Fringe Society plans to build new headquarters
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the organisation that runs the world’s largest arts festival, has announced plans to build a new headquarters in a former primary school in the city centre. The project, which is expected to cost £7 million, will create a Fringe community hub that will provide support and resources for artists, venues, staff and audiences.
The Fringe Society said the funding for the project came from the UK government’s capital investment fund, which is ring-fenced for physical infrastructure projects. The society said it had been looking for a new home for several years, as its current offices in three different locations were no longer fit for purpose.
The new headquarters will be located in the former Royal High School Primary building on Regent Road, which has been vacant since 2014. The building, which dates back to 1829, is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Fringe Society said it will work with the council and other partners to restore and refurbish the building, while preserving its historical features. The society said it will also consult with the local community and the Fringe stakeholders to ensure the project meets their needs and expectations.
The society said the new headquarters will offer a range of facilities and services, such as:
- A year-round Fringe shop and box office
- A dedicated space for artist development and support
- A multi-purpose studio and rehearsal space
- A digital hub and broadcast studio
- A Fringe archive and exhibition space
- A cafe and social space
- A rooftop terrace with views of the city
The society said the new headquarters will also help to reduce its environmental impact, as it will use renewable energy sources and low-carbon technologies.
Assembly Rooms forced to move after 40 years
The announcement of the new headquarters project comes after one of the Fringe’s major venues, the Assembly Rooms, revealed that it had to find a new home for 2023. The venue, which has been hosting Fringe shows for 40 years, said it was forced to move after the council decided to use the building for its own purposes.
The Assembly Rooms, which is also owned by the council, said it was informed in June that it would not be able to use the building for the Fringe in 2023, as the council planned to use it for its own festival headquarters project. The venue said it was given no notice or consultation, and that it had already booked shows and sold tickets for 2023.
The venue said it was “shocked and saddened” by the decision, which it said would have a “devastating impact” on its artists, staff and audiences. The venue said it was looking for a new location in the city centre, and that it hoped to announce it soon.
The venue said it was grateful for the support it had received from the Fringe Society, the Scottish government, the UK government and the public. The venue said it was determined to continue its legacy of presenting high-quality and diverse shows at the Fringe.
Fringe returns after Covid-19 disruption
The Fringe, which attracts thousands of performers and millions of visitors every year, was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The festival returned in 2023 with a hybrid format, offering both live and online shows.
The Fringe Society said the 2023 festival was a success, despite the challenges and restrictions posed by the pandemic. The society said it sold more than 600,000 tickets for over 3,000 shows, and that it reached more than 2 million viewers online.
The society said the 2023 festival also showcased the resilience and creativity of the Fringe community, and that it demonstrated the importance of the festival for the cultural and economic recovery of Edinburgh and Scotland.
The society said it was looking forward to the 2024 festival, which will mark the 75th anniversary of the Fringe. The society said it hoped the new headquarters project will be completed by then, and that it will enhance the festival experience for everyone involved.