KEY players in Edinburgh’s world-famous festival Fringe are warning it is in danger of being priced out of existence because of soaring accommodation costs.

They are calling for urgent action to save the event which brings millions of pounds into the Scottish economy.

“An awful lot of people who have been bringing shows for a great many years are now questioning whether this is really working and it is really terrifying,” said Anthony Alderson, of the Pleasance Theatre Trust.

He told the Sunday National that while accommodation costs for ­performers had always been a ­problem it now seemed to be growing “out of control” with prices doubling at some places since the ­pre-pandemic event in 2019.

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“We really do need to focus on this because if we don’t the city is going to price its own festival out of the market,” he said. “Some are seeing a flat that would have cost £1200 a week last time now costing upwards of £2000. One said they saw a three bedroomed flat advertised at £12,000 for the festival which is quite something. That is £1400 per person per week and comparable with expensive hotels. Our own accommodation bill alone is a staggering amount of ­money – over £300,000 for Pleasance staff and volunteers.

“We are an event the size of the Olympics, we bring in revenue the size of the Olympics and although we have been doing it for 70 odd years, we still don’t have anywhere to ­accommodate the people who do it. It is absolutely barmy.”

Alderson has long called for a financial study into who actually earns money from the Fringe as he says it would dispel “many myths”.

“I think that would educate an awful lot of people as to how vulnerable and how fragile this festival ­really is because it is really on the brink,” said Alderson. “I have never seen it in such a worrying stage before and accommodation is absolutely at the core of it.”

Alderson predicted the Fringe would “collapse” if landlords and the city council “don’t get a grip” on prices. Some kind of cap on ­accommodation costs and a subsidy for performers would help, he said, as would investment in infrastructure.

“None of us want a continual ­bailout, a continuous begging for handouts, but the Fringe relies on an enormous sum of invested money from people who lose it every year in order to try and build their career.

“The city and the Scottish economy has for so long enjoyed it and made a lot of money but if you look at the investment that is put back in, it is absolutely tiny and something has got to change.”

Just under 300 shows are due to appear at the Pleasance during the Fringe and tickets sales are currently at the same level as they were at this time in 2019.

Alderson said it showed there was a “real hunger” for ­people to go back to theatre ­following the pandemic.

“We just need a chance to put this thing back otherwise we will never get it back. It will die,” he said.

One company has already ­withdrawn its application to perform at the Summerhall venue in the city because of rising costs. Producer ­Rachel Baynton said she had been forced to withdraw three planned productions, one with her theatre company Proto-type Theatre which had applied to ­appear at ­Summerhall, and two student shows she was ­planning to take to the Fringe in her role as senior lecturer/creative ­engagement producer at the University of Lincoln.

Graham Main (below), Summerhall’s executive director, said he shared the view of Fringe partners that it was time to address the increasing growth of the festival to make sure people could actually access it.

The National:

“It is such a precious part of ­Scotland’s cultural calendar so why are we not giving it a higher priority because these problems can be fixed,” he said.

“It is losing its uniqueness. The very spirit of the festival is that ­people make an independent ­decision to come and participate but if the economy is a barrier then actually the Fringe is not fulfilling its original ­purpose. The Fringe is a structure that is an organic evolution but when you place that next to an economy that makes it uninclusive then we all have to get involved and think how we can help steer it in the right ­direction. It is far too valuable an ecosystem for us to lose.

“We have been a wee bit too

careless about the Fringe and we can become more involved in its future if we address these things collectively. I think the community has to come together and fix it,” said Main.

A spokesperson for the Fringe ­Society said: “Undoubtedly there are unscrupulous landlords in ­Edinburgh who have pushed their accommodation rates to unacceptable levels, ­sadly this is outwith the control of the Fringe Society or Fringe venues.

“We would support any ­legislative initiative that could put greater ­controls on pricing. Edinburgh is a World Heritage City whose visitor numbers peak in the summer months, and there are five festivals and many other activities happening at the same time, so this is not a challenge the Fringe faces alone.

“The Fringe Society is working hard to do our bit to support artists to access affordable ­accommodation. We’ve partnered with a range of ­organisations, including TheatreDigsBooker, Queen Margaret University, Napier University and Unite, to help provide over 1000 rooms at a capped rated of £280 per week.

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“We have also frozen registration fees for the last 13 years and have ­introduced a payment installation plan to help spread cost. There are a range of initiatives and programmes across the festival landscape to help people access the Fringe.

“[Last] week, we launched two ­programmes to aid emerging and ­working class producers in 2022 and 2023: the returning Emerging ­Producers Development Programme and a new pilot project, the Working-Class Producers Mentorship.”

THE 2019 Scottish Private Residential Tenancy agreement, introduced by the Scottish Government to create stability for students, has also reduced the availability of accommodation, according to producers, as tenancies are open-ended rather than 10 or 11 month contracts which allowed property owners to let to flats out during the summer festivals.

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There is also concern that further legislation which means local ­authorities can introduce licensing schemes for people renting out properties could ­reduce the number of private lets.

However, a spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “The change to policy and law following our campaign to the Scottish Government around short term lets will help us to control the number of properties being completely lost to the holiday market, but it won’t prevent people from renting out rooms to performers during the Fringe. We are awaiting a decision from Ministers on our proposals and we’re currently running a consultation on the wider issue of the structure of the licensing scheme.”

The Scottish Government was ­approached for comment.