Edinburgh Fringe: London comedians say rising expenses are turning festival into a ‘rich person’s playground’

With rising accommodation, food and fuel costs, is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival becoming inaccessible for performers to attend?
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Every summer for more than 75 years, Edinburgh has been flooded with comedians and actors, dancers and circus performers.

They arrive with hopes and dreams, aspirations of creating the next breakout hit at the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

But with rising accommodation, food and fuel costs, is the Fringe becoming inaccessible for performers to attend?

Thor Stenhaug, a London-based Norwegian comedian, says he was lucky this year to get a good deal with accommodation, but says many of his friends didn’t travel up because it was too expensive.

Stenhaug, who sold out his last three Edinburgh runs, says he fears the Edinburgh Fringe is “becoming a rich person’s playground.”

Thor Stenhaug, a London-based Norwegian comedian, says he was lucky this year to get a good deal with accommodationThor Stenhaug, a London-based Norwegian comedian, says he was lucky this year to get a good deal with accommodation
Thor Stenhaug, a London-based Norwegian comedian, says he was lucky this year to get a good deal with accommodation

“I feel like coming up to Edinburgh as a London comedian is sort of split,” he told LondonWorld. “You have the fact that it’s so much fun, you’ve been working so many hours on the show and now you get to do it every single day in front of audiences from all over the UK and all over the world.

“The other aspect is that it’s really really expensive. It’s hard to make much money. Prices for accommodation in Edinburgh during the month are just insane. There are people that don’t come up anymore because it’s too expensive for them.”

Stenhaug thinks there should be regulations for what people who sublet their properties during the festival.

In 2023, local media has warned that flats are being listed at around £10,000 for the month, with visiting artists still paying their own rising rents back in their home cities.

One three-bedroom flat in the Old Town, was listed for £33,916 for just the month.

Freya McGhee,  travelled from London to perform her show at Just the Tonic at the Edinburgh Fringe FestivalFreya McGhee,  travelled from London to perform her show at Just the Tonic at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Freya McGhee, travelled from London to perform her show at Just the Tonic at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Freya McGhee, who travelled from London to perform her show at Just the Tonic, thinks there should be more schemes to make the festival more accessible for performers.

“There’s ups and downs but it’s nice to have that much stage time. If you’re on stage for about an hour a day, that would take about a week to get in London, so it’s good practice,” the 24-year-old said.

“It is really expensive. I definitely think the venues are quite expensive and accommodation is expensive.

“I definitely think there should be more schemes to make sure everyone can go otherwise loads of people would stop doing it and then you’re just segregating a whole group of people.”

Comedy writer George Wroe thinks the experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is worth the costComedy writer George Wroe thinks the experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is worth the cost
Comedy writer George Wroe thinks the experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is worth the cost

But comedy writer George Wroe thinks the tradition of Edinburgh outweighs the extortionate amounts spent on accommodation.

“As a comedy writer it’s important for me to come up to the Edinburgh Fringe to become inspired to see what’s out there, to build up a network, to get to know people,” he told LondonWorld.

“The ultimate thing is inspiration as it’s great to meet other like minded writers to see what they’ve got on offer and to build that network.”

He continued: “I think the tradition of Edinburgh definitely outweighs the negative of paying for accommodation.

“It’s such a right of passage and it’s become a tradition for so many people to come up every year.

“That’s definitely not a deterrent for paying the extra for accommodation.”

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is on till Monday August 28.