Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The Stand pulls plug on biggest venue after acts and crowds stay away
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One of the key players in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is to scale back its programme and drop its biggest venue after running into financial problems due to the impact of rising costs and dwindling crowds in the area.
Managing director Mike Jones said it had become “financially unviable” for The Stand to return to the George Street building, which it first started using in 2017, after previously operating pop-up venues in St Andrew Square and several years running shows in the Assembly Rooms.
He has cited the increasing centralisation of the Fringe in the Old Town and reduced football in the west end of George Street as key factors in the decision, along with fewer acts wanting to commit to a full run.
The Stand, which has pledged to go “back to basics” next year, spent around £1 million on this year's Fringe programme, with costs involved in the New Town Theatre more than double those for its four spaces on and around York Place.
The historic Freemasons' Hall building, which dates back to 1913, was used by promoters Universal Arts before it was taken over by The Stand, which has had a year-round venue on York Place since 1998.
Mr Jones said: “Even though we had loads of great shows this year in the four spaces at the New Town Theatre, there were gaps in our programme, which meant we were unable to cover the significant hire, fit-out and operational costs.
“We had a big name booked in for two full-run shows, who regrettably pulled out at a very late stage owing purely to familial responsibilities. While we were able to fill some of those slots, it was far too late to be able to programme in a similar pair of runs.
"On top of this, there were acts not doing Edinburgh at all or choosing to do short runs, plus we lost acts to other venues.”
The biggest names in The Stand's programme have performed at the New Town Theatre, in recent years, including Stewart Lee, Bridget Christie, Paul Sinha, Danny Bhoy, Dylan Moran, Richard Herring, Omid Djalili, Josie Long, Mark Watson, Rich Hall, John Bishop, Janey Godley, Limmy and Miles Jupp.
Mr Jones said: “We’re really proud of the Fringe venue that we have operated on George Street for a number of years and we have a very good relationship with our landlords, but it has become financially unviable to continue.
“Money isn’t everything, but there’s a point when we have to accept that running such a big venue in this location is not viable at a time when many artists are choosing not to play the Fringe, want to do shorter runs and the focus of Fringe activity is increasingly centred in the Old Town.
"The Fringe landscape has changed. The concentration of activity in and around the Old Town has reduced the number of venues operating on the New Town and Fringe ‘passing trade’. Apart from audiences that have bought tickets for our shows, there is very little Fringe footfall on that end of George Street."