Edinburgh Fringe prepares for launch amid fears over venue changes

The Edinburgh fringe programme is launched tomorrow (June 9) amid concern over the “unhealthy” concentration of venues around the university quarter in the city’s Southside.

The fears arise as the Assembly Rooms is closed for refurbishment, forcing Assembly Theatre to move south and take over the George Square gardens and local venues.

Tommy Sheppard, director of The Stand comedy club, situated in the New Town, told The Stage: “The yet further super-concentration of venues around the university area is disappointing and unhealthy and just makes life that bit shittier for the rest of us. And it spoils it, it means that most areas of Edinburgh don’t benefit from the festival and most visitors only see a very tiny bit of the city.”

This will place the Pleasance Dome, Gilded Balloon, Udderbelly and Assembly in an area just twice the size of Trafalgar Square. The focus on big name acts at these venues is partially offset by the proximity of the more experimental Forest Fringe, at its Bristo Place home for the last time before the Forest Cafe is sold, and C Venues’ move to create a hub for the alternative fringe at the Edinburgh College of Art.

This year’s launch comes in the wake of the Festivals Edinburgh report, which valued the output of the fringe at £141 million to the city in 2010, when it created 3,000 additional jobs.

Defending the Assembly move, director William Burdett-Coutts told The Stage that the report highlighted the lack of respect from the city for the Fringe, given the input it gives to the local economy.

He said: “My concern about moving across town is that yes we are going to create a very interesting village environment, we will create a great focus of interest. But the fringe is only going to really stand up if the quality of the work at the top end of it is sustained and that we have got the venues to put it on in.”

The vacuum left by Assembly’s move is likely to be filled by a potential golden triangle of theatre in Edinburgh’s West End. The Traverse, ReMarkable Arts at both Hill Street and a revitalised St George’s West, Universal Arts on George Street and the NTS at Ghillie Dhu all have very strong theatre elements to their programmes.

Dani Rae, associate producer at ReMarkable Arts told The Stage: “As ever in the fringe, if the work is good then the audiences will find it. The companies who bring their work to the fringe choose their own venues. It is testament to the quality of the venues on this side of town that the majority of showcases like Made in Scotland choose to present their work with us.”

Elsewhere in the city, efforts to pull the fringe north to Leith continue with the emergence of the Leith on the Fringe festival at Out of the Blue, which is specialising in aerial work including an aerial adaptation of Peter Pan.

Full details of the Edinburgh fringe programme are announced on Thursday June 9 and details will be available at www.thestage.co.uk.

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