Festival organisers promise bigger and riskier events

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A PROGRAMME of 'bigger and riskier' events and a record Fringe promise larger audiences and higher income at the Edinburgh Festival, organisers say, writes John Arlidge.

As theatres and orchestras around Britain struggle to cope with recession and threatened cuts in subsidies, the annual group of festivals in the Scottish capital - embracing music, theatre, dance, painting, literature, photography and film - is booming.

The 47th festival, which opened yesterday and runs for three weeks, will see 2,000 artists in 170 performances in the official international programme. In addition, some 8,200 Fringe performers, directors and producers from 571 companies will stage 12,000 performances of 1,235 shows at 165 venues. Private sponsorship has hit a record pounds 805,000 and advance ticket sales for the international festival are 17 per cent up on last year, clearing pounds 1m last week. Fringe sales have also increased by 23 per cent.

Organisers are confident they can meet the box office income targets of pounds 1.45m despite losing an estimated pounds 20,000 worth of potential ticket sales after a fire at the Playhouse Theatre.

Festival guide, page 12