An award-winning arts event has become financially independent for the first time in its history.

Brighton Festival Fringe, previously part of Brighton Festival, launched as a limited company and registered charity on Thursday, giving organisers greater control over finances and programming.

A board of directors has been established and the chairman will be writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe.

Mr Fanshawe has had experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a performer and board member.

Organisers are planning to expand the event, which last month won Best Cultural Event 2006 in the city, in several ways. They want to build on the success of tent environments like the Spiegeltent, the Ladyboys of Bangkok and the circus and hold events at outside venues including the seafront, city parks and Black Rock. They hope to hold a street party at Jubilee Square at the beginning of the festival for artists to perform a ten minute taster of their show.

There are also plans to set up its own box office, a friends of the festival scheme and a bigger brochure which will include a new visual arts section.

Nick Stockman, development manager for the fringe, said an alternative festival programme had been operating since the 1960s and became known officially as the Brighton Festival Fringe four-years-ago. The naming of the event caused controversy because another arts group called Brighton Fringe Festival also existed. The group became known as Brighton Fringe.

The festival fringe gives non commissioned acts a chance to get involved with the festival and organisers always hoped to become fully independent.

Mr Stockman said the fringe would now be eligible for grants and Arts Council funds.

He said: "We have organised the programme for several years. But there was always an aspect of financing the fringe which made us embroiled and dependent on the festival.

"We can now develop far deeper relationships with companies and businesses as a separate identity and brand."

Simon Fanshawe said: "The move releases the festival to become a programmed festival and releases the Fringe to do what fringes should do - which is be open to everybody."

The Festival Fringe runs throughout May each year.