for the festival and its venues since the start of the pandemic. He said the government would continue to work with the Fringe Society and other stakeholders to support the festival’s recovery and development.

However, some critics have questioned the Fringe’s funding model and governance, and suggested that the festival should become more self-sufficient and accountable. They have also raised concerns about the Fringe’s impact on the city of Edinburgh, such as overcrowding, gentrification and pollution. Some have argued that the Fringe should be scaled down or reformed to become more sustainable and equitable.

The public has also shown varying levels of support for the Fringe’s appeal. Some have expressed their love and appreciation for the festival and pledged to donate or volunteer. Others have said they were unable to afford or access the festival, or felt alienated or excluded by it. Some have also said they preferred the smaller and quieter version of the Fringe this year, and hoped it would remain that way in the future.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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