Performers with children turned away from Edinburgh Fringe digs
Actors and campaigners have called for more support to help parents working at the Edinburgh Fringe find appropriate and affordable accommodation, amid warnings that the current situation is restricting opportunities for people with children.
Theatre professionals with families told of the struggles they have faced when trying to book accommodation for the festival, including being repeatedly turned down by landlords.
Actor Kerry Fitzgerald is performing at the fringe for the first time this year in Lucy Danser’s Lost in Thought. She said the company had been refused flats by several landlords because she intended to bring her two-year-old son with her.
She was forced to look for accommodation separately to the rest of the cast and eventually found a rental property 30 minutes outside the city centre, meaning she has to commute each day.
“The process meant I went into rehearsals not having anywhere to stay. I really wanted to just focus on the play and do my work but by that time I was getting really anxious about it all… It only takes one obstacle like that to derail a whole project.
“I just felt sad because there’s a massive distinction between your life as an actor before and after you have a child,” she said.
Fitzgerald added that the situation was slowly shifting thanks to work by groups such as Parents in Performing Arts. However, she said the structure of the fringe was still restrictive and that more could be done to support parents, such as having advertised accommodation solely for people with children.
Other issues include the cost of accommodation, which fellow actor Sarah Thom said she found the most prohibitive factor when searching for flats she could stay in with her children.
“People in Edinburgh double or triple the prices of their flat because they can, so Edinburgh is just so expensive when you’re trying to bring your family.
“If you’re a jobbing actor it’s really tricky, particularly if you’re a mother working in theatre. I can really understand why so many women stop doing theatre,” she said.
Several theatre professionals said that the Edinburgh Fringe’s popularity with young companies, and the fact that student accommodation was a common option, meant flats were not set out to provide for people with children.
Producer Laura Lonsdale, from Less Is More Productions, said: “Finding city-centre properties that have outside space for kids, for example, is tricky on a budget. It would be fine if we were all prepared to rough it and sleep on the sofa, but you can’t do that when you have a family.”
This year, the Fringe Society’s events programme features a number of coffee mornings hosted by PIPA for fringe participants to connect with other parents and discuss the barriers they face. A free creche is also provided.
PIPA co-founder Cassie Raine said the fringe’s celebration of creativity must also include that of parents and carers.
“Making provision for the access needs of practitioners will attract a wider range of talent and ensure a richer programme for audiences. We must ensure that those with caring responsibilities are not disadvantaged to the point that they can’t take part. This includes access to affordable, family-friendly accommodation and childcare options,” she said.