The director of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards has praised Fringe organisers for dodging the potential catastrophe caused by clashing with the Olympic Games.
Nica Burns paid tribute to Fringe chief executive Kath Mainland for both expanding the festival programme and boosting advance ticket sales – despite gloomy predictions about the effects of the Games.
Speaking at the press launch of the Foster’s-sponsored awards, she said the marketing strategy and decision to open up ticket sales earlier than usual had paid off.
‘We’ve had record sales already as audiences have been able to plan properly,’ she said. ‘The huge amount of work done by the Fringe office has really paid off. There have been no negative figures despite what, four months ago, seemed a very scary situation
‘The Fringe as a whole is produced, we often forget that . People are not aware of quite how much leadership the Fringe Society has shown. They did a huge amount of research.’
The festival programme is bigger than ever this year. From the awards point of view, 530 shows are eligible – being solo shows, at least 50 minutes long, from comedians not judged to have star status.
At this point last year, the figure was 430 – although an extra 100 shows, most of them free, were added between the publication of the guide and the festival getting under way, and Burns expects the same thing to happen this year.
But she also praised the growing free movement, saying: ‘As the Fringe has become more professional, the Free Fringe gives us that old, anarchic Edinburgh.’
The good news certainly marks a turnaround for the organisers in just a few years. In 2008 event, the failure of a new box office system left the society £900,000 out of pocket and on the brink of collapse. Mainland was brought in following that fiasco.
But the full effects of London 2012 – which overlaps with the first two weeks of the Fringe – have yet to be seen.
Burns warned that one consequence would be that the Fringe would have a hard time competes for column inches in newspapers. ‘One reason for comedians going to the Fringe is to get reviews, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure for publications that aren’t online in terms of space,’ she said.