Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Fringe defends ticket sales total

pbh's canon gait
Image caption The free shows usually take place in pubs around the city

Organisers of the Edinburgh Fringe have defended their decision to count customers of free shows in their box office sales.

They claimed on Monday that almost two million tickets had been sold for this year's event, a 5% increase on the previous record breaking year.

However, it has emerged that some venues offering free and unticketed shows were included in the figures.

An extra 120,000 ticket sales were added to the final total this year.

The extra figure was based on average audiences attending shows staged by Laughing Horse Free Festivals, one of two major promoters running free shows, mainly in pubs.

Peter Buckley Hill, who runs the Free Fringe, said he could not give the numbers of people who attended his shows because he had "no idea".

But the Fringe said the method of counting ticket sales was consistent with previous years and may be a conservative estimate of the actual numbers attending the overall event.

Fringe spokesman, Neil Mackinnon, said: "We've been quite consistent with our methodology in adding up figures at the Fringe, and we have no plans to change that.

"If anything, it suggests that our estimate for the actual number of people attending the festival is probably quite conservative.

"The venues have a good idea of how many people are attending shows because of health and safety and fire regulations, and Laughing Horse have given us estimates for the last two years.

"We asked Peter Buckley Hill to provide the same estimates but he has refused and that is why his shows are not included."

Mr Mackinnon added: "We did say in our announcement on Monday that the box office figure was an estimate."

Mr Buckley Hill's Free Fringe operates at 22 venues and the Laughing Horse free festival at 14 sites across the city.

In total there were more than 500 free shows included in the Fringe programme.

Performers do not charge for their shows but often ask for a cash contribution from the audience afterwards.

Mr Buckley Hill told the BBC Scotland news website: "I am absolutely annoyed about this. The public have been lied to and it should not happen in an honourable institution.

"I was not asked to give figures this year and had I been I would have refused.

"We have no figures to give them as we don't count audience numbers. We do not give tickets out and we do not keep a record of how many people enter a show once we have counted the numbers for health and safety reasons.

"It says 'tickets sold' on their press release but they cannot claim this because we don't have tickets or charge."

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