The first steps towards recovery as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes to a close
The 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe draws to a close today having brought together artists, international arts industry and media, and both loyal Fringe fans and new audiences. After some of the most challenging years on record for the sector, the hard work and effort of the artists, venues, producers, promoters, arts and media industry, and staff should be recognised and celebrated.
The lead up brought with it understandable anxiety, as Fringe-makers took on the risk and uncertainty of returning in a year like no other. Audience patterns have changed, industrial action caused significant disruption to rail travel and refuse collection, and affordable accommodation in Edinburgh was at crisis point. This year’s festival has been a colossal and collective effort.
We recognise and thank the residents and businesses of Edinburgh and the Lothians, home to the Fringe for the last 75 years. Residents of our historic city accounted for 39% of all tickets issued (+4% on 2019), and their support and commitment to the festival is evident. Overseas audience attendances also increased, accounting for 10% of all tickets issued (+2% on 2019).
While the number of tickets issued is testament to the commitment of those who put on the shows and the audiences who came to see them, far beyond what we could have imagined at the start of the year. The growing cost of Edinburgh for artists points to the need for long-term recovery, investment, and support to ensure the sustainability and longevity of one of the world’s most important cultural events. Some clear challenges have emerged, and we need a collective approach to address these, or the future of this long-running beacon for cultural connection and development will be in jeopardy.
This year’s Fringe saw an estimated 2,201,175 tickets issued across 3,334 shows which were performed by artists from 63 countries. The festival welcomed diverse work from Scotland, the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, with 13 showcases including work from Canada, Finland, Belgium, Taiwan, South Korea, Ireland – North and South, Denmark and Australia.
The 2022 programme tackled themes and issues such as mental health, gender and gender identity, neurodiversity, disability, feminism, lockdown, experience of migration, LGBTQ+, politics, race and racial identity and work for children; with upcoming talent showcased alongside well-known performers and international work.
The Street Events programme was extended into new sites, with 3,284 performances by Street Performers across the programme. These included 650 Taster Stage slots on new sites in St Andrew Square and Cathedral Square in St James Quarter. 170 shows were represented, with five additional slots given to community groups and schools.
Over 35 professional development events for Fringe participants were delivered in partnership with 16 external organisations in Fringe Central, our dedicated centre for artists at the heart of the Fringe, and on Fringe Connect, our online home for artists. The Arts Industry office accredited 1,354 producers, programmers, bookers, talent agencies, festivals and others from 45 countries, looking to find work, tour it and support artists beyond the festival itself. They were joined by over 770 of the world’s media, and 147 delegates who participated in Screen Fringe.
The communities, learning and access team worked on a number of key initiatives, including loaning out 150 sensory backpacks for autistic children and adults. BSL interpretation took place in West Parliament Square on five days of the festival, and a dedicated Changing Places toilet was located beside George Square.
The Society worked with over 30 Edinburgh charities and community groups to distribute over £60,000 of Fringe vouchers and Lothian bus tickets, enabling residents from across the city to experience the festival, many for the very first time. In addition, over 900 schoolchildren came to the Fringe as part of our schools’ outreach work.
Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “Our enormous congratulations go out to everyone who came together to create the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This year’s festival is the first step in what will be a long road to recovery and renewal. The hard work of thousands of artists, and hundreds of venues, producers and staff has combined to deliver the 75th anniversary festival during one of the most challenging summers on record.
We recognise the significant amount of work that is still required to support the long-term sustainability of this phenomenal Festival. As we review and discuss all the learnings from this year, our focus this autumn will be on planning for the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe. Collectively we will work to advocate for greater support for those at the heart of the Fringe – our artists. The eyes of the world look to this historic city every August, and we need to work together to ensure the Fringe is the best place for creatives to express their ideas, audiences to support them and for people across the sector to develop their skills and careers for the next 75 years.”
Benny Higgins, Chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, added: “I add my congratulations to those that worked tirelessly this August to deliver the 75th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The importance of this festival cannot be underestimated. Artists use the Fringe as a place to perform, connect and springboard onto their next career opportunity.
Recovery takes time, and that is why in June we launched our future development goals. The Society acts to offer anyone a stage and everyone a seat, and there is much to do in the coming months. We need to ensure the Fringe is the best place for thriving artists, while ensuring fair work and good citizenship. Our digital experience will be key to delivering our climate action targets, and we need to do more to ensure who you are, and where you’re from, is not a barrier to attending or participating in the Fringe.”
As a charity, the work of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society would not be possible without the valuable support of our partners, sponsors and funders. We are hugely grateful to the support of partners City of Edinburgh Council, EventScotland, Creative Scotland, The Scottish Government, British Council, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, St James Quarter and Nuveen. Our thanks to sponsors TikTok, Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Edinburgh Gin and Cirrus Logic. Our continued appreciation also to our Fringe Angels, Patrons, Friends and supporters who help make the Fringe happen each year.
Next year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe will run from 04 – 28 August 2023.