CORONAVIRUS has left the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society facing insolvency.

The body, which effectively runs the world’s largest arts festival, said the cancellation of this year event has left it with a shortfall.

And unlike other festivals across Britain, it isn’t being helped by the UK Government – despite more than half of all shows coming from England.

In a submission to Westminster’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the society asks ministers to “recognises the Fringe for what it is, and does, for the UK’s cultural sector” and help out with regular funding.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said that unless financial support of at least £1 million can be secured within this financial year, “the Society and the Fringe itself, the largest non-curated performing arts festival in the world, will face significant costs with existential consequences”.

The body, which has furloughed 70% of its staff and made another four redundant, says the “stark reality” is that the August festival “and the associated economic benefits to the UK economy” are under threat.

In the paper, the society added that the damage to them is nothing compared to the “damage to the Fringe ecology”. “Quite a number of individuals and organisations who attend the Fringe will not recover from this pandemic,” it warned.

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There are also “hundreds, if not thousands, of producers, designers, technicians and creative professionals” who rely on the Fringe for their work, the society said, adding: “With the Fringe not taking place, shows don’t perform, venues don’t operate, smaller local businesses don’t get that work and accommodation providers don’t benefit.

“Therefore, a catastrophic year, brought on by Covid-19, could lead to the loss of Edinburgh’s infrastructure as the world’s leading festival city, and the pivotal role the Fringe plays for the UK creative industries.”

Coronavirus has forced all five of Edinburgh’s summer festivals to cancel this year.

For the Fringe and the International Festival, it’s their first year off since their birth in 1947.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said Edinburgh and Scotland needed to be prepared to make sure the Fringe didn’t go under.

He added that the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had “a responsibility and an obligation to make sure that this festival keeps going given the contribution it has made to platforming UK-wide talent”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the report was “deeply concerning”. They added: “We are in regular contact with all our major international festivals, and remain in close contact with the Fringe Society regarding their current difficulties." 

A Fringe Society spokeswoman said:“Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will not be taking place as normal in 2020. While this is absolutely the right decision, as health and safety must come first, both the Fringe and the Fringe Society are facing a significant financial challenge going forward.

“We estimate that the wider Fringe landscape is facing a deficit of at least £21 million, impacting artists, producers and venues who receive very little - if any - public subsidy. Alongside this, the Fringe Society - the small charity that exists to support the festival and its artists – was facing an initial budget hole of around £1.5m following the announcement, which we have been working to reduce with stakeholders and supporters.

“We are currently looking for ways to minimise the financial damage for the whole Fringe landscape, as well as working in partnership with partners in the sector to call for the creation of a Creative Industries Distress Fund.”


The DCMS did not respond to a request for comment.