News: Peter Buckley Hill Responds To Cowgatehead Questions

Free fringe

On Wednesday I emailed Peter Buckley Hill with some questions about the booking of the Cowgatehead venue at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. On Thursday I received a reply and I asked if I could publish his answers. He has agreed to this as long as the response was unedited. Here below is our exchange in full. My words are in italics, everything else is from PBH. 







PBH: Dear Bruce

Perhaps we can start with your last sentence:

I apologise in advance if any of my information or assumptions here are incorrect.

I believe it is precisely this information and assumptions that should have been checked before publication.

It seems that you have been unduly influenced by what, with your long experience, one would expect you to have recognised as spin.

And the motivation for that spin is not hard to find.  Should shows not receive what they have been promised, then Freestival will have to pay back their application fees.  Should Freestival not take place at all, I imagine the money they have received for sponsorship will also be repayable.  But that is a matter for them

We are not fighting campaigns in social media.  We are getting on with the job.  There are many shows to place; because of Freestival's overbooking, not all of them can be placed exactly where they want.  

I am commenting your questions below.

I wonder what your evidence is for the "lost goodwill" statement?  But if that is so, it matters nothing.  We have done the right thing.  


Dear Peter,
It has come to my attention that you are concerned that journalists are simply cutting and pasting statements without contacting you, so I am now doing that.
Firstly I have no idea who is right and who is wrong in this case. You may have a contract, Freestival may also have a contract - as I'm sure you are aware they claim they have a verbal one which, it has been noted, is apparently legally binding in Scottish law. 
What is clear however, is that the way you have gone about this has lost you goodwill. You could regain that goodwill by meeting with Freestival. It seems that you are not prepared to engage with them in any way. 
I want to emphasise that I am in no way taking sides. In fact it is because I am trying my hardest not to take sides that I have mainly just cut and pasted public statements. 
Here are some questions:


1. Are you aware that – according to Freestival – a licensee is coming down to London to discuss a compromise deal with Freestival next week?

PBH: An inaccurate report.  The licensee is probably -- not certainly -- coming to London in pursuit of other business interests, of which he has many.  Such a meeting is not on the cards.  There is no compromise deal on the table.  As the licensee has confirmed that no such compromise was discussed, agreed or indeed thrashed out with Freestival no further discussion with Freestival is required.  


2. If that is the case why would a licensee take the trouble to do this if they were not prepared to have any dealings with Freestival over Cowgatehead? As I understand it, Freestival would like you to come to this meeting too.

PBH: Because the whole meeting is a mis-report.  


3. If you are aware why did you set this Friday as your deadline? If you are unaware then maybe you could now take this on board and extend the deadline until after this meeting even if you are not prepared to come to the meeting.

PBH: There is no meeting.  If you read what I wrote, Friday is not a deadline for applications.  Friday is a day before which I and my team will not consider applications for Cowgatehead which are not ex-Freestival.  To make this perfectly clear: ex-Freestival shows have until Friday to maximise their chances of getting the time slot back that they thought they had, and in many cases had put in the Fringe Programme.  Not all of them can have those times, because Freestival booked nine stages and there only will be six.

From Saturday onwards we shall consider ourselves free to schedule shows from our own waiting list into any unbooked spaces in Cowgatehead.  Ex-Freestival shows can still apply.

We have acted most generously on this.  Most other organisations would have booked shows from their own waiting lists first.  Freestival booked a space which -- for whatever reason -- they had no right to book.  We were aware that Freestival did not have confirmed authority to book acts into this space.  We warned the Fringe Office in March.  They declined to act.  Had they done so, things might have been different.

If you order something from a company that does not deliver, and pay in advance, then you have recourse against that company.  You cannot demand of a completely different company that they make your loss good, even though they sell the same product.  The analogy is not exact, since unlike Freestival we do not charge for applications or space.


4. It is my understanding that no corrections can now be made to the print version of the Fringe programme, so that is not a reason for applications to be dealt with so promptly.

PBH: There are only two months to the start of the Fringe.  If you realised how much work goes into booking and running an event with over 500 shows and 54 stages, you would not make that statement.  Within an hour of signing an agreement with the venue's licensee, I alerted the performing world to the situation (having, of course, no listing of what shows had received promises from Freestival) so that they could prepare and plan for the consequences of a situation which ought not to have arisen.

There are many instances of venues changing their minds and shows having to be rescheduled as a consequence.  We have been the victims of some of these in the past.  When it has happened to us, we have got on with the job of redeploying shows.  The difference between those occasions and the current one is this: that Freestival and the Fringe Office were warned that the lease had not yet been decided or allocated.  They proceeded to book anyway.  


5. I appreciate that Edinburgh is fast approaching but if you could reconsider and attend the meeting it would not show any weakness, it would show a generosity of spirit and win you back considerable good will. 

PBH: We are not fighting for hearts and minds here.  We are trying to get shows and audiences together, using the model that has been proven to work over 20 years of effort.  If some social media users do not understand that, that is not the most important thing.  

Because nine stages were booked and only six will exist, even if Freestival had been given the venue (not 'retained' the venue; they never had it for 2015) they would have had to lose one third of their shows.  

The management of Cowgatehead chose us as their preferred bookers.  We shall carry out that task to the best of our ability.  


I apologise in advance if any of my information or assumptions here are incorrect.
Bruce Dessau



Kind regards


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