New areas to be created for street performers during Edinburgh Festival Fringe, say bosses
Edinburgh Festival Fringe are in talks about creating new areas for street performers in the heart of major new developments in the city centre.
Official stages for performers are also expected to be relocated away from the Royal Mile in future as part of a strategy to spread out festival crowds around the city centre.
Around 1000 street performers register each year for the right to enter a daily draw for coveted slots in just two licensed arenas, in the Old Town and on The Mound.
However Fringe chiefs are hoping to take advantage of new public space being created as part the St James and Waverley Mall developments to ease crowd congestion on the Royal Mile and reduce disruption for local residents.
Some performers staged impromptu performances in other Old Town thoroughfares closed to traffic for the first time this month, but these were not policed by the Fringe Society.
It wants to roll out a series of official new sites in agreement with the city council as part of a five-year blueprint published ahead of the 2018 event.
Oliver Davies, head of marketing at the Fringe Society, said: “We are looking at other areas of the city that are opening up, such as in the St James and Waverley Mall development, to ensure there is as much as space as possible that is managed well as possible and is in the best interests of businesses, residents and performers.
“If we can move elements of Fringe activity, such as what we have on the Royal Mile, into other areas with lower footfall we are very much up for that. We’ve had very positive discussions so far, although nothing has been decided for future years.
“The key for us is that everything needs to be part of a city-wide strategy.
“If there are areas that are very heavily populated we’re looking to manage those spaces better but also spread the load to other areas as well.
Victoria Street, Cockburn Street and the Lawnmarket were all closed to traffic for the first time during the festivals this year under the city council’s “Summertime Streets” project.
It was aimed at reducing crowd congestion on roads and pavements and improving the safety of pedestrians.
Mr Davies added: “We have been talking to the council on an onoing basis this month.
“As you would expect, as with any city where pedestrianisation measures are put in place, there is inevitably a bit of bedding in with buskers and streets performers.
“We hope that whatever comes out is part of a long-term approach.
“We obviously have very good links with street performers, so we reiterated the ban on amplification across the city and asked them to be considerate to local residents.
“We heard that buskers were actually self-policing in these new areas, as we were not directly in any of them.
“We’ve also been discussing with street performers the possibility of them potentially forming a collective group which could liaise with both ourselves and the council.”
The developers of the Edinburgh St James project, which is due to launch next year, have already set out ambitions for the project to “build on Edinburgh’s famous calendar of events and cultural highlights.”
The developers of a revamp of the Waverley Mall, beside the Balmoral Hotel, want a new open-air piazza to become a “natural meeting place” in the city centre.