THE Fair Fringe campaign, which wants to improve pay and conditions at the annual Edinburgh festival Fringe, has been invited to talk to venues by the festival's chief executive as a row over exploitative practices continues.

Shona McCarthy, who runs the Fringe Society, has issued a lengthy statement in response to criticism of her opinions of the Fair Fringe campaign, which wishes to see the Living Wage paid at venues.

Ms McCarthy has said that not all venues at the Fringe can afford to pay the Living Wage.

The Fair Fringe, in response, says the Fringe has "no acceptance" of the issue and the festival should ban exploitative businesses from the Fringe programme.

Ms McCarthy acknowledged that many people had written to the Fringe Society to "ask about our efforts to ensure fair treatment of workers and volunteers."

She added: "Like them, we believe that adopting the highest possible employment standards is both morally and economically beneficial for everyone involved in the Fringe.

"We are unequivocal in our condemnation of any form of exploitation."

The chief executive says that she wold not "ban or exclude" venues, companies, shows or individuals who are accused of exploitative practices, and added "our appraoch has been to work with Fringe constituents to fully understand their models, to find positive solutions, to support, advise and improve."

Ms McCarthy added: "Whilst the Fringe Society is a charity and a living-wage employer, we acknowledge that it is more challenging to implement a single approach across all 317 venues who are registered within the Fringe Programme.

"The Fringe is (and has always been) an eclectic ecosystem which features a wide variety of operating models, from volunteer-run theatre groups and small not-for-profits, to larger-scale, year-round operators and permanent venues.

"It is important to recognise that both volunteer and staffed models have a part to play across the festival landscape.

"Our focus is to ensure that individuals who want to work or participate at the Fringe are provided with as much information as possible to make an informed choice, and that these models remain true to the principles that the festival was founded upon."

She acknowledged that there are still aspects of the Fringe that need to be "fixed".

The statement adds: "We met with representatives from the Fair Fringe campaign both before and after last year’s Fringe and continue to welcome positive engagement, particularly on an issue where we have so much common ground.

"It is our hope that the campaign can respond to our request to share their data with us so that we can develop more constructive ways forward.

"We have invited Fair Fringe representatives to address venues in an open forum at our upcoming Venue Managers’ Meeting and look forward to welcoming them for an important discussion about the issues and ways forward."

In the statement, she says that "many artists, companies and venues, particularly the smaller ones, receive no financial support and that is why we are working hard to drive down the cost of accommodation for those involved in the Fringe.

"We have frozen our registration fees since 2008 and are committed to do so until 2022, as well as reducing our box office fee from 4% to 3% by 2022."

A statement from the Fair Fringe said the Fringe had "no commitment, no apology, no acceptance of the problem."

It adds: "If they were seriously 'equally committed to fair and equitable practice across all venues' then they wouldn’t keep trying to bury the problems.

"If they really 'take very seriously any instance of poor practice' then they need to do something."

It adds: "They need to stop companies who breach the Fair Fringe charter from advertising in the Fringe Programme or outlets - starting with C Venues.

"They know this change would be massive, but instead, they pander to bosses 'reviewing and adapting their approach' and 'working with people to find solutions, to support and improve' more staff continue to face terrible conditions at work, be underpaid and overworked."

It concludes: "Stop ignoring the easiest and most straightforward solution - one that has been there all along.

"Use the biggest pressure point they have and help out Fringe staff.

"Don’t let exploitative businesses advertise in the Fringe Programme."