With the Edinburgh Fringe Festival right around the corner, and as we work tirelessly on our schedules to catch all the amazing shows in the programme and report back to you, I’m taking a break to reflect on the issue of rent increases during the festival, affecting so many participants.
If you’re someone who heads up to Edinburgh in August, be it involved in any of the roles that make a show, or as a punter, you’ve noticed the hike in rents that’s occurring every year. The realisation of the impact it has on the festival as a whole is slowly dawning on those involved in the largest arts festival in the world.
There’s a handful of ways, as a performer or team taking a show up to the festival, in which you can cut costs – the free fringe, doing your own PR, affordable photographers and even the ‘how to’ videos on YouTube on how to use editing software – which allow performers to create their own posters. However, renting a place to stay is an unavoidable expense, and it’s becoming nearly unaffordable to most participants, and many are renting flats to absolute capacity, just to be able to afford it.
Last week, the Guardian reported on the “dwindling size of the annual contingent of London critics” and the threat that might represent to the ecology of the festival.
Lauren Pattison, 2014 Funny Women Awards runner-up, says “I genuinely think next time I do the fringe I’ll have to commute from Newcastle. £30 a day on rail fares works out so much cheaper. Even if you’re doing the free fringe, you’re spending over a grand on accommodation alone. It’s become exploitative”.
Many Scottish acts find it difficult to justify relocating to Edinburgh for the month due to accommodation pricing and will make hour-long commutes, missing out on guest spots, the chance to see shows and meet people.
Working class comedians, low income, and performers with dependents may be priced out of being part of the festival. Bryony Kimmings shared “It costs £3800 for me and my little lad to decamp to a pretty mediocre two bed flat for the festival. Almost 3 times the usual monthly rent of Edinburgh. I have no idea how that is allowed.”
Madeline Campion says “The legislation brought in to prevent Edinburgh tenants from being evicted for fringe participants is incredibly important and shouldn’t be targeted. It shouldn’t be possible for landlords to hike prices up from £600pcm September-July to £5000 for the month of August”
A group of comedians is attempting to launch a campaign to the Scottish government, together with Equity, to cap rents to participants at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but bureaucracy is showing it’s ugly fangs.