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Accessible facility shunned for Edinburgh Fringe

a mobiloo
a mobiloo Image credit: belfastlive.co.uk

Plans for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe have turned into no laughing matter for people with disabilities after an accessible facility will only be in place for just a few days.

Over the years a ‘Mobiloo’ has been available throughout the whole event, but in 2021 the adapted toilet was left off the list.

Fortunately, thanks to comedian and physiotherapist Elaine Miller, the facility will be situated at its usual place at Appleton Tower, near Bristo Square, over the weekend of August 21-22.

When Miller heard the Mobiloo was not being booked for this year’s event she paid for the service out of her own pocket, but the toilet was only available for two days.

She told Edinburgh News: “I had an enquiry from somebody who wanted to come to my show and when I saw the Mobiloo wasn't there I was absolutely furious – and I'm not even disabled. It's just wrong.

"I found out that Edinburgh University and the Fringe Society had cut the Mobiloo coming to the Fringe because of budget constraints.”

The Fringe Society told Miller: “Unfortunately we will not be hiring the Mobiloo this year as we do not have the budget or capacity to manage it.”

Despite the unfortunate reply Elaine thanked the organisers for allowing her to pay for the facility so it will be onsite at some point throughout the festival.

Elaine Miller

She said: “My lungs are not big enough to give the size of sigh needed to express my feelings about the way that society says inclusion matters but doesn’t make provision for disabled people, some of whom literally have no voice.

“Fringe toilets matter and I am so pleased Edinburgh University and the Fringe Society are willing to help.”

Another person disappointed the Mobiloo had been ignored for this year’s Fringe is Lothians Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour, who is also registered disabled.

He said: “It means if you have a disability and need different toilets you have been excluded from being be to go to these events.

“The university is a pretty wealthy organisation and to cut disability provision is giving out the wrong message when we're trying to be more inclusive and bring more people back into society.

“I'm concerned that as we come out of the pandemic people with disability are going to be left behind because organisations will use cost as an excuse to exclude disabled people from the arts or sport or other recreational activities.”

A Fringe Society spokesperson said: “Accessibility is hugely important to us, and we have hosted a mobile Changing Places toilet at Appleton Tower since 2017. This is something we will absolutely be bringing back to the Fringe in the future, and its absence in 2021 is not something we take lightly. Unfortunately, due to the extraordinary circumstances of this year’s Fringe, we were unable to procure a mobile Changing Places toilet for the full month as we would have wanted to.

“At the time when we would have to had booked this service, there was great uncertainty about the festival happening in person at all. We’re delighted that a Fringe participant has also hired a mobile Changing Places toilet in Appleton Tower from August 21-22.

“We look forward to being able to provide a full mobile Changing Places toilet service again in 2022, and we will keep working to improve our accessibility throughout the festival.”

A university spokesman said: “In previous years the Fringe Society have used Appleton Tower as their base. The Fringe hired and paid for a Mobiloo. The university provided space, power and water for free. The Fringe Society are not using Appleton Tower this year, therefore we have had no contact with Mobiloo.”

For more information on The Edinburgh Fringe, which runs August 6 - 30 visit the festival’s website.