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EdFringe: why is the Playhouse Theatre being sidelined?

9 August 2018

BECTU’s Edinburgh Theatre members have called for robust action by Edinburgh’s City Council after Fergus Linehan, International Festival Director, only programmed three one-night shows at the Playhouse Theatre for this year's festival.

Members are outraged that a flagship theatre like the Playhouse - which is one of the largest theatres in the UK - has effectively been ignored by Linehan leaving many members hunting for alternative work at a time when every theatre worker is usually working flat out.

BECTU has called upon the City Council to place robust obligations on the Festival's director to demonstrate a serious commitment to the Playhouse when he bids for future funding from the Council.

Meeting local politicians  

Paul McManus, negotiations officer for BECTU in Scotland, has asked for a meeting with the leader of the Council to fully express the members' anger and frustration at the Festival’s decisions. Paul McManus also feels the issue could have a negative impact on the Council’s possible plans to introduce a tourist tax.

Paul McManus explained:

“Over the past twenty odd years BECTU’s Edinburgh theatre members have repeatedly said that the Edinburgh businesses who make millions every year from the tourists coming to see Festivals should be made to invest back into those festivals. However this year the local shops, pubs and restaurants will no doubt suffer a reduction in income because of the lack of Festival product at the Playhouse.

"Why would they support the concept of a tourist tax when there are only three one-night shows at the Playhouse? The arithmetic is clear. Every year our members would hope to see three thousand people per show, six or seven shows a week, for three weeks. This year they’re looking at possibly a couple of thousand people at one show a week for three weeks. That’s some difference in numbers for local businesses.”

Theatre's owner under pressure too

BECTU members appreciate that the theatre's owners have taken steps to try and fill the huge gaps in the programme but are concerned that the owners may soon feel it is more trouble than it is worth to hire the venue to the Festival.

"Our members believe there would a substantial cultural loss to the city if a venue which has hosted companies from all corners of the globe should be lost to the Festival," Paul McManus continued.

"Union members are also very disappointed that to date Fergus Linehan has refused to meet with their representatives to explain his position or to offer any reassurances about future programming at the Playhouse.

"BECTU has always enjoyed a hugely positive relationship with the management of the Festival which make it all the more unsettling that Fergus has failed to meet with us or to explain his decisions to the union whose members are losing substantial earnings as a result of his programming.

"We have been left with no alternative but to appeal to the funding bodies for the assurances we need to protect our members' livelihoods.”

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