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The legal rights of workers and volunteers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Middlemiss, Sam


Sam Middlemiss


Purpose: Against the background of the biggest arts festival in the world, there have been some shocking findings recently about the treatment of performers and other workers at the Fringe. The purpose of this paper is to consider the type of treatment a significant number of Fringe workers experience and how it might be dealt with under the law. The mistreatment of workers includes being: required to work excessively long hours, paid low wages or no wages, subject to sexual or street harassment, lookism, ageism or deprivation of other employment rights. What is unusual about Fringe workers is they normally only work for a short time (often a maximum of two months). Also, in respect of performers and other theatre workers, they might be inclined to work on a voluntary, unpaid basis to gain the necessary experience to kickstart their careers. Employers will often be theatrical promoters in charge of productions at a number of venues. This paper highlights the issues surrounding working at the Fringe and identifies the employment law issues for its workers. This involves identifying likely breaches of legislation under the civil law and contract law by employers. Also, the consideration of how the criminal law could apply to the treatment of workers is undertaken. Finally, it involves an analysis of how the rights of Fringe workers could be better protected. The findings and recommendations in this paper will have application to any situation where someone is employed as a volunteer or worker in an artistic setting on a short-term basis. Design/methodology/approach: This paper is a review of sources drawn from articles in law journals, newspapers, etc. Findings: The findings of this paper suggest that there is a need for reform of the law. Research limitations/implications: This paper focuses on improving the rights of Fringe workers who have a history of being neglected or abused. Practical implications: This paper ensures improved rights for Fringe workers. Social implications: This paper analyses issues that are relevant for all workers in the arts at festivals, etc., throughout the UK. Originality/value: This paper is extremely original.


MIDDLEMISS, S. 2021. The legal rights of workers and volunteers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. International journal of law and management [online], 63(1), pages 51-64. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 17, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 17, 2020
Publication Date Feb 28, 2021
Deposit Date Sep 21, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 21, 2020
Journal International Journal of Law and Management
Print ISSN 1754-243X
Electronic ISSN 1754-2448
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 63
Issue 1
Pages 51-64
Keywords Arts; Discrimination; Edinburgh; Employees' rights; Employment protection; Harassment; Performers; Remuneration; Voluntary workers; Working time
Public URL


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