THE figurehead of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards has expressed fears for the future of the Fringe if Brexit leads to a change in the rules affecting overseas performers appearing in the city.
Nica Burns said lobbying of the Government needed to begin immediately to ensure there was no change to current arrangements which mean international acts do not need a work permit to appear at the Fringe.
Ms Burns, who has produced and directed the awards since 1984, pointed out that three of the last four best newcomers – Sofie Hagen, Alex Edelman and Daniel Simonsen – have been overseas performers. And 14 of the 36 winners of the main award have come from outwith the UK, including Sean Hughes, Dylan Moran, Rich Hall, Demetri Martin, Brendon Burns and Sam Simmons.
Several of Edinburgh’s festivals have “permit free” status under current Home Office rules, along with T in the Park, in Perthshire and the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. Others around the UK include Aldeburgh, Glastonbury, Glyndebourne, Latitude WOMAD and Download.
Ms Burns said it was crucially important to protect the international nature of the Fringe.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s comedy awards, she said: “From day one, this has been called the Edinburgh International Festival. The Fringe has always been international.
“One of the reasons we can welcome so many performers to Edinburgh is because of a deal done some time ago by the Festival Fringe Society.
“Whatever government we happen to end up with we need to preserve that waiver, because talent has no borders and everyone is welcome as performers at this festival.
“I’m coming at it this from an apolitical way. There’s no need to be panicking at the moment, but it’s important that we start talking to the politicians so that they understand the importance of the waiver.”