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Fringe organisers launch inquiry into ticketing fiasco

Joke system leaves promoters baying for blood

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Officials at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are to launch an independent inquiry into the failure of its box office system.

Tickets for the Fringe – which runs from 3-25 August – were supposed to be available from 10 June. However the festival’s new box office system suffered several major technical cock-ups that forced organisers to repeatedly suspend sales, much to the annoyance of punters and promoters.

Glasgow-based Pivotal Integration Ltd provided the new service. But, as we previously reported, the firm failed to cope with customer demand for the festival’s 2,088 shows and some people waited more than seven weeks for tickets to arrive that is if they turned up at all.

The Times reports today that the Fringe will undertake an inquiry into the disastrous implementation of its box office system.

Members of the Fringe board are attending a meeting for reps from 200 venues across Edinburgh now to discuss the debacle that left many shows oversold and some customers without tickets.

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Some promoters – those who ordered the inquiry – are understood to be seeking compensation from the Fringe after the failure of its box office system. It is expected that the board will announce a new temporary general manager to oversee the final two weeks of the festival.

In the eight weeks leading up to the Fringe technical problems crippled the newly-installed box office system, preventing tickets from being printed or posted to customers. That meant that advance sales were removed from many venues’ budgets, meaning promoters took a direct hit from the technical blunders.

It’s expected that tens of thousands of pounds in compensation will be claimed. One promoter, Laura Mackenzie Stuart of Universial Arts claimed that the Fringe was on the brink of “financial ruin” following the cock-up.

“The failure to plan and successfully implement [the new box office system] indicates a fundamental lack of relevant expertise amongst board members. This has resulted in the Fringe Society reaching a point of potential financial ruin,” wrote Mackenzie Stuart, who is chairman of Associated Independent Venue Producers (AIVP), in an open letter to the 14 directors of the Fringe board.

“AIVP's intended plan of action is to unite with the broad range of Fringe stakeholders, including performers, promoters and venue managers who are in agreement with our position. Such extreme action is a measure of the fear and anger felt by AIVP members.”

However, Fringe director Jon Morgan, according to the Times, dismissed such suggestions but admitted the organisation would “take a hit”.

What remains unclear at this stage is whether Fringe officials plan to axe Pivotal Integration’s box office system. Despite repeated attempts, we have been unable to make contact with the software company. El Reg hopes to have more on the meeting’s outcome later today, so check back for an update. ®

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