A group of award-winning African acrobats have been forced to cancel their Brighton Festival Fringe debut after a failed visa application.

Fanti acrobats from Ghana were due to perform every day during the fringe at The Hive@The Brunswick in Holland Road, Hove.

But last-minute problems with their visa applications meant the performers have had to pull out of the event.

The shock news has left the venue with 67 gaps in its schedule.

Victoria Gould, who is running the 100-seater venue with her partner Dermot Keaney, said: “They were our main performers and it was our only show for children.

“We booked them back in January and I assume they must have thought they were going to get their visas easily. We only found out last week that they had been refused.

“I spent two days trying to work out how we could get them here. But we didn’t fulfil the criteria to be their sponsors.

“It was just a nightmare. In the end we realised it wasn’t going to happen.

“I feel sorry for them because they had spent a lot of money on tickets and flyers so it’s a real disappointment all round.”

Jess Huffman, operations manager for the fringe, said: “The fringe isn’t a ‘permit-free festival’ so anyone looking to come to perform from outside the EU has to get a work permit or a visa. The Fanti acrobats have been travelling all across the world and managed to get visas to perform at the Edinburgh Festival last year so they were confident it wouldn’t be a problem.

“But at the last minute they were turned down by the UK embassy in Ghana, which said they needed to get sponsorship. We are concerned that embassies across the world are being more stringent about issuing visas for something like the fringe, which makes it difficult when we are working hard to encourage international performers.”

Miss Huffman said the fringe was looking to become a permit-free festival but needed to fulfil strict criteria.

Ms Gould and Mr Keaney, who are running a venue for the first time, said the experience had not put them off.

Ms Gould said: “We have some other great acts and, apart from this going wrong, it has been amazing.”

They are now looking for other acts to fill the spaces in their schedule. Anybody who would like to put on a show at the venue should call 07500 459404.