ASK any arts lover “who makes the Fringe?” and most will agree it is the artists. It is they – and the often small, independent producers who support them – who take the financial risks to come to Edinburgh for three-and-a-half weeks in August to make the event the huge, colourful, chaotic celebration of artistic creativity that it is.

Not a single Fringe-goer, I am happy to wager, will say “landlords”. No-one thinks that the short-term-lets profiteers, whose little secure key boxes dot the entrances to vastly overpriced properties throughout Scotland’s capital, are the lifeblood of the world’s biggest arts festival.

Nor is there great admiration for the upper-middle-class families who fly off to Provence or the Bahamas for the month of August, renting out their homes for kings’ ransoms while they’re gone.

The Fringe may be the most enormous artistic free-for-all on the planet but the barely regulated market in short-term property lets is becoming a threat to the festival’s future.

When even reputable, high-profile festival lets companies consider it is reasonable to charge £800 per week for a small, two-bedroom apartment or £2200 per week for a four-bedroom flat, it isn’t difficult to see why the financial risk of coming to the Fringe is increasingly becoming a deterrent to independent artists and producers.

There are other costs in bringing work to the Fringe, of course. However, the sky-high rents, both for accommodation and for venues, are the primary drain on artists’ resources, and the biggest threat to the future health of the festival.

This problem is magnified in the current period of emergence from the Covid pandemic, when artists are even less certain of their audience numbers. However, it has been a issue for years.

Take the Aurora Nova production company, for example. Led by the brilliant Berlin-based dancer, theatre-maker and producer Wolfgang Hoffmann, the company has staged, to my mind, the most exciting theatre programme on the Fringe over the last three decades.

Bringing to Edinburgh such brilliant European companies as Derevo, Akhe, Song of the Goat, Farm in the Cave, Do Teatr and fabrik, the Aurora Nova festival blazed a fabulous trail for seven years. Installed in the splendid St Stephen’s Church in the New Town, Hoffmann’s festival astonished audiences with its programme of visual and physical theatre between 2001-7.

Sadly, however, despite experiments in commercial sponsorship and, ultimately, a tie-in with major production company Assembly, Hoffmann could not square the financial circle that is Edinburgh in August.

Aurora Nova – which was named, appropriately enough, after the battleship that became the iconic symbol of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 – continues as a production company that takes work to the Fringe and elsewhere.

However, despite the impressive efforts of the Summerhall venue on south side, no-one has succeeded in emulating the brilliance or the artistic consistency of the Aurora Nova festival programme.

Every serious observer knows that the economics of the festival have, for decades, been mitigating against the diversity and the risk-taking that made the Fringe what it was.

Experimental theatre of the type championed by the great Scottish impresario Richard Demarco is a far greater financial risk than stand-up comedy, which requires only a stage, a spotlight and a lucrative, well-stocked bar.

That’s why the Fringe’s comedy offering became bigger than the theatre provision many moons ago. It’s also why the Fringe’s output has been dominated increasingly by a small number of large-scale producers, such as Assembly, Pleasance, Underbelly and Gilded Balloon.

However, if we don’t want diversity and risk-taking in the Fringe to diminish even further, political action has to be taken.

Guy Masterson – the excellent actor, writer, director, producer and veritable Edinburgh Fringe institution – has created something of a stooshie at this year’s festival over the issue of the Scottish Government’s £1.275 million Fringe Resilience Fund.

The cash was allocated to 13 Edinburgh Festival Fringe production companies through the arts funding quango Creative Scotland.

“Didn’t anybody consider a fund that could go to performers?” asked Masterson. As it stands, if artists are going to receive any funds to offset the massive costs of bringing work to the Fringe, they are going to be dependent on the willingness of the production companies to share some of the Resilience Fund cash with them.

Masterson is right, this is a crazy way to do things. It’s also a missed opportunity that the Scottish Government should have spotted a mile off. For the sake of the future of the Fringe, we need financial support that is targeted at artists themselves.

Moreover, we need proper regulation of a lettings market that currently resembles a landlords’ bonanza.