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Edinburgh Fringe facing insolvency as Estonia begins to ease lockdown measures

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is facing insolvency as Estonia begins to lift lockdown measures and Howler ticketing platform breaks Zoom virtual festival record…

Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe society says it could suffer a £1.5m shortfall due to COVID-19 and is facing insolvency.

In written evidence presented to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of its Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors inquiry, the charity said potential ticketing income losses for 2020 are in excess of £30m after this year’s events were cancelled.

The Fringe, which noted it is not eligible for any government help, has asked the UK Government to “recognises the Fringe for what it is, and does, for the UK’s cultural sector – most shows are made in Britain, and over half are from England – and award them an annual grant to provide an underlying stability to our charitable purposes and public good.”

In its submission to the DCMS committee, the Fringe highlighted that the work presented in Edinburgh “is seen and bought by other festivals, venues and curators across the UK and the world, which leads to numerous years of work for those artists, scriptwriters, stage designers, etc.”

It added: “Without a vibrant marketplace for this work, many of the theatres – already in a precarious situation with Covid-19 -will struggle to find content in the winter months and well beyond 2020.”

There has been 126 written evidence submissions to the inquiry, including from the Musicians’ Union, Shakespeare’s Globe, Spektrix, UK Theatre and the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. Five oral evidence submissions were filed yesterday (Tuesday), including by Tim Hollingsworth, the chief executive at Sport England.

The five Edinburgh summer festivals, the Fringe, the International Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Book Festival, and the Art Festival programme more than 5,000 events and attract audiences of around 4.4 million each year.


The Estonian government began easing lockdown measures this week, with open-air live events of up to 1,000 people to return in July.

The country has also announced that indoor shows of up to 500 attendees in venues operating at 50 per cent capacity will also open in July, as no public events are permitted to take place in May and June.

Estonia is now allowing public drive-in events and sports events have been given the green light to take place behind closed doors.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said: “The reasonable and responsible behaviour of our people makes it possible to end the emergency situation in Estonia this week. Our joint effort has allowed us to return to a more regular life.”

Howler Zoom record

South African ticketing firm Howler’s virtual festival DreamStream attracted 50,000 people to its ticket-only event on Zoom.

The two-day event raised nearly R500,000 (€25,000) in donations for the South African Fund 4 Entertainment (SAFE), an industry backed initiative formed to help organisations most impacted by the live events ban.

DreamStream featured performances by 33 South African artists and became the biggest virtual festival to date to use videoconferencing platform Zoom.

“The two-way experience connected people in their homes like no other stream has done yet,” said Shai Evian, Howler chief executive, IQ reports.

“We wanted to create an experience that felt like a true festival with your friends. This was a ticket-only event and the fact that we had over 50,000 people through the online ‘gates’ for an online event that wasn’t streamed via social media is really something different.”

The cash raised is being used to purchase food vouchers for the crew suffering the most under the current lockdown.

Image: Festival Fringe Society