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Fringe plan box office balls-up post-mortem next month

Bringing down the house

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Edinburgh Fringe organisers will wait until after the last acts have packed up and gone home before picking over the bones of its box office system fiasco.

As we reported yesterday, the group plans to conduct an independent inquiry into the chaotic technical problems the organisation suffered following the botched implementation of a new ticket booking system.

Yesterday, at a hastily arranged meeting, Fringe board members agreed that a full review would get underway once the festival ends later this month.

El Reg spoke to Laura Mackenzie Stuart of Universal Arts, who is chairman of Associated Independent Venue Producers. Last Friday she penned a letter to Fringe officials lambasting their failure to plan and successfully implement the Liquid Box Office system.

Mackenzie Stuart, who was present at the board meeting, told us that media coverage about the cock-up had been harmful to performers and the organisation's revenue. She said that it was agreed a review would take place in September.

However, she added there won’t be any more information until after the Fringe. "It has to be analysed from a technical point of view and that can’t really happen until after the festival," she said.

“The system is working as it stands. What they [Fringe officials] will need to do is work out if it will work at 100 per cent capacity. At the moment the allocation of tickets involves using two systems allowing it to function fully. Until they go and do other work in the autumn I have absolutely no idea what will happen. But now is not the moment to start trying that out.”

Mackenzie Stuart added that the Fringe will take a big financial hit because of the technical issues. She also said that negative media coverage of the cock-up was damaging, especially for performers at the event.

She told us that the Fringe was not “on the brink of financial ruin”, but said “it has been taken to a very serious financial position... because they’ve had to bring in an awful lot of new personnel, and hardware, they’ve introduced a second system, which is obviously going to have a cost implication. And, because the message has gone out that it’s been so difficult to buy tickets there will be a revenue implication.”

El Reg once again asked the Fringe to provide specific technical details about the box office system’s failure to cope with demand. However, all it could give us was this canned statement from Fringe director Jon Morgan:

The Fringe board will commission an independent review into the box office and the broader structure of the Festival Fringe Society, which will take place in September. Any individuals or organisations that wish to contribute to the review will have the opportunity to do so.

Tim Hawkins has joined the Fringe as temporary general manager and he will oversee and coordinate the review process. The board will announce more details on the review process at the AGM on Saturday 16 August.

Considering the problems we have experienced with ticketing in this year and looking at the wider economic situation we think that it's been a fantastic Fringe so far. Hundreds of thousands of tickets have been sold and the Fringe Society is financially secure - more importantly many Fringe-goers are out enjoying shows.

Meanwhile, Glasgow-based software firm Pivotal Integration Ltd, which installed the system, still isn’t returning our calls. ®

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