THE EDINBURGH Festival Fringe society has warned that it is facing insolvency because of the coronavirus crisis. 

In a grim submission to Westminster’s Culture, Media and Sport committee, the charity, who effectively facilitate the open-access festival, say they face a shortfall of £1.5 million.

And, they add, unlike other festivals across the UK, they aren’t eligible for any government help.

They have also asked the UK Government to "recognises the Fringe for what it is, and does, for the UK's cultural sector - most shows are made in Britian, and over half are from England - and award them an annual grant to "provide an underlying stability to our charitable purposes and public good."

In the paper, the society also says the damage to them is nothing compared to the “damage to the Fringe ecology”.

Potential ticketing income losses are in excess of £30m across the Fringe.

“Quite a number of individuals and organisations who attend the Fringe will not recover from this pandemic,” they warn.

Coronavirus has forced all five of Edinburgh's summer festivals to cancel.

For the Fringe and the International Festival, it's their first year off since their birth in 1947.  

Every year the Fringe, the International Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Book Festival, and the Art Festival programme more than 5000 events and pull in audiences of around 4.4m.

In a joint statement released last month, organisers pointed out that the only event bigger is the Olympics.

In their submission to the Westminster committe, the Fringe point out that the work presented in Edinburgh "is seen and bought by other festivals, venues and curators across the UK and the world, which leads to numerous years of work for those artists, scriptwriters, stage designers, etc."

They add: "Without a vibrant marketplace for this work, many of the theatres – already in a precarious situation with Covid-19 -will struggle to find
content in the winter months and well beyond 2020.

"The double-edged sword is that if the Fringe is under threat, we can make a fair assumption that there will be a serious reduction of employment for many people and a lack of shows for many theatres and festivals up and down the country, when they are already struggling to get back on their feet."

The submission says that more than 90% of the 323 venues in Edinburgh who put on Fringe shows don’t receive public funding.

There are also “hundreds, if not thousands, of producers, designers, technicians and creative professionals” who rely on the Fringe for their work. 

Edinburgh too will be left with a financial black hole if the Fringe goes under, organisers warn.  

“With the Fringe not taking place, shows don't perform, venues don't operate, smaller local businesses don't get that work and accommodation providers don't benefit - the overall impact and picture is immense, and extends beyond 2020, especially if these organisations and businesses (not able to avail of the existing public assistance) are unable to survive to make the return to business in the future.

“Therefore, a catastrophic year, brought on by Covid-19, could lead to the loss of Edinburgh’s infrastructure as the world’s leading festival city, and the pivotal role the Fringe plays for the UK creative Industries.”

The society say that unless financial support of £1m can be secured within this financial year, “the Society and the Fringe itself, the largest non-curated performing arts festival in the world, will face significant costs with existential consequences”.

The Fringe has furloughed 70% of their staff, and made another four redundant. The rest have taken a 20% pay cut. 

Despite this the society says they "still face the stark reality that the Fringe, and the associated economic benefits to the UK economy, is under threat".

The report goes on : "The Fringe supports so many creative livelihoods well beyond three weeks in August, and yet the Society finds itself in a situation where, unlike other festivals that are in receipt of public funding, we are facing insolvency.

"It is inconceivable that the UKs most important cultural festival, which attract such a high social, creative and economic impact is facing a precarious, fragile and uncertain future.”

Speaking in Holyrood last month, Nicola Sturgeon said the decison to cancel was the right choice but "heart-breaking".

The First Minister said the Government would work with organisers to make sure some of the freelancers who work on the festivals were still paid.