In the wake of a box office crisis that nearly toppled this year’s festival and a subsequent ten percent drop in ticket sales, Edinburgh Fringe director Jon Morgan (pictured) announced his resignation today (28 August 2008), with immediate effect.
Morgan only took over the role last June (See News, 26 Mar 2008), but in a statement issued today, the former executive producer of Manchester’s Contact Theatre said that he’d been considering the move “for some time”. His decision, according to the statement, is not a result of failures at this year’s festival, but rather a personal choice so that he can return to his “first love” of producing.
Jon Morgan’s full resignation statement reads: “I feel privileged to have worked for the Fringe. It is the greatest arts festival on the planet and plays an important role in developing and showcasing new performing talent on a world stage. However, the role of Fringe director has taken me away from my first love; producing and presenting exciting performance to audiences and my intention is to return to that more direct relationship with artists and audiences.
“I have been considering this for some time, but felt it was important not to announce my departure before the festival so as to not impact on this year’s festival. Following discussion with the Board I have now decided to step down with immediate effect, but I would like to stress that I will contribute fully to the independent review of the box office which was announced earlier this month.
“I would like to thank the board for their support over the last year and I would especially pay tribute to the Fringe Society staff team who deliver vital services that underpin the festival. Every year they work tirelessly and well above the call of duty and this year, in particular, they have dealt with very challenging circumstances with hard work, patience and dedication.”
In response, Baroness Smith, chair of the Fringe Society board, said: “The board is very grateful to Jon for his significant contribution to the Fringe at a challenging time of great change, and in the short time he has been in post, he has dealt with an unprecedented range of challenges. We are pleased that Jon is willing to assist with the independent review of the box office. The board appreciate his future career aspirations, and we would like to thank him for all his hard work and to wish him well in the future.”
Ticket sales at this year’s 62nd annual Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, fell for the first time in eight years – and by nearly ten percent. In total, just over 1.5 million tickets were sold for the three-week event, which ran from 3 to 25 August 2008, down from the all-time high of 1.7 million in 2007.In a separate statement, Jon Morgan attributed the drop to bad weather, the credit crunch, a loss of key venues and the Olympic diversions as well as the ticketing technology meltdown, but maintained that organisers were nonetheless “pleased” with this year’s Fringe. “This is the third year that the Fringe has sold in excess of 1.5 million tickets, signifying another fantastic year for the world’s biggest arts festival,” said Morgan. “At the start of the festival, many were worried about the loss of venues, impact of the Olympics and the economy. In a difficult year, with record rainfall and problems with ticketing, Fringe-goers have come out in force and enjoyed the festival.”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.Last week (See News, 20 Aug 2008), an independent, government-back inquiry was announced, investigating both the failed box office system -supplied by Pivotal Engineering, which has now gone into administration – as well as the handling of the crisis by the Fringe Society, which has responsibility for running the festival. A separate report advising on options for ticketing at next year’s festival and beyond is also being prepared by independent consultants.
- by Terri Paddock