The Edinburgh festival fringe, operating at a fifth of its normal size this year, has launched a £7.5m emergency appeal following the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has been reported that the arts festival in Scotland has lost millions of pounds after it was completely shut down in 2020 and is only operating at a smaller capacity in 2021.
The festival launched its appeal yesterday (Tuesday) with a £150,000 pledge from spirits company Edinburgh Gin and £160,000 from various other donors. These donations will go towards supporting the artists and venues, as well as the festival investing in its digital and streaming productions to create a lasting hybrid event.
Actress, writer and comedian Phoebe Waller-Bridge collaborated with Edinburgh Gin to design a limited-edition Fleabag bottle. In support of the artists that come to the Fringe, it is hoped over £150,000 will be raised by sales of the bottle and 100% of these profits will go to the artists. Waller-Bridge is also the first president of the Fringe Society.
The event runs throughout August, having started on the 6th and is set to end on the 30th. The main attractions – the fringe, the international festival and the book festival – have all been scaled down for this year.
Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the event, said: “The last 18 months have been the most challenging in the fringe’s history, and everyone – from artists and venues to the Fringe Society – has experienced huge losses.
“[But] 2021’s scaled-back event only happened because of emergency grants, and in many cases, loans that now need to be repaid. We want to ensure the fringe that returns reflects the world we live in – not just this who can afford to keep going.”
The festivals have staged a mixture of live and digital events to reach audiences that have not been able to travel to Edinburgh. Live audiences have also been reduced due to social distancing rules and being conscientious towards the ongoing pandemic.
So far, the arts festival has sold 12,500 digital performance tickets and many freelance performers and producers rely on the fringe for income.
Benny Higgins, the chair of the Fringe Society, said: “An estimated £20m was lost in 2020 alone. To make 2021 a reality, many operators relied on loans and emergency grants. This is not sustainable, and this campaign is about undoing some of that damage, while building a more affordable and equitable fringe. This camppagin will give us a foundation to do just that.”