Fringe venues ‘paying 50p an hour’ named and shamed

Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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One of the best-known promoters at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been handed two awards by campaigners against the exploitation of venue workers – after being accused of paying 
“sweatshop” wages of just 50 pence an hour.

C Venues, which runs more than 20 spaces across the city, have been targeted after a plea for anonymous nominations from Fringe workers unhappy at their pay and conditions.

The company, which has been staging shows at the Fringe since 1992, is said to have offered some “volunteer” staff just £200 for working the entire Fringe.

The Fair Fringe campaign instigated the “not so prestigious” Bad Boss Awards this month to highlight the firms it says are behind the worst exploitation. It has previously criticised C Venues in a dossier which was said to offer only “a glimpse into the shameful practices employers use to staff their venues.”

C Venues, which runs venues at Adam House on Chambers Street, the Royal Society of Edinburgh on George Street, and at Brodie’s Close on the Royal Mile, won separate awards for poor pay and “horrible working environment.”

An official announcement from the Fair Fringe campaign said: “According to several C Venues staff, staff are classed as ‘volunteers’ and are paid £200 plus accommodation for working the festival. The accommodation is overcrowded, with several people sleeping on mattresses on the floor. C Venues has under-recruited this year and so staff are doing more hours for the same pay.”

Fair Fringe campaigner Christine Chesterman said: “The Fair Fringe campaign has uncovered shocking treatment of workers at venues across Edinburgh. The Bad Boss Awards may be the least coveted awards of the festival, but they help shine a light on the exploitation of workers taking place in many parts of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.”

A Fringe Society spokesman said: “We’re committed to promoting the best possible working conditions across the whole Fringe landscape, and believe that implementing the highest possible employment standards is both morally and economically beneficial for everyone involved. We’ve been working closely with participants, venues and third parties on a number of practical measures to address issues flagged by our own survey.”

A statement from C Venues said: “C venues seeks to remain true to the spirit of the Fringe by hosting companies of all backgrounds from amateur and student to professionals, and from small to large-scale productions, alongside each other in the same spaces, so that people from all backgrounds can make theatre together and learn from each other.

“We are a volunteer-focused organisation, and we work closely with our team members, many of whom return from year to year.

“Our volunteers have the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in a wide range of fields, and to make connections and participate in an environment where there is always something to learn.

“We provide a programme of training and support for our volunteers, including health and safety, technical theatre and theatre operations training.

“We offer our volunteer team accommodation, food, and a small contribution to expenses. The accommodation is in shared rooms in flats of a reasonable standard within walking distance of the venues. We provide access to complimentary tickets and discounts.

“We take care to manage rotas so that team members are given suitable breaks. We provide ongoing support to our alumni, including publicising networking and training and paid work opportunities, and support with bringing future theatrical work to the Fringe. We are committed to developing further support for our team.”