In some ways, it is pleasing to report that the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe are so central to the nation’s interests that even the Today programme included a feature on Wednesday of this week.
Regrettably, rather than focusing on the thousands of entertaining acts from which happy visitors will be able to choose, the thrust of the piece was exclusively directed towards the cost of renting property.
We are all familiar with the concept of obtaining a mortgage to buy a property. However, if the extremes highlighted in the media recently are correct, then people wishing to spend the month of August in Edinburgh, whether working or spectating, may need to tap up a friendly banker for a mega-loan.
Apparently, there is at least one three-bedroom flat on offer for the duration at a mere £34,000 and a one-bedroom is a snip at £10,000. For any readers who do not work in the finance industry, these figures equate to over £1,000 a night for the three-bedroom version and not far short of £350 a night for single occupancy.
For the avoidance of doubt, the figures quoted ignore other consequential costs such as travel to the city, food and drink, plus, for those involved in performance, the price of hiring a venue. We won’t even raise the subject of lost earnings as a result of a month taken away from the day job.
On the plus side, for those working, some or all of these costs may be offset by salaries or box office takings. Without wishing to diminish the unbridled enthusiasm of youngsters considering a trip up north to launch their new venture, it is unlikely that anyone but superstar comedians will be able to bring in a profit share that averages four figures every night or even say £500, which would be needed to break even in that one-bedroom flat.
To be fair, these are extremes, and a quick look at an exceedingly popular web site offering property rentals offers more modest pricing for the first four weeks in August—but not much.
Earlier this week, the best price for one-bedroom flat in a central location for the first four weeks in August was £7,000, although the next best choice was one three-bedroom flat not too far from the heart of the Fringe at George Square at under £10,000. That may well have gone by the time you read this article, since most others are in the £15,000–£20,000 range.
If you really want to push the boat out, a spacious four-bedroom main door flat just around the corner is still available for a mere £158,011!
If you have that kind of money to burn, then it may genuinely be worth looking at buying a property, since four-bedrooms start at only about £70,000 more and will give you years of Festival pleasure, not to mention rental income for 11 months a year.
There is a serious underlying story here. Not so long ago, spending £100 a night on accommodation seemed like an unnecessary luxury but, even then, the cost of a trip to the Festival felt excessive. Now, it really is ridiculous.
Whether you are a casual theatregoer who fancies pigging out on culture for a few days or a performer seeking to make his or her name, it could be cheaper to consider trying your luck in Adelaide or Vancouver, since you will broaden your horizons far more and potentially spend considerably less.
The interviewees on the Today programme had alternative solutions, which might have some attractions. One was planning to spend a month in a tent, which hits the budget button but doesn’t sound particularly appealing given the typical weather during an Edinburgh August, while another talked about staying out of town and commuting in from locations such as Musselburgh or Glasgow, though perhaps the seaside at North Berwick might also have its fans.
If this trend continues, then punters really be will be priced out of Edinburgh and both the International Festival and Fringe could face an existential crisis, particularly since the latter has been in financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.
Having said all of that, the joys of Edinburgh are still manifold, and if you’re planning to partake this August, have fun.