Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 15:16 UK

Overcrowding probe for free shows

By Angie Brown
Edinburgh reporter, BBC Scotland news website

The Canons' Gait
Visitors to The Canons' Gait venue have complained of ventilation problems

Edinburgh City Council's deputy leader has vowed to put measures in place to prevent overcrowding at free events at the city's Fringe.

Steve Cardownie told the BBC Scotland news website he was investigating a "gap" in pub entertainment licences which he believes should be "plugged".

He said pubs with free shows were not vetted in the same way as other venues.

The Free Fringe has 176 shows at 19 venues, while the Laughing Horse Free Festival offers 233 shows in 14 venues.

Most Fringe venues pay for a theatre licence, which includes a health and safety inspector check.

Mr Cardownie said: "I have been speaking to one of our solicitors who said there is a gap in the entertainment licences of these pubs holding festival shows which should be plugged.

It seems as if the free shows now are becoming a victim of their own success
Anna Adams

"I will be obtaining a list of all the venues which run free shows so we can examine the safety issues with view to putting something in place next year.

"I want to encourage the free events at the Fringe but not at the expense of people's safety so it is something I will pursue and investigate.

"I will send our officers to have a look and speak with Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service so they can be advised about capacity numbers for their venues.

"I don't want the free events to be dealt a heavy hand by forcing them to get a licence but something needs to be put in place as there is cause for concern here."

Anna Adams, 38, from Melbourne in Australia, said she was forced to leave a show on Sunday at The Canons' Gait pub in the High Street because of the heat in the room.

She said: "There were just too many people squashed into the room, I would say there were over 100 people in that tiny basement.

"The temperature was too hot to bear and I'm Australian so you think I could cope with the heat.

"I had to leave, which proved very difficult as the seats were so close together and people were crowding at the exit.

"I thought the sketch show which was on was brilliant but there were just too many people packed into the room."

Contract clause

Peter Buckley Hill, The Free Fringe founder, said: "There is a problem at The Canons' Gait with ventilation because council officials told us we can't have the emergency exit to the rear open as there is a neighbour there who has complained about the noise.

"The Canons' Gait is currently looking at getting air conditioning for that space in time for next year's Fringe to solve a problem, which has taken away from shows this year.

"On access control for our events it is being exercised as it should be."

Alex Petty, artistic director of the Laughing Horse Free Festival, said: "We make performers aware of the venue capacity so they know the limits.

"However we will put a clause in their contracts for next year."

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