The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the charity which oversees the Edinburgh Fringe, has been awarded £249,000 grants and a £1million interest-free loan to help support it through Covid-19 recovery.
The six-year loan from the Scottish Government comes as part of its commitment to support cultural, social and economic recovery. The two grants are a £149,929 Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund grant and a £100,000 grant from City of Edinburgh Council.
Announcing the rescue package, which chief executive Shona McCarthy described as a “life raft”, the Society said in a statement that the money will be used to mitigate the significant losses incurred as a result of this year’s festival not going ahead as planned due to Covid-19.
The statement continued that it will help “support the thousands of Fringe artists, companies and venues whose livelihoods have been affected”. The Society estimates the Fringe is worth around £200 million to the wider Scottish and UK economy, adding that thousands of artists and cultural entrepreneurs across the UK rely on the Fringe annually as a key milestone for employment.
McCarthy said: “This funding is a life raft to the Fringe Society, enabling us to properly support the extensive ecosystem of artists, venues and businesses who rely on the Fringe. This festival is about much more than three weeks in August. It’s an embodiment of how culture and creativity unites us.
“In this incredibly difficult time, we’re grateful to be working so closely with our partners at Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and City of Edinburgh Council on this common goal.”
The Covid pandemic has been particularly hard on the Fringe Society as an organisation, with McCarthy saying in May that it left the Society on a “financial knife edge”. Its usual income sources – the ticket levy, fringe programme advertising and membership subscriptions – are not now available to it.
Because of the pandemic, Timothy O’Shea agreed to remain in his role as Chair of the Society’s Board of Directors, which he had previously said he would quit in August. The proposed search for a successor has also been put on hold.