Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Comic Richard Herring to boycott event over 'expense and elitism’

One of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s best-known comics has vowed to boycott performing in the event this year, blaming the costs involved and the impact the event has had on his mental health.
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Richard Herring, a Fringe regular since 1987, said he had become sickened by its “expense and elitism”. He suggested it was now only open to people “with a fair amount of wealth” to attend, as performers or audience members.

Herring, who claims to have repeatedly lost money taking part in the Fringe, said the annual costs involved now topped £10,000.

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Writing in his blog, Herring said he had found last year’s Fringe upsetting, stressful, exhausting and imprisoning, adding it felt like a weight had been lifted from him after making his decision. Herring, who previously had a long-time double act with the comic Stewart Lee, hosted a live podcast show at the Assembly Rooms for his 26th Fringe show.

Herring initially announced on Twitter he had decided not to return this year due to “the direction the Fringe is heading”, saying it had “become a festival for the wealthy” for performers and audiences.

Writing in his blog, Herring said: “I found last year’s Fringe quite upsetting and stressful – not the shows themselves, which I was very pleased with, but everything else.

"I don’t like how it’s become a festival that only people with a fair amount of wealth can attend, both as participants and audience. It should be for everyone, as it felt like it was back in 1987.

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"But accommodation is so expensive that even attending the Free Fringe requires quite an investment unless you live in the city, can sleep on someone’s floor, or are prepared to commute from another town.

Richard Herring has pledged not to perform at this year's Fringe in protest at the cost of taking part and the event's 'elitism.'Richard Herring has pledged not to perform at this year's Fringe in protest at the cost of taking part and the event's 'elitism.'
Richard Herring has pledged not to perform at this year's Fringe in protest at the cost of taking part and the event's 'elitism.'

"It’s been heading this way for a while and even in the 1990s, performers would likely incur a couple of thousand pounds of debt. But now, for anyone who isn’t selling a couple of hundred tickets a day (or at the Free Fringe, which I think is still a good option for performers and audience, but still not free of the other expenses), £10,000 is probably about what you’re likely to pay out.

“It just felt wrong and I didn’t like the atmosphere or the fact that 18-year-old me would have been unable to attend, or at least have had to do so under even more unpleasant circumstances than sleeping on the floor of a masonic temple.

“As much as there are negatives about the Fringe, it was an incredible force for learning my craft and moving on in my career and making friends and finding collaborators. Being able to go back every year to improve and experiment has been key to the limited success that I have enjoyed.

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“Nowadays I just don’t think it’s possible for anyone without a rich mum and dad or means of their own to come back year-after-year and the explosion in the number of acts means the chances of it leading directly to more work are slim.

“All the stuff about the expense and the elitism of it still makes me feel sick and I don’t know if I want to participate until there have been at least some attempts to address this.”

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