THE Edinburgh Festival Fringe is now selling almost a million more tickets than it was a decade ago - as it reported yet another record-breaking year at the box office.
Organisers of the world’s biggest arts festival revealed they had sold more than two million tickets for the second year in a row - with the final number 5.24 per cent up on last year’s previous best tally.
The huge growth of the event - which featured 3314 shows this year compared to 1799 in the 2005 event - has seen ticket sales grow from 1.33 million to 2.29 million in that time.
There has been a staggering increase in the Fringe audience of almost a quarter - or 440,888 - in the last three years alone, although the figures do not include those who attend the majority of free shows, which are unticketed.
The Fringe, which boasted a 3.8 per cent increase in shows this year compared to 2014, has seen audiences grow by more than 110,000 in the space of 12 months.
Organisers believe the Fringe has benefited from its dates being realigned with the Edinburgh International Festival, which has announced record ticket sales income of more than £3.8 million.
Its new director Fergus Linehan, who introduced two new free events to the EIF programme, has revealed the festival’s box office is up 19 per cent on last year’s event, which itself broke all previous records.
Organisers of the Edinburgh International Book Festival hailed also this year’s event as the most successful in its history as the final shows were held in Charlotte Square.
Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “As this year’s Fringe draws to a close we can reflect on what a spectacular success it has been.
“Once again artists and audiences have travelled from across the globe to be a part of this unique cultural event.
“And with an estimated 2,298,090 tickets issued and many thousands of people attending the 800 free shows in the programme, I’ve no doubt every single person who watched a Fringe show, or experienced this wonderful festival city, will take away unforgettable memories.
“With incredible talent from 49 countries from all over the world taking part this year, the Fringe has once again demonstrated itself to be both truly international and profoundly Scottish.”
Mr Linehen revealed that an extra £650,000 was generated from this year’s programme, with 82 per cent of all available tickets snapped up by festival-goers from 78 different countries.
This year’s EIF embraced a host of contemporary music acts for the first time, including Franz Ferdinand, Sparks, King Creosote, Chilly Gonzales and Surfjan Stevens.
Among the festivals biggest box office draws were Juliette Binoche’s appearance in Greek tragedy, Antigone; The Encounter, theatre-maker Simon McBurney’s one-man show about the Amazonian jungle; dance star Sylvie Guillem’s farewell appearance; a new stage adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s epic novel Lanark; and a spectacular new version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
An estimated 250,000 people flooted into the city for the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, while an extra 25,000 earlier attended two new free events, The Harmonium Project, which opened the festival, and Fanfare, which saw a dozen brass band concerts staged along the banks of the Water of Leith.
Other innovations introduced by Mr Linehan included the transformation of The Hub, the festival’s Royal Mile headquarters, into a late-night cabaret club, and programming longer runs than normal for theatre productions like Lanark, The Encounter and Antigone.
Mr Linehan said: “At the end of three exhilarating weeks, all that remains is for us to thank the hundreds of artists and hundreds of thousands of audience members who continue to make the Edinburgh International Festival one of the wonders of the arts world.
“This alliance of artists, audiences, government agencies, the media, donors and sponsors is unprecedented and all of us at the Festival office are deeply honoured to be given the opportunity to contribute to this remarkable organisation.
“We will continue to seek out artists of the highest calibre and present their work to the widest possible audience.”
The 2014 event, the swansong for previous director Sir Jonathan Mills after eight years in charge, was the first to see ticket sales income pass £3 million for the first time.
The book festival, which closed as the EIF’s fireworks concert was being held, reported a two per cent increase in ticket sales as well as the highest ever book sales figures in the tented village.
More than 120,000 people are thought to have flocked to events, with appearances by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Alan Cumming, Celia Imrie, Kate Tempest and Edwyn Collins among the hottest tickets.
However a further 100,000 people headed to Charlotte Square to soak up the atmosphere as the festival was blessed with warm sunshine for most of the last two and a half weeks.
Book sales were up five per cent on the 2014 event, while the festival benefit from its greatest ever broadcasting exposure, thanks to a deal with the BBC which saw a string of events streamed live.
Festival director Nick Barley had boasted of programming the festival’s strongest line-up of international guests when it was unveiled in June.
Some 55 countries were represented in the line-up of 800 authors at the festival, which was visited by around 13,000 schoolchildren.
Mr Barley said: “We’ve enjoyed a truly brilliant, exuberant and record-breaking festival this year – our most successful ever with record ticket and book sales.
“After the referendum in 2014 I wanted to cast our gaze a little further and look at Scotland’s place in the wider world.
“It is an important time for us to look at our relationships with other cultures, languages and countries and we invited an extraordinary range of writers to share this with us.
“Our audiences have embraced this, welcoming authors who have never been translated into English before, and engaging in a series of unforgettable conversations. And the conclusions were always the same - Scotland is an outward-looking, open-minded nation.”
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city and there is nowhere like Scotland’s capital in August.
“The festivals have once again delivered for audiences from near and far and have shown why Scotland is recognised across the world for our vibrant contribution to the arts and culture. The eyes of the world were once again on Scotland and the festivals impressed.”