The Edinburgh Festival Fringe made an emergency appeal of £ 7.5million after losing millions of pounds during the Covid pandemic.
Festival directors said the crisis had a devastating impact on the event, which until last year was the world’s largest annual arts festival. It was fully closed in 2020 and has operated this year at one-fifth of its normal size.
“The past 18 months have been the toughest in Fringe history, and everyone – from artists and venues to the Fringe Society – has suffered tremendous losses,” said Shona McCarthy, executive director of the Fringe Society. ‘event.
“[But] The scaled-down 2021 event only happened due to emergency grants and, in many cases, loans that now have to be repaid. We want to make sure the returning bangs reflect the world we live in – not just those who can afford to continue. “
Edinburgh’s main festivals – the Fringe, the International Festival and the Book Festival – have had significantly reduced programs this month, offering a fraction of the normal number of productions, often in new outdoor venues.
They have relied heavily on presenting events online, mixing live shows with digital productions to reach audiences barred from traveling to Edinburgh, with an in-person audience sharply reduced due to social distancing rules.
As a result, The Fringe says they face a far greater challenge of adapting to a post-Covid world than their counterparts.
Unlike the international and book festivals, which are smaller and organized entirely by their directors, the Fringe is a highly decentralized festival that relies on independent production companies, independent artists and producers who put on shows in venues. independent.
While this increases its artistic diversity, it also presents greater organizational, financial and technical challenges for the Margin to become a viable living and digital hybrid event.
Many performers rely heavily on the margin for their income and to showcase their work to other festivals and producers. With this year’s festival scheduled to end on August 30, so far it has only sold 12,500 digital performance tickets.
McCarthy said she believes the fringe’s worldwide fame will allow them to grow online in the years to come, and digital performance could help reduce their carbon footprint as well. “It is a real opportunity to put forward the founding principle of the Edinburgh fringe, which is to be open and accessible, to literally open it up to the world,” she said.
The Fringe said the appeal, launched on Tuesday with a pledge of £ 150,000 from spirits company Edinburgh Gin and an additional £ 160,000 from other donors, would go in part to support its artists and venues; invest in its digital and streaming productions; increase the economic and artistic sustainability of the event; and finding a new permanent home for the Fringe Society, its governing body, to help promote performing artists.
Funding for Edinburgh Gin is expected to come from profits generated from a new promotional partnership with Fleabag designer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Honorary Fringe President. Waller-Bridge designed a limited edition gin label.
Benny Higgins, a former banker who is the chairman of the Fringe Society, said the event was one of Scotland’s biggest cultural exports, but received little public funding.
“It is estimated that £ 20million was lost in 2020 alone,” he said. “To make 2021 a reality, many operators have relied on emergency loans and grants. It’s not sustainable, and this campaign aims to repair some of that damage, while creating a more affordable and fairer fringe. This campaign will give us a basis for doing just that. “