Edinburgh venue all at C | Gilded Balloon takes over flagship building following pay row © Kim Traynor/CC BY-SA 2.0

Edinburgh venue all at C

Gilded Balloon takes over flagship building following pay row

Gilded Balloon is taking over the C Venues hub at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe following a row over staff exploitation.

Protestors at the Fair Fringe campaign have previously ‘named and shamed’ C Venues as the worst employers at the festival, compiling an 11-page dossier of allegations. Some workers were paid just £200 plus accommodation for working for five weeks over August as they were treated as ‘volunteers’.

The campaigners lobbied to get C Venues kicked out of the Fringe unless they changed their practices – action  which seems to have paid off with Edinburgh University denying it use of Adam House on Chambers Street for the 2019 festival.

A spokesman told Scotland on Sunday that they made the decision following a usual annual  review of all its festival arrangements that this particularly focussed on ‘terms and conditions around staff employment’. The statement added: ‘After the last Fringe, and in light of our yearly review, it was decided not to renew the relationship with one client.’

C Venues said they were ‘saddened’ by the decision, saying:  'Our festival volunteers have chosen to participate in the Fringe for the benefit this brings them, and our venues would not be there without our volunteers.'

In a statement, they added that C Venues provide a boost to the Edinburgh economy by providing work for bar and security staff, giving business to local suppliers and paying rent to city landlords.

It said: ’The nature of our work dictates that our income is not guaranteed. We are not producing headline programmes with star names, or operating our own food and beverage outlets. We operate without major sponsorship. We take financial risks on projects with artistic merit. We seek to keep ticket prices reasonable for audiences and the costs of participating reasonable for performing companies, in a world where there is constant upward pressure on prices.’

C Venues previously said of the Fair Fringe dossier: ‘The report contains a number of unsubstantiated allegations from a very small number of people, and does not reflect the experience of most of our team members.’

Adam House contains five performance spaces, and will be a boon to the Gilded Balloon, which faces major disruption in the coming years as its usual base, Teviot Row House,  is to undergo a major refurbishment.

Earlier this month, Fringe boss Shona McCarthy caused controversy when she said it would be impossible to ‘impose’ a living wage of £8.75 an hour on hard-pressed festival promoters, and criticised the Fair Fringe campaigners as ‘aggressive’.

She accused the protestors of ‘vilifying individual operators’ adding: ‘We’re not talking about evil megalomaniacs here. We’re talking about hard-working cultural practitioners. ‘’

Published: 11 Feb 2019

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