Royal Society pulls plug on Fringe shows over exploitation fears

One of Scotland’s most historic charities has pulled the plug on a controversial Edinburgh Festival Fringe operator after facing demands from campaigners against the exploitation of workers at the event.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 7:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 10:42 am

The Royal Society of Edinburgh has shelved plans to lease out its New Town home to C Venues after being targeted by Fair Fringe activists over the company’s “terrible working practices.”

The society, which dates back to 1783, has instead decided to stage its own programme e of events during the Fringe.

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

However it has cited questions that have been raised about the use of volunteers at the Fringe, amid claims that unfair and unsafe working conditions are now “so common that they are now accepted as the status quo.”

The charity, which has been at its George Street home since 1909, also said it would be “thoroughly” reviewing how it got involved with the Fringe in future.

The Royal Society’s decision has emerged two months after a damning dossier accused C Venues bosses of imposing draconian conditions on staff and justifying paying them as little as £200 for the whole festival by describing them as “volunteers.”

Campaigners want the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society to ban C Venues from its official programme and website - a move which is being resisted over fears it will overturn the event’s long-standing “open access” principle.

Edinburgh University has previously vowed to pressure by stripping C Venue of the right to use Adam House in the Old Town.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Society said: “As part of developing its own public engagement programme, we will be piloting and running its own series of public events during the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 and will not be an official venue.

“We’re aware questions have been raised about the use of volunteers at the Fringe. We wish to consider these questions thoroughly as part of a wider review of how we engage with the Fringe in future years including the scope for running our ow shows.”

A spokeswoman for the Fair Fringe campaign said: “We’re thrilled to see three organisations take a stand against C Venues’ abuse of volunteering and abysmal treatment of staff by refusing to rent to them.

“Organisations across the city have a responsibility to ensure the people who rent their buildings are treating their staff fairly and are paying proper wages.

“We hope other Fringe venues take note and see that the days where you can continually exploit workers and get away with it are well and truly past.”

Neither the Fringe Society nor C Venues were available to comment on the Royal Society’s decision.