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C Venues loses second Edinburgh Fringe home in less than a month

Festivalgoers throng the Royal Mile at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo: Lou Armor/Shutterstock Festivalgoers throng the Royal Mile at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo: Lou Armor/Shutterstock
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Beleaguered Edinburgh Festival Fringe operator C Venues has been kicked out of its George Street venue after two years.

The move comes after C Venues lost its lease on its main hub venue at Adam House last month, following what landlords the University of Edinburgh said was an annual audit of its tenants’ employment practices after last summer’s festival.

The operator was the subject of a stinging report from the Fair Fringe campaign earlier this year, cataloguing incidents of alleged under-staffing, poor accommodation practices, treating volunteers as staff and giving inadequate recompense.

Now the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which owns the George Street premises, has decided not to allow C Venues to lease the venue at this year’s festival.

The RSE said in a statement: “As part of developing its own public engagement programme, the RSE will be piloting and running its own series of public events during the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 and will not be an official fringe venue.”

It added that the RSE was aware that questions have been raised about the use of volunteers at the fringe, adding: “We wish to consider these questions thoroughly as part of a wider review of how we engage with the fringe in future years including the scope for running our own fringe shows.”

Responding to allegations of poor practices, a spokesman for C Venues told The Stage: “We have always been clear that our volunteer festival team members are volunteers.”

Listing the official organisations the company works with to model its volunteer programme, the spokesman added: “We strive to ensure our volunteer programme is among the best available on the fringe, and we are working with Volunteer Edinburgh to achieve this.”

The spokesman added that the operator was disappointed at the timing of the decision, so close to the final deadline for inclusion in the fringe programme.

He said: “Planning and programming a fringe venue takes the greater part of a year, and for a landlord to withdraw a venue this close to the fringe causes considerable disruption to performing companies and artists.

“It is also very saddening for our team members who have put considerable effort into designing and building C Royale, putting the venue on the map and making it one of the most popular venues on the fringe.”

However, the Fair Fringe campaign has said it was “thrilled” at the decision.

A spokesperson told The Stage: “Until C Venues stops its abysmal abuse of ‘volunteering’ and refusing to pay proper wages, stops overworking staff and gives them decent accommodation then we’re calling on all organisations to cut their ties with C Venues.

“Unless C Venues completely overhauls its model then it should have no place at the Edinburgh Fringe. The continued support of organisations like the Fringe Society for C Venues makes them complicit in the horrendous treatment of staff.”

Matt Trueman: C Venues isn’t just a villain of the fringe – it’s also a victim

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