Fringe adopts cutting edge: David Lister reports on the row over marketing of the Edinburgh festival Marketing for the Edinburgh Festival has led to acrimony. David Lister reports

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The Independent Online
THE EDINBURGH Festival has opened with acrimony threatening the artistic harmony. The Fringe's leading figure has accused the official theatre of failing to stage a 'mega event'. In turn, he has been accused of changing the nature of the Fringe, making it too professional and money-orientated.

This year, William Burdett- Coutts, 38, of the Coutts banking family, has established himself as the most significant impresario on the Fringe. He had already built up the Assembly Rooms, which he has managed for 12 years, into the Fringe's most prestigious venue. Now he has linked it with the two other big venues, The Pleasence and The Gilded Balloon, to make a festival-within-a-festival, with the three venues having their own brochure, sponsorship and ticketing facilities.

In an interview with the Independent yesterday, Mr Burdett- Coutts said that next year he planned to arrange hotel, travel and ticket packages for both tourists and arts companies coming to the festival - something he claimed that the official festival had failed to do.

He said: 'It is absurd that you cannot go into one place and buy all the tickets you want. It took my secretary five hours yesterday to wander round Edinburgh getting all the brochures. The main festival, which is publicly funded to the tune of over pounds 1.5m, has a responsibility to represent Edinburgh. If they can't do it, then I shall.'

He added that the official festival needed to have one or two mega events of a Pavarotti in the Park nature to get the festival more talked about nationally and internationally. A four-hour version of Julius Caesar directed by Peter Stein and performed in German was not special enough, he said. 'It should be something unique to Edinburgh that is created for the festival and that everyone wants to get into.'

A spokeswoman for Brian McMaster, the official festival director, said that there was confusion at the moment and that a new unit to market the festival in a different way was being considered. She added: 'We believe this year's programme to be very strong, and bookings are up 18 per cent on last year.'

Edinburgh guide, page 14