Edinburgh Fringe row should not dampen the glorious festivities – Susan Dalgety

It’s not just the Tory government that’s in meltdown. Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, due to open in less than four weeks’ time, has had to fend off accusations that it is facing an “existential crisis”.

Instead of celebrating its 75th anniversary and its full return after the pandemic, the festival’s chief executive Shona McCarthy has had to defend her organisation of this year’s programme.

A bombshell letter from the Live Comedy Association, signed by 1,700 people including performers, producers and top venues such as the Pleasance, has accused the Fringe of falling down on its duty.

Their main gripe is about the disappearance of the Fringe’s smartphone app, which audiences used to find shows and book tickets. They claim they only found out that it had been ditched in response to a tweet.

In an era where there is an app for everything, it does seem rather careless of the Fringe to lose theirs. In her defence, McCarthy says that only a tiny number (seven per cent) used the app last year, and it was in need of a refresh the festival couldn’t afford.

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She also had to apologise for suggesting that the people who had signed the letter had suffered some sort of a breakdown. “I think everybody is just a bit volatile at the moment...there is some level of a kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome, post-Covid, that people are dealing with,” she said, before saying sorry for any distress her outburst had caused.

This pre-festival spat between bureaucrats and performers is worthy of a stage show of its own. It's in the best anarchic spirit of the Fringe which began in 1947, the inaugural year of the official International Festival.

We need a return to the craziness of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Eight companies, including the Edinburgh People’s Theatre and the Manchester Marionette Theatre, turned up uninvited. There were no support staff in place, no ticketing system, and definitely no brochure or app.

I hope the row doesn’t dampen the spirit of the Fringe. We are all desperately in need of its craziness.

After the emptiness of the pandemic, I am even looking forward to fighting my way through the crowds in the High Street. And where else in the world could you enjoy Basil Brush and Antigone: The Musical in the space of a few hours?