Edinburgh Festival director quits after poor ticket sales

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The Independent Culture

The director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has announced he is to step down from the job a year after taking it up.

Jon Morgan leaves the job just days after it was revealed ticket sales for the arts festival dropped by 10 per cent this year; the first fall in eight years.

The Fringe was also hit by failures in a new ticket sales software system that, in effect, closed the box office for almost two weeks, with venue managers claiming thousands of sales had been lost. Even after it was fixed, some customers were charged for tickets they did not receive, and shows were overbooked.

Mr Morgan also had to cope with a breakaway comedy festival taking place at the same time, and poor weather reduced attendances with record rainfall hitting Edinburgh in August.

Organisers claimed the credit crunch and the impact of the Olympics may have overshadowed the Fringe. In total, 1,535,519 tickets were sold, compared with 1,697,293 in 2007.

Mr Morgan, 46, said he had been considering the move for "some time" but delayed the announcement so he did not disrupt this year's programme. "I feel privileged to have worked for the Fringe," he said. "It is the greatest arts festival on the planet and plays an important role in developing and showcasing new performing talent on a world stage. However, the role of Fringe director has taken me away from my first love – producing and presenting exciting performances to audiences – and my intention is to return to that more direct relationship with artists and audiences.

"I have been considering this for some time, but felt it was important not to announce my departure before the festival so as not to impact on this year's festival. Following discussion with the board I have now decided to step down with immediate effect."

He stressed he would "contribute fully" to an independent review into the problems with the box office system, announced earlier this month.

Baroness Smith, chairwoman of the Fringe Society Board, said: "The board is very grateful to Jon for his significant contribution to the Fringe at a challenging time of great change. In the short time he has been in post he has dealt with an unprecedented range of challenges. The board appreciate his future career aspirations and we would like to thank him for all his hard work and to wish him well in the future."

Previous to his role as Fringe director, Mr Morgan was executive producer with the Contact Theatre in Manchester. He has also worked with the Scottish Arts Council on its bid to establish the National Theatre of Scotland and was general manager at the TAG Theatre Company in Glasgow.