Session called by Claire Stone - began working on a survey and campaign, prompted by spiralling costs of performing at the Fringe.
Link to survey preview:
Link to (funded) Indiegogo campaign:


Spiralling costs not just an issue for performers - affects the Economy of the whole festival.
e.g. Critics: paying for own accommodation, pay per review (Fest Mag), taking annual holiday to go to Edinburgh. Lyn Gardner paid for her own accommodation this year!
e.g. Technical Staff: member of the group worked unpaid for whole month (ZOO Venues), no days off, offered free accommodation - but had to share a bed with a complete stranger! Matched with same-sex - but could potentially put technical workers in danger.

There are initiatives to help artists to take work to Edinburgh e.g. New Diorama & Underbelly's Untapped Award.
However noted that opportunities like this benefit max. 3 companies per year - out of 4,000 shows. Doesn't answer the issue for most performers, but makes circumstances better for some.
Also noted that even some awards are questionable deals - e.g. Charlie Harthill take 100% of box office (unverified).

Little awareness in some higher levels of sector and audiences of these conditions - e.g. Shona McCarthy, CEO Fringe Society, shocked to hear accommodation costs for 1 month during Fringe. (One critic paid £3,000 for 2-bed flat over August, which cost £800 in September.)

Important to give VISIBILITY & VOICE to what's happening - the reality of the conditions of Edinburgh Festival.

Independent theatre effectively subsidising rest of the sector - and city of Edinburgh.
"Who's taking the risk?": Big financial and creative risks taken by the companies bringing work to the Fringe, which are then cherry picked by programmers, who receive free tickets - subsidising rest of the industry.
Edinburgh Festival is a microcosm of the UK theatre sector as a whole, and impacts the whole sector e.g. touring.
Fringe likened to a Pyramid Scheme: majority of shows fail, but successes highlighted in media / by venues convince us to keep bringing work.

Edinburgh has become / is becoming the reserve of the privileged - must address barriers to access.
ACE not funding companies makes Fringe a 'free arts market' - driven by money not art.

2012 Stewart Lee article in the Guardian "The slow death of the Edinburgh Fringe":
2017 Simon Day article:

Note made that there are people in the industry who really care about this issue: Total Theatre, Fringe Review.


Fringe Society recently launched a survey to investigate working conditions for venue staff.
UPDATE: Survey results published here -

e.g. Artists with Couches: exchange of accommodation between artists, to avoid hefty costs.


Create a trading standard for venues - a 'Fair Trade' of the Fringe - recognising best practice, similar to Bechdel Theatre / Sustainability Awards.
Encourage to change the landscape long term.

Open Book Policy for venues: transparency on costs, income, charges and pay to artists and staff.

Programmers to pay for tickets to support new work: "no such thing as a free ticket." petition: pose a question to Parliament if receive 100,000 signatures.

D&D Satellite at Edinburgh: What are we going to do about Edinburgh Festival?

Set up a "Fringe Union"? Suggested best to speak to existing unions / membership bodies e.g. ITC.

Can we crowdfund a venue? Free building - cover running costs.

Rent Cap? Difficult to enforce - big hotels have no reason to curb costs. Also noted that student accommodation one of the biggest providers at the Fringe, students may lose out as Fringe income built into landlord forecasts. University of Edinburgh one of the biggest landlords at the fringe - how could we approach them to make positive changes to costs?

Make the case that Fringe Society are failing their DUTY OF CARE to participants - encourage to set up e.g. counselling service for participants.


Key areas for support:
1. Survey Expertise
2. Spreading the Word - send out to Equity, Stage Directors, ITC, UK Theatre, Total Theatre networks.
3. PR/Marketing - get arts journalist on-side, e.g. Lyn Gardner, Christy Romer, or a notable industry figure to highlight campaign e.g. Bryony Kimmings

Apply to Forest Fringe - Andy Field - fund for £2.5K.

Reaching audiences: Collect data live at Fringe Central, project results live onto a wall, performance installation on the Royal Mile.

Launch Survey: February/March 2018
Launch Results: July-September 2018 - event at Edinburgh?


Need to get institutions on-side to make positive, lasting change.
e.g. ACE: Creative Case for Diversity: Edinburgh not a level playing field - how can we change it for the better? Accessibility initatives.
e.g. Fringe Society: Edinburgh meant to be an 'Open Acess' festival or 'Neutral Platform' - must do all they can to ensure this is the case.

Don't forget Scotland! Connect dialogue with e.g. National Theatre of Scotland, Creative Scotland - Edinburgh's impact on Scottish theatre makers.

Contact: Claire Stone - [email protected] @clastone for more information about survey and campaign.

Jo Crowley (Total Theatre); Paul Levy (Fringe Review); Jo Mackie; Billy Barrett; Katie Jackson; Edie Edmundson; Alicia Britt; Emma Cameron.