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Street performers at Edinburgh Fringe to benefit from cashless donations pilot

The official 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. Photo: Eoin Carey The official 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. Photo: Eoin Carey
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Buskers at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe will be able to accept cashless donations using a contactless payment system as part of a new trial.

Performers taking part in the festival’s street events on the Royal Mile and the Mound will benefit from the scheme, which sees the fringe working with card reader and contactless payment specialist company iZettle. As part of this, a payment scheme which can be used in the same way as passing round a hat is being set up.

A similar device is being developed by Brunel University, which is set to be unveiled in London this month.

Olly Davies, the fringe’s head of marketing, said that the need for some kind of cashless payment system was the one thing that buskers and street performers agreed on in a recent survey, and focus groups held with them during the past year.

Speaking during the launch of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe programme Davies said that there were still a “couple of mechanisms” the fringe needed to work out before the festival.

For example, there is a question about whether to use a standard, fixed donation or whether there should be a degree of flexibility in terms of what audiences give.

“These are the kind of things that we are going to be experimenting with,” he said, adding: “It will work in exactly the same way as hat passing does now. As close as possible to that, otherwise it is not technology that we are interested in.”

The payment scheme is part of a wider commitment published in the fringe Blueprint to revitalise the street events’ footprint. Although the blueprint is an aspirational document for the next five years of the fringe, upgrading the Royal Mile stages will start this year.

Full details of the street revamp are to be revealed at the start of this year’s fringe but Davies said it would include a new nine metre-wide stage situated in Parliament Square, capable of holding up to 50 performers, and a more intimate covered stage in the Mercat Cross area, suitable for comedy.

The three stages on the High Street itself are to be reduced to two, but will be slightly larger in a bid to ease pedestrian congestion on the Royal Mile.