An independent inquiry is being launched into the ticketing technology fiasco that nearly derailed this year’s 62nd annual Edinburgh Fringe (See The Goss, 21 Jul 2008).

Details of the inquiry were announced yesterday (19 August 2008) in Edinburgh at the AGM of the Fringe Society, which has responsibility for running the world’s largest arts festival. A steering committee, including local government bodies, will investigate “the procurement, commissioning and operation” of the failed box office system supplied by Pivotal Engineering, which has now gone into administration, and will deliver its report by November. Independent IT consultants will also advise on the best options for ticketing in future.

Further, there will be a review of the Fringe Society itself, its handling of the crisis and its role overall. Fringe director Jon Morgan has admitted that the ticketing breakdown is one of the most serious failures in the festival’s history, and one that will prove financially costly. At yesterday’s volatile AGM, attended by leaders of the festival’s 247 venues, the Society\'s board faced heavy criticism, not least from Assembly chief William Burdett-Coutts who said that recent events have “brought us very close to commercial death”.

The new ticketing system broke down the day after it was installed in early June, which resulted in a massive backlog, with many tickets still not processed or posted just days before the event began this month. Telephone and counter sales at the Fringe Office were halted as staff tried to deal with the problem, and eventually all online ticketing was diverted from the festival’s central website, www.edfringe.com, directly to the myriad venues. An estimated 40,000 theatregoers were affected, while problems reconciling inventory and revenue between the various parties are ongoing.

- by Terri Paddock