Session called by Claire Stone, founder of the Cost of Edinburgh campaign (@CostEdinburgh #Cost of Edinburgh on Twitter), to discuss the increasing costs of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, the impact on artists, industry, venues, audiences, diversity, and how we can increase transparency and positive action on access at the festival.

This report is a transcription of notes from multiple sessions and contributors over the course of the day at Devoted & Disgruntled, Fringe Central, 20th Aug 2018.

The Cost of Edinburgh campaign includes a survey for artists to track costs of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, open until end Oct:

• Venue Costs: from 1990 → Now have seen a 3-fold increase.
• Universal Arts – Hill Street Theatre cost £¼ million to run
• Many independent venues are forced to close as costs increase – losing non-commercial spaces e.g. Forest Fringe
• Few organisations/venues pay their staff full wages
o What is the cost of this?
• Nevertheless some venues are making huge profits – who and how?
• Profit comes from alcohol/food sales rather than companies/performers – are bars now more important than plays?
o Some venues do not keep their bar sales: e.g. at Pleasance, Gilded Balloon run by Edinburgh University Students’ Association who keep profits.
o Should these profits be re-invested into fringe artists/venues?
• 1990 approx. 600 productions → 2018 approx. 3,500
o Is continuous growth healthy? Or is it happening at the expense of all components of the Fringe – from performers, venues and venue staff, critics and audiences
• Have we reached peak capacity of the city?
• 2008: Huge crash in sales due to issues with a new box office system – most venues and companies made losses that year, Fringe Society had a huge deficit – a new director brought in to Fringe Society, started the process of commercialisation of the Fringe. [Ref needed]
• Huge increase in shows/companies bringing work since then but not necessarily audience development.
o Do audiences need to match in scale for companies to make a profit? Is there a lack of incentive to increase audiences if venues are receiving a guarantee from artists? Do performers take the loss of decreased audiences, rather than venues?
• How are venues managed? Can we start a dialogue?
o Venue Producers Association – attempted to bring in standard contract across venues previously – dropped
o Code of Conduct for Venues – would need Fringe Society backing
• Are artists subsidising the whole infrastructure of the Fringe, and the cultural sector, by bringing work for low/no pay, accepting ‘losses’ as inevitable?

SESSION 1 NOTES Continued:
• “Volunteering” in working conditions that are not defined as volunteering by law
o E.g. C Venues: Many staff low paid or 'volunteers' BUT still made losses last 3 years. [Ref needed]
• Fringe being described as a “Trade Show”, “Marketplace”, “Meat Market”
o Is this the experience we want for the Fringe?
• International companies: motivation to come = marketplace, booking, programming for tours.
• If prices and competition increase will only international companies & UK “high quality” work be able to afford it? Should this be the reserve of the Edinburgh International Festival?
• “Open Access” → the Fringe is also about giving new artists a chance: an opportunity to break into the marketplace / industry
o There needs to be space for newcomers.
o Who decides what is “quality”? e.g. disabled artists often misjudged at first.

If it’s not venues, artists or audiences, who is profiting from this arts festival?
o Private Landlords (owners of Edinburgh accommodation)
o Hotels
o University of Edinburgh (rent venues and student accommodation)
o Edinburgh University Students’ Associations (runs bars)
o Shops, restaurants
o Taxis
o Edinburgh City Council?
• Where is the money going? Work to trace this and make transparent is required.
• Edinburgh has an international reputation as a “Greedy City”.
• When do we say “No More” to profiteering?
• Have to involve politicians, the city and venues to effect change / propose solutions:
o e.g. Landlords: give tax to Fringe Society to subsidise performers accommodation
o OR VAT on tickets

SESSION 1 NOTES Continued:
• Subtle cost for artists, audiences, public, venues → everyone
• Oversaturation: “it’s a fight between haves & have nots”
• Danger of creating a “Two Tier” Fringe
• We need to start naming this problem → Cost of Edinburgh Survey:
• Edinburgh citizen and disabled patron: we often lose out, some shows “oversubscribed” for disabled audiences – this was at Museums & Galleries, let alone smaller venues.
• Fringe is missing a trick: losing out on more audiences (disabled audiences are 2) and performers because not prepared for access
• “Access” does not equal “Cost” – sometimes it costs nothing! Most shows are very accessible in content.
• Yet there are only 4 shows audio described in the whole of the Fringe programme.
• Cost is passed on to performers – who are un-funded!
• Some shows incorrectly described as accessible – e.g. a visually impaired audience member attended an ‘accessible’ show that was *mime*.
• Solidarity is required for change – we need to encourage a sharing economy.
• Money is not going to artists
• “Cost” of bringing work is turning passion → money
• What value are we getting?

SESSION 1 NOTES Continued:
• Free Fringe – most of shows unsuitable, limitations e.g. 3 people max on stage; no access.
• Kirin Saeed → article on accessing Free Fringe as visually impaired patron for Disability Arts Online
• Free Fringe: Free for who?
o Not for disabled artists / audiences, people who can’t take that risk
• Costs: More of a ‘who can you tap up’ festival:
o Crowdfunding
o Private donors
o Trusts/foundations
• Who’s funding this? Artists taking a hit/loss.
• International Reputation: one of the biggest Russian critics this year said she’s not interested in Edinburgh – advising to go to Avignon, Amsterdam instead.
• These are “curated seasons” – don’t want to take risk.
• International companies: is it worth it for them?
o Example of a New Zealand company who are losing out
o Risk of a “narrowing in taste”
• American Universities: cast of 23 on stage. Huge money! Expectation to attend.
• Massive drop-off after 1st year: increasing number of people who can’t come.
• “Why are all the shows solo shows?”
o Risk of making work not how you want to create it, but how you can
o Practical rather than artistic considerations in forefront of companies’ minds
o Vs. Germany: very unusual to have solo performance.
• Impact on aesthetic of productions:
o 15 min get ins/outs
o “You can feel like you’re in a factory”
o No big set, lights, tech
o Show length: 60mins
• Promoters: if not looking for black box fringe work, much of Edinburgh not relevant.
o E.g. Germany/Russia: visual work and directors – not suitable to bring to Edinburgh.

SESSION 1 NOTES Continued:
• Collective Bargaining Power vs. Every Man for Themselves
o E.g. collectively refusing high guarantees or unfair box office splits
o Arts Administrators: Where are our unions?
o Producers, Promoters and Programmers make the deals, hold power, yet don’t feel they have a union that represents them
• We need to move from Goodwill → Standard Practice.
• Bringing work to the Fringe: Who is taking the risk?
• “Commercialisation” of the Fringe → seen in trend towards repeat work being shown – tried and tested shows as money-earners
o But even venues with a “commercial” reputation like Underbelly use commercial shows to subsidise taking artistic risks e.g. at Cowgate.
• Fringe Society: can they have more oversight and enforcement?
o Currently have a Venues Charter for best practice, that venues can sign up to:
o “We are in service to contradiction”
o Venues can be defensive – difficult to gain and maintain trust.
o e.g. Contracts: Do they have confidentiality clauses for artist deals? If so Fringe Society unable to request that information from them.
• If not Fringe Society – who does have a responsibility for enforcement?
o Edinburgh City Council? What is their stance and approach to improving Fringe conditions?

SESSION 1 NOTES Continued:
• Pay for performers:
o Previous court case over ACE-funded project that used a ‘profit share’ at the Fringe – made losses, claimed unable to pay cast/crew. Appealed: argued they were ‘employees’ and required sick leave, pay etc. Case successful. [Ref needed]
• If it’s your show – where’s your wage/salary? Most artists are self-employed, sacrifice own pay to bring work.
• Cost for participants in Fringe:
o Legal status: Losing working rights.
o Emotional cost: strain on mental health
o Physical cost: poor health common – flu, Shingles, exhaustion
o Time cost: require time off after festival to recover – min. 2 weeks, not all can afford
• Edinburgh Fringe seen as a “fixed time” where you are investing absolutely everything
o Expectation is a 3-figure hour week – 16 hours days – 1-2 days off in 1 month
• What if the “thing that you’re selling is part of yourself” – as many shows are?
o Requires a huge amount of emotional resilience to cope with e.g. difficult reviews, low audiences, anxiety over money
• Some can afford to “chuck money at the problem” e.g. pay for marketing to increase audiences.
• Edinburgh Fringe financial model is stacked against profits for performers:
o Example: requiring 80% sales just to break even
o Example: earning same in 5 day run at VAULT Festival as 1 month at Ed Fringe
• Reactions: Free Fringe
o But is this an option for everyone?
o Many shows not appropriate for Free Fringe spaces – e.g. complex tech, big cast, accessibility for performers/audiences – and receive poor coverage from press and industry.
o “You get what you pay for”
• Have to involve the city, politicians and venues in the solution.
o E.g. Landlord tax to Fringe Society to subsidise performers accommodation.

• Cost of Edinburgh Campaign: What can help?
o Kickstarter can share Cost of Edinburgh survey with artists who use platform for Fringe shows
o Academic partner for the survey
o ACE support
o Venue Partner: e.g. Summerhall?
o Society of Authors – ran survey for authors performing at festivals – sharing what they were paid/earned. Good example from another sector.

• How do we ensure newcomers understand the logistics and the resources available to them?
o Coming in advance to recce isn’t always possible – it takes time and money.
• Edinburgh has a unique market – how do we help newcomers navigate it?
o You don’t know what you don’t know and naivety shouldn’t be punished.
• Do artists understand the risks vs. values?
• Should/could the fringe society produce info on common mistakes/lessons to learn?
o Can these be produced in varied formats; videos, podcast etc
• Three weeks is useful as it allows for the show to grow but it is expensive and hard work
o Value of splitting a run with other performers to reduce the load - do artists even know this is possible?
• Who does the 25 day festival serve? Do you have to come every year?
o What are our return rates for performers and workers?
• Who is responsible for protecting artists – such as from scams etc.
• If shows are produced on a shoestring, where are the contingencies – this creates precarious working conditions as there is no slack in the system.
o No space for life’s interruptions, failures and unexpected events
o Example: Puppetry show producer breaking arm within first few days.
• Could fringe central offer therapeutic drama sessions to scenario plan?
• Should the Fringe Society produce a ‘symptoms’ list to help artists identify mental health/stress issues?
• Cost is not just August – lead and lead out – rehearsal, rest etc.
• Danger of ‘cult of busy’ and martyrdom – the show must go on.
o “I’m ok”: Stopping is not an option, or perceived as a failure.
• Health events at Fringe Central – do people know about these?

SESSION 2 NOTES Continued:
• How do shared/split runs work?
o Benefits of working as a creative collective e.g. multiple artists pitching to share a month slot
o Striking a balance of short runs vs. need to develop work, media etc. Is a short run a false economy?
o Do people know this option exists? Do we need to see it to know it exists?
o How do we help people to understand the value to them as individuals?
• Not just Edinburgh: lead in and lead out costs
o Rehearsal / recovery
o Fundraising / back filling.
• How do we help artists to understand the risk vs. value?
o Access to logistics and understanding of system and value of resources.
o Understanding the “market” of Edinburgh
o You don’t know what you don’t know…
o How achievable is a “test run” without a show?
• Duty of care to first timers – naivety shouldn’t cost dearly.
• Action: Could Fringe Society make a “common problems” guide – learning from others mistakes.
o Can these be provided in a video format? More accessible.

• Knock on effect of the Fringe for Edinburgh and arts programming UK-wide:
• Does the work that works at Edinburgh work elsewhere?
o Edinburgh Fringe is a taste microcosm – not representative of the rest of the UK
o Yet Regional Touring Network and NPOs are booking shows here.
o e.g. Commercial comedians – often part of a tour, not ‘Fringe’
o vs. Free Fringe – testing new material.
• Can we develop more of a Fringe circuit around the UK?
o e.g. PULSE, Derby Theatre, Brighton, Camden – approx. 30 UK Fringes
o e.g. Laurel & Hardy: touring Fringes (12) – 3-4 day runs at Edinburgh Fringe – 15% of ACE funded tour can be international (Edinburgh counts!)
o Many use Camden fringe as a ‘preview’ for Edinburgh
• Fringe Society: in conversation with ACE about funding work – what and how?
o Artist Pay? Danger of underwriting costs for venues.
o Ticket giveaway? Public subsidy for private landlords.
o Who does it work for?

SESSION 3 NOTES Continued:
• Impact on the type of creative work show at the Fringe: trends defined by costs
o Commercial comedy and “entertainment”
o Academic: university-led, pick a topic
o Is there less appetite for risk-taking or “serious” work?
o Yes: Audience for everything
o Solo performances – direct result of rising costs around UK
o Max. cast of 4 affordable for most shows
• Impact on work show around the UK:
o Most regional venues not fit for purpose – 60 seater in Edinburgh vs. huge venues regionally
• “There is no commercial arts sector without a subsidised arts sector”
o Edinburgh majority self-funded
• Gilded Balloon: local focus. Underbelly: more trendy.
• Most venues have commercial structure → only Pleasance of big venues is a charity.
• Investment in e.g. Circus Tent.
• Reduced wage for Edinburgh run even amongst shrewd/experienced companies
o Non-equity wages even for sold out runs → due to Edinburgh model
o What about amateur companies? Not paying selves at all.
o “Break Even” = runaway success
o Outlays huge (relative to income) to be successful
• Gap between box office income & production cost → only just cover venue cost.
• Venue : bar = venue cost → production costs on tap/top.
• Air bnb → Air sorted: pay management company to manage flat – exploitation of unregulated sectors.
• Bella Caladonia: over-tourism of Edinburgh. vs. Joyce MacMillan:
• Pressure/expectation to bring work to Edinburgh e.g. Students on graduation seen as ‘natural step’.
• How do Edinburgh Festivals work together?

SESSION 3 NOTES Continued:
• 1947: 1st Fringe – a lot of shows performed then you wouldn’t be able to do now.
o E.g. Thunder Rock – Edinburgh People’s Theatre: 2 hours
o Even established companies struggle for attention
o There are exceptions: you can do over 60mins in some places
o vs. New York: some shows expanded to full show for New York and cut down for the Fringe
o “short attention span at the Fringe”
• Advising people not to come here – precarious situation.
• A lot of people coming for 1st time have no idea Fringe Society exists – providing advice.
• Goal: Are you confident that your piece can get attention here in a competitive environment?
o Do you understand the venue landscape – is it appropriate for you?
• National Theatre: “They approach it like a military operation”
o “It’s a very Darwinian environment"
• Does it get easier with experience?
o Not necessarily: 6th Fringe – risks are bigger not smaller.
• Why Edinburgh?
o Peer to peer review
o Media review
o Programming
o Arts Industry: talent spotting
o Experience: develop your art as a company well as put on a show
o Community – gathering of arts community you want to be part of

• Access & Cost → Risk
o £12-13,000 cost added to include a deaf performance
o E.g. Wheelchair user – additional costs on tech time and accommodation
• Can be funded via ACE, but not reflected in Ed Fringe model
• Venue gets to celebrate this e.g. bringing in deaf audiences
• Only 3 Deaf performers at the Fringe this year [Ref needed]
• Impact of working to the bone → impact multiplied for those with additional need
• Difference between “Add on” vs. “integrated” access
• Disabled work not reaching the Fringe
• Deaf audiences → How do they flyer? What are the alternative models?

SESSION 4 NOTES Continued:
• Accommodation: 1/3 budget
o Being charged £3-4,000 outright for accommodation that costs £900 any other time of year
o Increasing year-on-year
• As performer you are expected to accept costs → asking too much of artists?
• Is this Culture of Acceptance part of the problem? Martyrism ≠ Resilience.
• Greater preparation and awareness of conditions can help you to make the right decision for yourself.
• Billeting system in Canadian and Adelaide Fringes
• Artistic AirBnB: how can you get into this?
o These initiatives can end up being new ‘clubs’ rather than widening access more broadly.
• What would happen if we halved the number of shows? Who would lose out?
o Less competition and elbowing.
o If slash number of shows some venues would go under.
• US & Canadian Fringes: different approach to venues.
o BYOV: Bring your own venue
o Draw artists who apply out of a hat – limitations to this model too.

SESSION 4 NOTES Continued:
• Impact on who is coming to the Fringe
o Fresh-faced newcomes, hardened professionals
o Are emerging companies the squeezed out middle?
• Arts Industry recognition unparalleled elsewhere – Fringe makes it easy for programmer to see lots of new work
o Relationships developed with partner venues can be priceless for developing your work as a company
• “It feels like a meat market”
• Investment (financial) vs. Outcome: how many stars/reviews/industry connections would make it worth it?
• Non-financial benefits include:
o Relationship with peers / industry
o Experience of delivering a 4-week run – difficult to achieve for emerging companies elsewhere
• Should we introduce Open book accounting on every single show to increase transparency?
• There are ways and means to get funding e.g. ACE will fund Edinburgh run as part of a UK tour before/after – 15% of tour can be ‘international’ (Scotland counts).
• Too many companies come ill-prepared: need to answer questions of what they bring, how they’ll bring it, what it will cost them.
o Idea that you have to go to Edinburgh needs to be questioned.
• Will Fringe only change if everyone boycotts it?

SESSION 4 NOTES Continued:
• Artists who are unaware of costs → underbudget
o Idealism vs. Toxic Environment?
o “There are no costs it’s all investment”
• Great caution → elitism: white, able-bodied performers/companies more prevalent
• Edinburgh Fringe seen as a “rite of passage” in the industry / for emerging companies and graduates
o As a graduate, wouldn’t have been able to bring disabled/Deaf actor to the Fringe
• Cancellation budget e.g. due to mental health – ACE mitigate risk, not Fringe.
o Dange of doing things to the bone.
• Shows are increasing, but are audiences?
o Would venues even lose out if they didn’t? Would still receive guarantees from companies as income.
o 5 areas of costs: Registration Fee; Venues; Customers; Charities; Companies.
o Those people are never at the same table to discuss these issues.

SESSION 4 NOTES Continued:
• A sell-out show at Edinburgh ≠ success elsewhere – can even be the opposite.
• “Make or break” approach is a dangerous idea
• 2/3 year model: build up to Edinburgh e.g. decide the Autumn before making the show
• What more as artists can we do to plan for the Fringe?
• Year on year: what’s the point?
o “Taking a year off was the best decision we made”
• How can we make the system that exists work for us?
o vs. Do we have a responsibility to address issues?
• NPOs duty to support artists who couldn’t come otherwise.
o NPOs are saving money by picking up ready-made work.
• Example of someone who pays their mortgage by performing at Ed Fringe – making money!
o Model works for some, e.g. Austentatious, Showstoppers.
• Pittsburgh Fringe operates a lottery system
• London Fringe: a lot of issues at Ed Fringe directly translate to London Fringe. Start with Edinburgh.

• “I don’t know who has the power to make change – and I don’t have any more resources to make this happen” (Artist, Zoo Co)
o Who is best placed to make change? Who is taking responsibility / ownership?
• Example initiatives:
o Fair Rent Policy
o Venue Best Practice code
• Venues don’t always talk to each other either
• Constant flux of new people and work.
• How can we make informed decisions?
o As artists we are often walking into negotiations blind – e.g. no-one is accepting 50/50 splits except new companies.
• Wandsworth Arts Fringe – struck off a venue, refused to work with them or recommend to artists as a result of bad practice.
o Power as organiser to affect change.
• As artists we need to share information and start saying no.
o How high is too high?
• Fear of sharing as artists: terrified of impact – feeling we are powerless.
o Need to share and care – ask direct questions.
o We need to create our own support structures.
• Could there be open sharing of marketing results with artists, and artists share back with organisers?
o Sends message that it’s okay to share and give honest feedback.

SESSION 5 NOTES Continued:
• Success at Edinburgh: How can we market effectively as artists if we don’t receive data on our audiences?
o Need to know who they are and how they’re booking.
o NPOs – duty to share data with companies.
o In contracts embed requirement for tick box to join mailing list at buying ticket stage.
• Google analytics:
o Behavioural analysis of booking → request from venue.
o ‘Impossible to give to companies’ due to scale.
o That information is an essential / basic requirement for companies, yet it is not given as standard.
• Edinburgh Fringe: don’t have that information due to scale?
• Red61 (Fringe Society ticketing partner) should be able to produce box office reports to allow behavioural analysis.
o Could do 1 report per venue, 1 for festival.
• Sharing info as artists and venues – Knowing Our Audiences.
o So important: knowledge is power. Supporting companies to make informed decisions.
• Note: Jaw-dropping amount of effort & investment by venues in putting up infrastructure.
o Where does this investment come from? Artist guarantees?
o Investment of venues should be recognised, taking on huge risk too.

To join the Cost of Edinburgh conversation, see @CostEdinburgh #CostofEdinburgh on Twitter, and complete the Cost of Edinburgh Survey (open until end Oct) here:

Attendees over the day included: Claire Stone (Cost of Edinburgh), Lyndsey Jackson (Fringe Society), Lyn Gardner, Paula Varjack, Tomek Borkowy (Universal Arts CEO), Florence O’Mahony (Zoo Co Theatre), Wandsworth Arts Fringe, The Sick of the Fringe, and many more contributors.