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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Fringe venue boss slams funding
The Assembly Rooms
The Rooms: Dubbed 'National Theatre of the Fringe'
As this year's Edinburgh Festival gets under way the director of one of its top venues has criticised the lack of public funding for the event.

William Burdett-Coutts, artistic director of The Assembly Rooms, attacked Edinburgh City Council and public funding bodies at a launch for the Fringe Festival.

William Burdett-Coutts
Burdett-Coutts: Fringe is 'crucial' to Edinburgh
Speaking from the stage between two "taster" acts, he said it was "crazy" that the Fringe received so little public cash since it contributed so much to the city.

"It's such a powerful public event but it really gets next to no public support either in the city or from places like the Arts Council," he said.

This year's Fringe festival officially begins on Sunday but some performances have already begun, setting off a fringe to the Fringe.

Paul Gudgin
Fringe director Paul Gudgin is optimistic

Some festival officials are feeling more buoyant than Mr Burdett-Coutts, with ticket sales up about £200,000 on this time last year, according to Fringe director Paul Gudgin.

This is reportedly as a consequence of tourists forsaking the countryside for the city due to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

A total of 666 groups from 49 different countries are performing 1,462 shows in this year's Fringe, alongside others including international arts and film festivals.

Mr Burdett-Coutts also slammed a competitive tendering process, imposed by the council, which drove rent on his venue up to £100,000 a year while running costs topped £1m.

"We went through this crazy business last year of having to re-tender to run this business and in the process, another company forced up the price," he said.

Jean Boht in Bread
Jean Boht was formerly part of the Bread cast
He added that he wanted to see public money supporting the Fringe festival, which he said was now the focus of the whole Festival.

Television talk show host Clive Anderson was also at the launch at The Assembly Rooms.

His show, Clive Anderson's Fringe - Where Is It? will include interviews with people appearing in Edinburgh, including Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan.

One unlikely stage heroine about to be rediscovered at The Assembly Rooms is Florence Foster Jenkins, a squawking American singer who sold out concerts in the 19th Century.

Chris Ballance has spent two years researching her life to write a play for the festival, which is to star former Bread star Jean Boht.

"That somebody who sounded like Florence could be so determined to make a career of singing is fascinating," says Ballance.

"Glorious failures are always far more interesting than successes."

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.


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