Visitors expressed concern about the cost of accommodation (pic: Terry Murden)
After facing some criticism, Edinburgh Fringe Society is asking for feedback, but ANDY MOSELEY will be surprised if anything changes
Edinburgh’s Fringe Society, which took a few knocks during the summer Festival, is in listening mode, seeking feedback from artists, audiences, venues , fringe workers, media and anyone else who plays a part the world’s biggest arts show. It’s an exercise that will be met with a mixture of enthusiasm, optimism… and weary resignation.
Enthusiasm and optimism because they are going to be gathering notes from such a wide range of people on an equally wide range of topics, but weary resignation because it will probably change nothing.
The errors and issues of the 2022 fringe are clear for all to see: rising accommodation costs, falling ticket sales, the absence of the fringe app, and the demise of paper tickets and box offices in favour of a drive to get everyone to purchase e-tickets.
But these are just the tip of an iceberg that, unlike most large masses of ice, was already increasing in size before the pandemic hid it from view for a couple of years.
In that time, there could have been a real reflection on what the Fringe should look like when it returned. Instead, there was just the assumption that it would return, more or less, as it was. It was an opportunity missed. A chance to address the failings of the fringe that went begging.
As to what those failings are, it can be boiled down to a simple starting point. While the Fringe Society may recognise that Fringe performers are essential to the Fringe happening, let alone generating millions for the city, the recognition is not backed up with a financial package to match.
It’s almost the opposite. The more people the Fringe attracts, the higher the costs for performers, and the lower the chances of seeing any return on investment. This is the issue that needs to be tackled for the long term sustainability of the Fringe.
That the survey findings will be used ‘to bring together the right people and partnerships to work towards solutions, and advocate for greater support to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Fringe’ does not immediately suggest that there will be anything other than more goals and ambitions with little practical action underpinning them by the time the 2023 Fringe commences.
If comments this year are anything to go by, increasing numbers of performers have already decided that it simply isn’t viable to come to Edinburgh anymore. The Fringe Society needs to recognise this and put it at the heart of what they do next. If they don’t, there will be the feeling that the survey is little more than a classic example of fiddling while Rome burns.
Andy Moseley is a playwright and arts correspondent for Daily Business