The official report of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, released earlier in May, has revealed that last year's (2001) event was the most successful on record. Over 870,000 tickets were sold, an increase of 138,000 on the figures for 2000, bringing in revenue of over £6,600,000 — which shows that dire predictions (regularly printed by Fleet Street) about the demise of theatre are wildly out of kilter with reality.
In a further sign that theatre is as au fait with the modern world as other industries, it seems that the Fringe's on-line ticket sales are responsible for over 20% of Fringe sales. This makes it one of the most successful arts websites in Britain and confirms the internet as one of the most convenient ways to buy theatre tickets.
The Fringe's Director, Paul Gudgin, is quoted as saying "This report reaffirms the Fringe's position as an event of phenomenal importance to Edinburgh . . . However, we need to keep moving forward and continuing to invest in the world's no.1 festival."
Moving forward is something the Festival has proved adept at doing in recent years, using a combination of web technology and special ticket offers (like a two-for-one offer on the first couple of days of the Fringe) to help kick-start attendance.
However good the marketing, the Festival succeeds or fails on the quality and range of the performances offered. Its remarkable achievements in 2001, which pundits expect to be repeated or even exceeded in 2002, is a tribute to the diversity and strength of talent in British theatre and other performing arts, particularly comedy.
The Fringe Festival runs from Aug. 4 to Aug. 26, 2002.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow