Not many want to give concrete data, they just nod, they say there is a problem, but they don't elaborate: how easy is it to find accommodation in Edinburgh during the Fringe, one of the biggest theater festivals in the world? " The cost of living in the city is a real problem , a headache," acknowledges its director, Shona McCarthy (Northern Ireland, 1968).
« Democratic space for culture . The place for any artist who has an idea, or something that he wants to express through acting. A platform for everyone, be it the first show or a professional on the cusp of his career ». This is how McCarthy el Fringe defines it, a festival held every August since 1947 that threatens his popular and alternative spirit by the vertiginous increase in the rental price in the Scottish capital: 5% in the last year, and with a projection up to 14 % accumulated in the next three years, according to a study by Omega Lettings.
What has changed in the last year? The new rental law approved by the Scottish Government in December 2017 aims to prevent precariousness and abuse of prices by owners. Many of them forced the departure of their tenants in festival season to improve their income. The new law has specifically entered into the new contracts of university students, whose accommodations welcomed many artists during the vacant vacations and caused involuntary chaos.
According to Louise Dickins, an agent who has been facilitating accommodation during the Fringe at Dickens real estate for 21 years, “at the beginning of this year, the owners wrote to the students who signed these types of contracts asking if they would enjoy their accommodations during the summer months. The majority had no answer. Traditionally that stock was already available in February ». On this occasion, "they have begun to warn of their departure at the beginning of May", reducing, in comparison with other editions, the offer and its accessibility.
Some owners try to recover the losses of those two months by raising the price. Edinburgh's real estate market, in that regard, works like a lung. It needs the summer exit of the students to welcome the actors and visitors. And as the lung does not work, prices rise.
It is estimated that during the month of August, the city triples its population (500,000 inhabitants) and that the Fringe has an economic impact of one billion pounds (1,090 million euros), according to the Center for Economics and Business Research in London. This year, Fringe has 3,841 shows from 59 guest countries. The value of some of the accommodations has reached 20,000 pounds (21,000 euros) per month on Airbnb. High quality accommodations tend to be above 5,000 pounds. The low end of the market is around 3,000 pounds.
For example: Stacey Haber, producer of The man from Verona , invested just over 3,000 pounds in accommodation that is located 20 minutes from the city center. Katherine Anne, a young Canadian who brings Bulldogs, has had to resort to crowdfunding to raise another 3,000 pounds.
Anthony Alderson, director of the Pleasance Theater Trust, manages 383 rooms between the University of Edinburgh and private rentals. "In the last five years, the average cost in modest accommodation has grown by 23.5% " while in the same period "the price of tickets has increased by 10%." Anderson asks Fringe and the agencies to work together to "keep rents within an acceptable level."
Inflation endangers the very meaning of Fringe - "alternative," in English. The organization says it is aware of this and "does everything it can," says McCarthy. As a first step, the cost of registration has been frozen for more than a decade at 394 pounds (424 euros), and will remain so until 2022, even facilitating payment in installments.
The Fringe has reached agreements with different universities in the city for the transfer of more than 400 rooms at 180 pounds per week, in addition to looking for citizens of Edinburgh who offer rooms at a reduced price for the love of their festival.
“We need everyone, owners, hotels and accommodation providers, to face the biggest problem we have: access to the festival. We all understand that it is the artists who make this festival possible and successful. All the work and effort we are doing is to ensure that this remains as it should be, ”says McCarthy, hoping that this“ democratic space for culture ”will not lose its essence.
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