Booking for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was closed for in person and telephone sales yesterday and today, as their staff struggle to cope with the latest fiasco. This time it’s the inability of the Fringe Festival’s new ticketing system to print and post tickets. Just a few weeks ago the Edinburgh Festival Fringe were unable to sell any tickets: their new software system just didn’t work. If this weren’t embarrassing enough news reports of would be festival goers being charged multiple times for ticket orders have also hit the press.
The Edinburgh Blog like thousands of other ticket buyers received an e-mail from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I expected a grovelling apology and an admittance of how they and they alone were responsible for this shambles. How wrong I was. The e-mail did not contain a single mention of the word “sorry” or “apologise”. Instead it took an upbeat tone and tried to gloss over the issue with “the Fringe will go ahead as planned and that it will be as big and brilliant as ever” and “The Fringe is an extremely popular festival so there may be some queues as there is every year”. The author was right about The Fringe being an extremely popular festival. But for how long!? With the international competition sharpening their knives Edinburgh has no right to be complacent and no right to treat its customers like this.
Perhaps the most surprisingly ridiculous quote (as reported by the Scotsman) came from Pivotal Integration, the company behind this year’s new software system: “Unfortunately software is software and it’s prone to glitches”. Surely in the 21st century it’s not unreasonable to expect a software system to at least work? If it’s well designed, well written and well tested they normally stand half a chance.
Gone are the true Fringe days of the festival. It’s now a multi-million pound, global event with venues attracting big names in showbusiness and venues charging steep ticket prices. The least festival goers should expect is some professionalism on the organiser’s part. A fiasco like this only adds momentum to the breakaway venues behind this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Festival; The Assembly Rooms dispatched my tickets many weeks ago.
It’s only right the Edinburgh Festival Fringe team stay on board and guide the Fringe through August. Afterwards they would be wise to consider their future: are these really the amateur producers the Fringe needs?