Money talk splits Fringe

IN THE club bar, commonly known as the Star Bar, at Edinburgh's premier Fringe venue, the Assembly Rooms, it looked a normal festival afternoon.

Television stand-up comedians such as Arthur Smith sat around with the usual comedians' off-stage demeanour of unalloyed gloom. Audience members coming out of the Hull Truck Company's latest play had the special Edinburgh experience of chatting to playwright and cast at the bar.

Then something unusual happened. A young woman from a production elsewhere in the city handed out leaflets for her show, as happens a hundred times a day. A posse of uniformed staff pounced and took the leaflets out of people's hands: the show was at another venue and could not be advertised there.

The Edinburgh Fringe, known for decades as the largest, most anarchic and most comradely festival in the world, has this year become coolly professional. It may never be quite the same again.

By Thursday afternoon, Addison Creswell, manager of comedians such as Jo Brand and Jack Dee and a festival regular for the past 12 years, had decided to go home. 'I hadn't been back to London during a festival before,' he said. 'But you can get really burnt up here now. The venue rents are so high you have to sell out every night to make money. And it's pounds 350 a week for a city-centre flat. The whole thing has become money-orientated. I have to come here as it's the only place I can talk to TV people, but the place has lost its buzz.'

Similar accusations were levelled by Donald Gorrie, an Edinburgh district councillor who sparked a public debate with a furious letter to the Scotsman pointing the finger at a new super-Fringe - the coming together of the three top venues, the Assembly Rooms, Pleasance and Gilded Balloon, for programming and marketing purposes under the canny management of the urbane William Burdett-Coutts, 38, director of the Assembly Rooms, head of arts at Granada TV and a member of the Coutts banking family.

Mr Gorrie says: 'They have a separate brochure, larger and glossier than the Fringe programme, and a near-monopoly on media coverage. There seems to be the intention and certainly the risk that a two-tier Fringe will be created. Once they have a monopoly of the hyped-up prestige venues, the promoters can hold performers and audiences to ransom. The diversity of the Fringe will be destroyed.'

Mr Burdett-Coutts retorts that it is only by coming together that the top venues can survive. His own is threatened with a doubling of rent for the festival to pounds 65,000 by Edinburgh council. But he admits that the typical company appearing on the Fringe will be lucky to break even. Community centres on the edge of the city can still be hired for pounds 50 a week, but a hall in the Assembly Rooms is likely to be nearer pounds 4,000.

For Mr Burdett-Coutts, the entire way the festivals, official and Fringe, are sold needs revamping. The official festival, he says, needs a mega-event, a Pavarotti in the Park, that is talked about for months. A four-hour Julius Caesar in German, which has not sold out despite being directed by the celebrated Peter Stein, is not the same thing, he says.

He adds that visitors should be able to buy tickets for all the festivals - official, Fringe, jazz, book and film - from one building rather than have to walk all over town, and there should be ticket-and-travel packages. Both the festival and Fringe offices agree privately that this must be sorted out by next year, though they point out that ticket sales are well up and the public is revelling in the festival in a week of unusually good weather.

There have, though, been notable failures. As Paul Blackman, head of the BAC theatre and comedy venue in London, observed: 'There is definitely a two-tier Fringe now, but the capacity to fail or succeed still exists right across the spectrum. Margi Clarke's (star of the film Letter to Brezhnev) one-woman show is one of the worst things in town.'

Other famous names to have come unstuck include Peter Sellars, wunderkind American avant-garde director whose much-vaunted official festival version of Aeschylus, The Persians - complete with Saddam Hussein and Stealth bomb references - received some of the rottenest reviews seen for years; and, on the Fringe, Arthur Smith's latest play, Sod, was getting a cool reception.

Few critics, however, could match the faint praise given by veteran Scottish comedian Jimmy Logan, who is mounting a variety revival of the official festival. He congratulated the young alternative comedians on the Fringe for being challenging and refreshing, but added: 'They don't quite know how to walk on a stage, or how to walk off a stage, or how to hold a microphone, and the way they dress they will never play the big theatres.'

It must have made them feel almost anarchic again.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?