In August 2020, I did a very short-lived podcast called Edinburgh Fringe: The Year Off and asked my guests what they’d like to see improved about the festival when it returned. Because for at least a few years before the pandemic, the Fringe was getting harder mainly because it was getting so expensive.
I hoped that the year off would give the organisers the time to have a rethink about ways to make the festival better for performers. So, I was a little surprised to find out today that the organisers have scrapped the official Fringe app.
Actually, I wasn’t really surprised at all. I don’t know who the organisers run the festival for exactly, but it certainly isn’t for the performers. The official Fringe app was a really useful tool in getting people to come and see shows. It let the users know what shows were starting soon and where to find them. For many performers, it provided a lifeline. While it’s easy for shows to get lost in that massive brochure, having your show pop up on an app may help people find your show.
While some of the other promoters up there have their own app, having one with all the shows on really makes a big difference. It was a leveller. While the glossy shows with all the huge posters everywhere are certainly better funded, they may not have as interesting ideas as a smaller show with no budget.
For three Fringes, I refused to go in the main brochure and chose to save myself £300. That was until I decided to go in again during 2015 and ended up with packed rooms every day. So, being listed in the brochure definitely helps get an audience. But well done to the organisers for now making it much more difficult.
Another factor here is the cost of living crisis. I do wonder if people can afford to go up to the Fringe this year. As I said, the number of punters going to the Fringe had been in decline pre-Covid. And in 2019, the Military Tattoo was struggling to sell out. When that’s happening, you know there’s a problem. Then there’s the spectre of Covid still looming and infection rates are rising. It’s all made me quite glad I’m not taking a show up this year but also concerned because none of this bodes well for the future of the Fringe.