*— Date change divides bosses of ‘long haul’ Festival

Some organisers of this year's Edinburgh Festival have struggled with audiences after the Fringe's unprecedented change of dates.

there's Jonathan Trew

lN THE AFTERMATH of the recent Edinburgh Festival, there has been a mixed response to the Fringe’s decrsron to move its dates back a week,

What most people perceive as simply the Edinburgh Festival in fact comprises four different autonomous organisations the International Festival, the Fringe, the Frlrn Festival and the Book Festival. This year, for the first trrne, the Fringe began and ended a week before the International Festival,

Fringe director Hilary Strong has argued that she made the decision in response to the preferences of both performers and audiences, who were coming to Edinburgh earlier and earlier. But the change seems to have left audiences in confusion about when all the different festivals start and flfllel. Many venues have reported lower than expected ticket sales in the first and last weeks of the Festival.

The International Festival has been the most drastically affected of all the festivals. Starting on l5 August, rt ran until S September, five days after the Fringe had ended. Some performers appearing at the International Festival have to be booked up to four years in advance, and many marOr international orchestras and theatre groups are on holiday in August and unable to come to Edinburgh.

A comprehensive breakdown of audrence figures will not be available until October, but attendances during the final week appear to have been badly hit. The Dutch theatre production Caligula, for example, attracted a very sparse audrence to the PlayhOuse, the city’s biggest venue, with over 3000 seats.

At a recent press conference, Brian McMaster,

Brian McMaster

'What's happened this year is negative, there is no doubt. What comes through loud and clear is that the four festivals complement each other.’

Not agreeing to differ: International Festival director Brian McMaster and Fringe director Hilary Strong

director of the International Festival, described this year's event as ’a long haul'. He commented: ’What’s happened this year is negatrve, there rs no doubt. From what feedback we have had, there has been major audrence concern over the changes. What comes through loud and clear is that the four festivals complement each other.’

Christopher Richardson, director of The Pleasance, a maror Fringe venue which closed on 31 August, is more posrtrve about the changes. Ticket sales at The Pleasance this year were up 17% on 1997. ’lt would be sad if there was a split,’ he commented. 'I understand Brian McMaster’s problems, but he has to understand the changes which have taken place. The change in school holidays and the knock-on effect that has on audiences have to be taken into accocrnt.’

While the Book Festival posted a 30% rise in advance ticket sales, director Faith erdell said that during the Bank Holiday weekend (29 8c 30 August) the audiences dropped off. ’That should have been our best weekend - it was affected by the change in dates,’ she said ’All the festivals should stay together

as part of a broad cultural experience.’

The Observer Assembly Rooms, another major venue, had similar experiences. ’We’ll probably not make targets,’ explained general manager Mary Shields. ’The first and last weeks were quieter than we’d hoped. The public seemed confused about the dates and took the safe option, turning up for the middle two weeks. There almost a feeling that it was a two-week festival.’

By contrast, the Film Festival has been very successful and director Lizzie Francke stated that the change of dates had had no effect.

Many have pointed to the poor weather and the strength of the DOUnd as factors that have contributed to a flat Festival, but the Edinburgh Tattoo, an outdoor event whose audience includes a high proportion of overseas visitors, this year sold a record 99.95% of its tickets.

’Both the International Festival and the Fringe are gomg to have to do a lot of research and audience feedback to see how it worked,’ commented Charlotte Di Corpo, spokeswoman for the Fringe. ’People are very wary about change and it’s going to take at least another year to determine whether the change has been a success. That’s what we’ve decided to do for next year.’

New Glasgoririoentre offers staging post for would-be actors

GLASGOW/BASED ACTORS and j'1 aspiring actors will soon have access to '4 new facilities offering them support, training and even work Opening on 12 October, the Calagow Actor Centre is an ambitious DTOJCCI established by Maureen Cairns, who recently set up a theatrical agency, though she stresses tlrat the two concerns are separate.

As well as catering for crut-of-work profesfncrrrais, the centre wrll offer encouragement and courses to the unenrployecr’, ()APs and children 'We want to show krcls that there is another route into the lursrrress,’ says

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~:~.’-f-."/t he can afford college And if you can take kids off the streets then that's great ' Around 50 rec irrrts have already signed up, while i00 more have expressed ' interest


Based at Marco’s Leisure Centre in Templeton Street, the centre wrll be open seven days a week, occupying a

20 THE LIST l’~ M Sep ‘r‘i‘i’d

Comedian Hugh Reed. who will assist with training courses at the new Glasgow Actor Centre

'7 , '1 ; 4500 sqrrare foot premises. It wrll be " staffed mainly by actors —- though they Will be released from administrative duties at such time as they secure

acting work.

rehearsal rooms,

Reed There

will also be


As well as providing a venue, and a cafe-bar where actors can exchange news and gos3rp, the centre wrll offer legal servrces, costume hire, photocopying and fax faCilrtres, a photographer and a wide range of training courses. These wrll cover acting, auditions, writing, comedy and music, led by professional tutors, actors, directors and writers, including rock ’n’ roll comedian Hugh

companies reSident at the centre, I including one professional group, and i each will present at least two shows a - year -- wrth protects to be'decrded at ! workshops during the centre’s first few

'At the beginning I didn’t realise how big a protect it was,’ admits Cairns, who adds she has received ’absolutely invaluable’ support from local businessman Allan Jones, who became the Centre’s business manager on a voluntary basis.

'Allan came in wrth a workable plan, broke it all down and made it manageable,’ says Cairns. The centre will be run on a charitable basrs, funded by a combination of fees (each member pays £15 per annum, plus course charges), cafe-bar revenue and sponsorship. The Scottish Arts COUrtCIl, the Lottery, and corporate sponsors have been approached, as well as indrvrduals in the buSrness.

’We feel that actors who have made it could put something into this,’ says Cairns. ’They know how it feels to struggle.’ (Andrew Burnet)

a An Open Day at the Glasgow Actor Centre is planned for Mon 70 Oct.

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