Edinburgh Festival Fringe organisers have been given £850,000 bailout

Edinburgh Festival Fringe organisers have been given £850,000 in bailouts under government’s Cultural Recovery Fund to help arts firms survive Covid

  • Arts Council England issued the grants as part of its support package for the arts 
  • The funding comes in addition to a grant package from the Scottish Government
  • Pandemic has been tough for the arts sector as venues and theatres had to close
  • Leading figurs in the industry have called for more support for the sector 

Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have received bailouts worth nearly £850,000 amid a rising crisis for the arts sector as a result of the pandemic. 

Underbelly, who have been staging Fringe shows for the last 20 years were awarded £584,751 from the UK Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

The Pleasance – which first staged shows at the festival in 1985 – has received £249,352.

Both grants were part of a £257 million package, unveiled by Arts Council England to help major arts companies withstand the impact of the pandemic.

Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have received bailouts worth nearly £850,000 (Pictured: Performers from the Fourth Monkey Theatre Group during the 2012 Festival)

The grants were part of a £257 million Arts Council England package to help major arts companies withstand the impact of the pandemic (Pictured: Performers during the 2003 festival)

A lifeline funding package for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society was announced by the Scottish Government in June, made up of a £1 million interest-free loan, a £149,000 grant and an additional £100,000 from the city council.

Creative Scotland has previously announced funding for a number of other major operators on the Fringe, including £500,000 for the Traverse Theatre, £213,000 for the Scottish Storytelling Centre and £175,000 for the Queen’s Hall.

Other funding decisions are due to be announced in November.

The Pleasance and Underbelly are both part of a consortium of Fringe venues which have been lobbying for a share of public funding ringfenced for arts organisations.

The dossier stated: ‘When the Fringe returns in 2021, it will need venue producers to be there, to curate their programmes and accommodate the visiting performing companies and artists.

The arts sector has struggled during the pandemic as theatres (pictured: Apollo Theatre, London) have had to close their doors

‘However, without financial support for venue producers now, key organisations will go out of business.’

A spokeswoman for the Fringe Society said: ‘The past few months have been devastating for the culture and events sectors including Fringe venues and artists.

‘We’ve been calling for the UK and Scottish Government to do everything they can to support the Fringe and the wider arts sector, which is a vital part of the country’s creative economy.’

‘We’re pleased to see this call recognised in this announcement.

‘However, we are acutely aware that a large number of Fringe artists and venues are still in danger of falling through the cracks and we will continue to call for targeted support to allow them to make a much-needed return to business in the future.’

Pleasance director Anthony Alderson said: ‘We’re extremely grateful for the support we have received.

Even when entertainent venues and theatres were allowed to reopen on July 4, many remained closed as the requirements of social distancing have made it financially unviable to open (Pictured: A deserted Coliseum Theatre in June this year) 

‘Whilst the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the Pleasance’s spiritual home, this support is for our theatre and development spaces in London, where so many artists create new work, some of which eventually reaches the Fringe each year.

‘These spaces have been closed since March.

‘The challenge of remounting the Fringe is still a huge economic mountain to climb, far larger than the £1 million loan given to the Fringe Society.

‘If Edinburgh is to once again enjoy the financial rewards the festival brings each summer, the financial support required is estimated at £10 million.’

A spokeswoman for Underbelly said: ‘We are very grateful to Arts Council England for our Cultural Recovery Fund grant.

‘This has been specifically awarded to help support our operational running costs in London and the south.’

The arts sector has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

During lockdown, all theatres and entertainment venues were closed.

Major figures in the UK arts industry such as theatre producer and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (pictured left) and actress Dame Judy Dench (pictured right) have called for more support for the arts sector after it was devastated by the pandemic

But even when restrictions were lifted many venues have been unable to reopen because the requirements of social distancing have made it financially unviable to do so. 

Restrictions mean audience members must sit in groups of no more than six and must leave venues one at a time. 

Theatre bosses have warned of a ‘catastrophic collapse’ in the industry if severe restrictions are kept in place.

Other prominent figures in the industry have also called for a greater support package and for more to be done to save the sector. 

Theatre producer and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, 72, has spoken of the arts sector having reached ‘a point of no return’ and said the industry must be given a bailout to ensure its survival.

Dame Judi Dench also expressed her fears that Britain’s theatres may never reopen in her lifetime.

The 85-year-old actress said she ‘can’t imagine Britain without its arts heritage’ as theatres across the UK face an ‘existential risk’ of closure. 

Actress Jennifer Saunders joined a collection of actors, comedians, theatre directors and singers as they protested outside the shuttered Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, earlier this month. 

Producer David Pugh, director Caroline Jay Ranger, vocalist Louise Clare Marshall, theatre producer Lucy Ansbro and casting director Stephen Crockett stood side-by-side with Saunders (centre) to call for more support – and an end to socially-distanced audiences

The Absolutely Fabulous star, 62, led a two-minute silence drawing attention to the ‘devastating’ effect of continued closures. 

Their ‘silent stand’ – the latest in a series featuring a range of industry figures – also called for theatres to be allowed to reopen without social distancing and highlighted a perceived lack of Government guidance on the issue.

She also called for additional support for artists who are facing a cliff edge when the furlough scheme ends in October. 

Many artists have relied on the handouts as they struggle to find additional work with the industry largely closed. 

‘Every town and city has a theatre and if they are not going to be allowed to open because of restrictions then some support has to be given, some extra support especially as furlough is ending,’ she said.  


Arts Council England made £160 million of emergency funding available during the Covid crisis. 

The emergency response grants were available for organisations and individuals who needed immediate support as the pandemic took hold of the nation.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) announced further funding for the arts this month

Funds from the government-backed £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund are also distrubuted by Arts Council England.

The funding aims to protect the UK’s culture and heritage sectors from the economic impacts of coronavirus.

Among the venues benefitting from Arts Council funding are the Cavern Club in Liverpool, the Royal Academy of Dance in London, The London Symphony Orchestra and Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre.  

Beamish in County Durham and Stowmarket’s John Peel Centre for Creative Arts have also been awarded grants, in addition to London’s Corsica Studios, Village Underground and Electrowerkz.  

The Arts Council also contributed £1 million to the Theatre Artist Fund to support those left out of work as a result of the closures. 

This week, as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced further funding, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport posted on their website: ‘The funding will help 1,385 theatres, galleries, performance groups, arts organisations, museums and local venues survive the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘It will boost iconic organisations and venues known around the world… and will also protect hundreds of local organisations that have launched many stars of the British cultural scene and sit at the heart of their communities.’ 

This includes the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court, London, Beamish Living Museum in County Durham, the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, and The Young Vic in London. 

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