Fringe-goers and acts being ‘priced out’ of Edinburgh, venues warn

·2-min read

Ticket sales for Edinburgh Fringe shows have slumped by a quarter compared with 2019, it has been revealed, as its major venues warned that spiralling accommodation costs in the city are putting the event’s future at risk.

In 2019, before the pandemic lockdowns, the eight major producing venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe sold 1,965,961 tickets, but projected ticket sales fell by 25% in its first full year back to just 1,486,746.

A spokesman for EdFest.com said the fall in sales was a “major threat for everyone involved in the festival”, and put the blame in part on train strikes, the climbing cost of living and the lingering effects of coronavirus.

“Chief among these however is the soaring cost of accommodation in Edinburgh in August – audiences and artists alike are being priced out of town, out of experiences,” the spokesman warned.

“It is clear to anyone spending time in Edinburgh that there are fewer people in the city this year than in 2019.

“While there are certainly other factors that have affected audience numbers this year, the cost of accommodation is a perennial problem across the board.

“Disruption with public transport, delays with artist visas, and high fuel costs are even more insurmountable when people and performers simply cannot afford to stay in the city.”

It is not unusual over the Fringe to see desperate pleas on community Facebook groups of people asking to use a spare room because other options are too expensive, and there have been reports of hotels almost doubling their prices per night for during the festival.

Big names including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Friends star David Schwimmer, comedian Eddie Izzard, and Dame Emma Thompson have seen the Fringe advance their careers.

But EdFest.com, which is made up of the venues Assembly, Dance Base, Gilded Balloon, Just the Tonic, Pleasance, Summerhall, Underbelly and Zoo, said that while suitable housing is not just an August problem “it’s imperative that local and national government, landlords, the universities, Fringe venues and the Fringe Society all come together to find a lasting solution for this issue, or the future of the Fringe is in very real danger”.

Man balancing two basketballs in front of Fringe shop in Edinburgh
Circus street artist BasketballMan performs for the crowds on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Long term we also have to find solutions that allow the festival to be affordable to performers and the audience,” an EdFest.com spokesman said.

“Given the extent of the reduction in sales, the overall festival has a major job to do in restoring the event to normality, which may take several years and require some public support.

“We need to stabilise the current situation where many people have made significant losses; to address the accommodation issue; to find ways of supporting work; and a major marketing campaign to get the audience back to the festival.”