Julian Caddy, managing director of Brighton Fringe, says he is reasonably confident he and his team can raise £20,000 in time for the start of this year’s festival (May 4-June 3).
But already he is warning that if they don’t, there will inevitably be implications for next year.
Brighton Fringe has launched a crowd-funding campaign after the last-minute loss of their headline sponsor.
Ironically, the crisis comes with a fine festival in prospect, the festival bigger and selling more tickets than ever before. Ticket sales are up more than ten per cent on this time last year.
“But it comes down to the loss of the headline sponsor. It is such a large chunk of money that we have lost, and it has happened so late. It was in February, after the deadline that we finally found out that it would be nothing. Now we have to work out what we are going to do about it. It was all based on a relationship that had been going on for seven years, and I know each year decisions get made relatively late, but usually the decisions were made positively.”
The headline sponsor was Citroen, and the decision in the end was made in Paris: “In this country our main contact in Citroen couldn’t have done any more. He has been our strongest and most fearless advocate over the years in the partnership.”
Now the fringe has to move on, with the crowd-funding bid just one part of the jigsaw: “We are looking for other sponsors and other funders.
“If we don’t get the £20,000, we will have to reduce our budget for next year. What does that look like? We will have to reduce the activities that we are able to deliver, and we will have to look at the size of our staff. The staff is our biggest outlay, and that affects us on all sorts of levels. You have got to think of the effect on staff morale and also think of the stress.
“But we have set ourselves the aim of finding the money before the festival starts. It’s a big marathon, but I would like to think that we will get there. Everyone is very supportive.
“The fringe is a fabulous thing. It is something that the community makes. It is a completely open-access festival, and that means that anyone, from whatever perspective, from whatever experience, is able to take part. It is just a question of putting it on. A huge cross-section of people are involved in it. The only festival that is comparable would be Edinburgh, and more than a third of our participants are from the local area or along the coast.
“It is a fantastic platform for people. The reason why so many people take part is that they can use it to raise their profile and get good reviews and increase their reputation. And this year, it is doing really, really well. We are still more than ten per cent up on tickets on last year, and that’s a really good sign. There are some really good shows. I think that’s what it comes down to. The more good shows take part, the more tickets you sell, and certainly the increasing reputation of the Brighton Fringe has been part of that.”
The fringe receives less than three per cent of its annual income comes from public funds. They receive no form of regular financial aid from the Arts Council England or Brighton & Hove City Council. Every year, Brighton Fringe distributes £25,000 in bursaries to performers, but this isn’t money that could be redistributed, Julian explains. It is money which is given for that specific purpose.
Since 2016, Brighton Fringe has lost more than £70,000 in headline sponsorship, almost 40 per cent of its total sponsorship – hence this year’s crowdfunding campaign. The loss of the fringe’s main corporate sponsor means this income has been almost halved for 2018, leaving a gap of more than 14 per cent in total income this year.
Brighton Fringe employs 15 year-round staff and 25 seasonal staff and creates 100s of employment opportunities city-wide. Brighton Fringe attracts more than 500,000 audience members each May filling the seats at more than 4,000 performances across 150 venues, featuring artists from across Brighton & Hove, the UK and across the world.
Visit the Brighton Fringe Crowdfund page at: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fund-fringe to view the packages on offer to help secure the future of England's largest arts festival.
For other stories by Phil, see https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2