FRINGE by the Sea 2021 brought more than £3.1million of economic benefit to East Lothian, according to an independent report by MKA Economics.

It comes as the festival reveals its first act for 2022: American soul and Gospel singer-songwriter Candi Staton, best known for her 1976 chart-topper Young Hearts Run Free.

Fringe by the Sea 2021 doubled its 2019 economic benefit by 103 per cent – this summer’s festival’s economic benefit totalled £3,139,616, compared to £1,546,609 in 2019. The festival did not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic

More than 39,000 people visited the festival this year, with 25,000 purchasing tickets to one of 200 events, and an estimated 14,000 attending free events throughout North Berwick across the 10 days.

In 2019, visitors totalled 19,5000.

Of nearly 40,000 2021 visitors, 95 per cent rated the festival either excellent or very good.

The festival also assisted in raising nearly £2,500 for charitable causes Leuchie House, RNLI, Beach Wheelchairs, St Columba’s Hospice, and MND Scotland through events with Prov Johnstone Band, Dave Berry’s Walk The Toun, North Berwick Candles, Nicola Bourke Yoga and Compassionate Communities.

Planning for next year’s event, to be held from August 5 to 14, is already under way.

Candi Staton, the first 2022 act to be announced, will take to the stage on August 12 following her postponement from the 2020 festival.

Meanwhile, a new initiative called Fans of the Fringe 2022 opens today (Thursday) at fringebythesea.com, offering benefits to those supporting the festival.

A ‘supporter fee’ of £250 gives priority booking for up to six tickets per event, a 15 per cent discount on tickets, VIP access, food and drink vouchers, and a Fringe by the Sea t-shirt.

The ‘friend fee’ of £30 includes benefits such as priority booking for four tickets per event, drink vouchers and a Fringe by the Sea t-shirt.

Rory Steel, Fringe by the Sea director, said: “Organising the festival this year was not without its challenges, risks and financial burdens, but this economic impact assessment report really is the cherry on top of the incredibly positive feedback we’ve been receiving over the past month.

“When we set out to hold this summer’s event, our main aims were to gather the community together, bring smiles to faces and put some money through the tills of local businesses and in the pockets of freelance artists and production staff, all of which have been hit hard by the pandemic. The doubling of visitor numbers to Fringe by the Sea demonstrates that we successfully delivered on these aims. I’m incredibly proud of the whole team in making this happen.”

And he added: “As a not-for-profit organisation, the role of sponsors and public bodies in funding the event is critical.

“Despite the £3.1m economic benefit to East Lothian, it is always a challenge for the festival itself to make ends meet, particularly this year with the huge costs associated with Covid safety.

“We are now planning for 2022, which will certainly be a challenge once again, but with the encouragement from so many, we’re determined to build on our success and stage another brilliant event next year.

“Those not wishing to miss out on popular events should sign-up to Fans of the Fringe 2022 now, and watch this space for great acts soon to be announced.”