The Edinburgh Fringe may be the world’s largest arts festival but its profile is slipping, according to the bosses of 20 leading venues who have formed a new organisation, the Association of Independent Venue Producers (AIVP), to voice their concerns and lobby for greater support.

AIVP’s members include many of the Fringe’s biggest and best-known venues – not least the Assembly Rooms, the Pleasance, the Gilded Balloon – and between them account for 85 percent of ticket sales. At the first AIVP meeting, held yesterday in the Scottish capital, the members said they were worried that an estimated 70 percent of Fringe ticket sales are now sold to Scots, signalling that what is meant to be an international event is in danger of becoming Edinburgh-centric.

According to Assembly chief William Burdett-Coutts, the Fringe has been reduced to primarily a “local event” because "perception outside Edinburgh” – including, critically, in London – is “not high”. He and other members are pushing for greater advertising and marketing support of the overall event across the UK and Europe, particularly in the face of increasing competition with other arts festivals. Currently, the total campaign budget for the Fringe as an entity is only £115,000.

More than half a million people plan holidays each August around a trip to Edinburgh, annually providing a huge commercial boon for the city. Despite the economic benefits, the Fringe receives minimal official support from bodies such as the City of Edinburgh, the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Arts Council and tourist body Visit Scotland. Although representatives from all relevant government bodies were invited to yesterday’s meeting, only one politician, Steve Cardownie from the Scottish National Party, attended.

Though commonly seen as one single event, the Edinburgh festival is in reality several different festivals - the main ones being the Edinburgh Fringe and its more austere parent, the original Edinburgh International Festival, as well as the Military Tattoo, the Jazz Festival, the Film Festival and the Book Festival - of which the Fringe is, by far, the largest. This year’s 60th annual Fringe concludes this bank holiday weekend on 28 August 2006 (See News, 8 Jun 2006). The Fringe’s parent event, the Edinburgh International Festival opened on 13 August and continues until 3 September (See News), 11 Aug 2006).

- by Terri Paddock