Andrew Dipper

Sarah Millican boycotts Sunderland Empire

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Sarah Millican has boycotted Britain’s largest theatre chain, Ambassador Theatre Group – because of the extortionate booking fees they are charging her fans.

The South Shields stand-up announced on her blog that she will not perform at any of the 39 venues owned by ATG on her 2013/2014 tour, Home Bird. These include the Sunderland Empire, Manchester Opera House, Leeds Grand Theatre and the Liverpool Empire.

Millican, who was voted Queen of Comedy at last year’s British Comedy Awards, wrote: “Some of you will notice that I’m not playing some of the venues I played on my last tour; those venues are owned and run by The Ambassador Theatre Group.

“In my opinion I don’t agree with the extra charges ATG put on top of the face value ticket price to you the customer and a number of other restrictions they have in place so that’s why I’ve avoided their venues this time round.

“We’ve booked alternative theatres though across the country so you will still be able to find somewhere close to you to come and see the show.”

ATG adds up to £4.90 to the value of each ticket purchased, and also charges a transaction fee on top which can be as high as £4. That means customers could incur charges that rise to almost a third of the ticket price to see one of Millican’s shows.

However a spokesperson for ATG told the Edinburgh Evening News: “All, or the vast majority, of the sales income from tickets in our venues goes to the producer of the show, hence the need to charge for ticketing operations separately.

“ATG and its ticketing arm also provide an extremely high level of customer service and the ticketing fees cover the costs of providing this service. However booking fees only apply to customers who buy on the phone or online. The range of fees can vary depending on show genre and ticket price.

“Substantially more than 50 per cent of our customers do not pay booking fees. These are customers who buy their tickets in person at our venue box offices.

They added: “ATG is also on the board of STAR, the official ticketing industry organisation, which agrees procedures – a code of conduct – to ensure consumers get clarity over what they are paying and to protect consumers against opportunistic and unofficial ticket selling and touts.”

On her return to the North East next Autumn, Millican will perform at the South Shields Customs House, Durham Gala Theatre, Stockton Arc and Middlesbrough Town Hall – before five nights at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, from Wednesday 20th November.

See all of Millican’s tour dates on her website: