Page last updated at 19:38 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 20:38 UK

Venues fear Fringe could die out

By Angie Brown
Edinburgh reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Tomek Borkowy, Universal Arts artistic director
Tomek Borkowy said the Fringe was in a state of 'fragility'

Some Fringe venue operators fear the festival is at risk of "dying out" because of increasing financial "barriers".

Edinburgh City Council is being blamed for charging "excessive licensing fees", which are understood to have risen by 800% in three years.

At a Fringe debate in the New Town Theatre in George Street, operators called for a "level playing field".

Edinburgh Council festival leaders said they made no profit from licence fees.

Anthony Alderson, Pleasance director, said: "I think just because the Fringe has been going on for 62 years doesn't mean its existence isn't at risk.

"I think the very organic nature of the festival means that what we have is something that can just as easily and just as quickly die out.

"The barriers to entry for venues and venue producers and for visiting companies are increasing to a degree, which makes it very difficult if a medium-sized venue was to close down.

We try to be as fair as we possibly can be but we need to charge licence fees on health and safety grounds
Steve Cardownie
Edinburgh City Council

"I think it would take many years for the festival to get back to its former glory if this was to continue.

"We are asking for a level and fair playing field in which to operate.

"There is a threat and it's more real than people realise because of the fragility of the Fringe operations, which ostensibly hold the festival together."

Tomek Borkowy, Universal Arts artistic director, said: "No-one seems to be thinking how horrible it is going to be if the Edinburgh Festival Fringe stops existing and it could stop existing. Venues will go because we cannot sustain this amount of burden.

"The city authority is not helping and is putting more and more burden on us.

"The Fringe could end and very, very soon.

There doesn't even seem to be a welcoming atmosphere
Nora Wardell
Ragged Shoes Productions

"The council is so complacent that the Fringe will happen but I'm telling you we are coming to the breaking point and we will go away if any other city in the country shows they are willing to help.

"So the council needs to start engaging with us instead of us begging of it to recognise us."

Nora Wardell, Ragged Shoes Productions artistic director, said: "There are real concerns now that the Fringe has become too commercial.

"There doesn't even seem to be a welcoming atmosphere in terms of parking to let visiting companies just unload their sets on the side of the road without getting 12 parking wardens coming along and giving you some tickets.

"So even that sort of council warmth and welcome needs a bit more joined-up thinking so it goes right through the systems so it makes people feel welcome and want to be here."

Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh City Council festival champion, said: "We try to be as fair as we possibly can be but we need to charge licence fees on health and safety grounds.

"People are much more litigious now so we have to make sure venues are inspected and that costs money, we make no profit from the charge.

"The licence costs look like they have risen a lot but it's because they haven't really been increased in the past.

"We are always live to complaints and will continue to make further dialogue with the Edinburgh Fringe Society."

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