The unaffordability of Edinburgh Fringe

My last entry on here very much opened the possibility that I could well be taking HTWAPQ back to Edinburgh Fringe after all. And I was. I had a decent time slot and a really good venue agreed. I was going to be doing a run for the second half of August. However, these plans lasted for a week after it soon became apparent that I had left it too late.

For one thing, I had missed out on being in the main Fringe brochure. I went without this for a few years from 2012-2014 and didn’t think it had done me any harm. That was until I went back in the brochure in 2015 and was turning people away for much of the run.

Missing out on being in the main Fringe brochure doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll miss out on an audience. But when you’re trying to sell as many tickets as possible to avoid losing money, removing any potential channels for ticket sales is a risk.

Yet the main reason why I cancelled my belated run this year was due to the ridiculousness of accommodation. This also comes at a time when my life savings are being cleaned out by buying a flat. While I do technically have the money to pay for the Fringe as well, there is a strong likelihood that I won’t get it back again. I am not expecting it to be that well attended this year in the current economic climate.

Edinburgh Fringe accommodation has never been cheap in all the years I’ve been up there. It was always more expensive than anywhere I happened to be renting in London or Manchester at the time – albeit for 2010 when I was staying at the house of my gran’s cousin and paid £100 for two weeks, and in 2018 when I paid just £200 for the month. Neither of these options is viable these days. Now, prices have gone through the roof and only kept going.

Previously, the most I’d spent on accommodation at the Fringe was £1,000 for the month in 2017. Normally, it would be around the £600-£800 mark. But now, even a reasonable price looks to be £1,500 for a month for somewhere within walking distance of everywhere in town. The cheapest option I’ve been able to find was for some student halls, at £250 a week at a site that’s a ten-minute train ride from the centre of Edinburgh.

One possible factor behind the soaring prices is that the Scottish Government passed some legislation, effective from 1 October 2022, requiring people to have a Short-Term Letting Licence for new properties they wish to rent. Effectively, this has deprived potential new people of renting out their rooms unless they’re willing to pay for a licence, which looks like it will cost £133-£153. But from 1 October 2023, all existing rental rooms and properties will need the licence. Meaning that next year could be even worse.

I don’t begrudge anyone in Edinburgh charging as much as they can for a spare room, especially in a cost of living crisis. And the city doesn’t just exist for one month in August. It’s got to work all year round for people who live there.

However, if performers and punters cannot afford to go up, then the Fringe will wither and be dominated by rich people who dominate seemingly everything else.

I’ve been saying for years that something needs to change at the Fringe to make it more affordable for performers and audiences. Could this year be the tipping point? The most likely scenario is it will scrape through another year and we will be asking the same questions in 12 months.

I don’t hold much hope of Edinburgh Fringe Society doing much to improve the situation when it’s spending £7 million of UK Government funding on a new HQ. Could this money have been better spent on helping make the festival more affordable for performers? Nope, not so.

Perhaps the real underlying problems with Edinburgh Fringe have been because the Fringe Society hasn’t had an expensive enough HQ. We may find out.


  1. Every August I search for your show at the Fringe. Gutted you aren’t coming again, but I get it. I live in Glasgow and wasn’t aware of this new legislation. It would definitely be cheaper to stay outwith Edinburgh and commute for your shows (that’s what I do for work). I’ll keep my fingers crossed for 2024!

    1. Ahh, sorry to disappoint. Please keep looking for me though (not this year, obviously). I want to be up there again next year. Buying a flat this year has really dented my finances.

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