A blazing row

Fury over new Fringe venue

The burnt-out shell of the old Gilded Balloon is to host Edinburgh Fringe shows again this summer.

But the plan, by American comic Paul Wagner has infuriated the venue's artistic director, Karen Koren, who accused him of trying to cash in on her hard work.

The Gilded Balloon operated from Cowgate for 15 years until a fire destroyed the old offices and bar (pictured) last Christmas.

Wagner has announced plans to erect a marquee on the site, as part of a string of new festival venues.

Others include Wilkie House, the former home of Gilded Balloon's raucous Late N Live cabarets, and the nearby City Cafe.

On a website set up to promote the venues, Wagner promised a fairer deal for performers, and wrote: "With 20 venues in our collective, we are the largest of all Fringe venues housed in the most central location.

"With the old Gilded Balloon site under our artistic direction, we're able to provide an arena for late-night comedy, music, theatre and fashion, as well as a unique collaborative education programme."

But a furious Koren told the Edinburgh Evening News: "Who does Paul Wagner thinks he is?" she said. "He's an American comedian who has never run a venue on the Fringe before and he's talking about doing 20 this year.

"He's trying to trade on the name of Gilded Balloon. It's also totally inappropriate to have temporary marquees on the fire site during the Fringe. I'd rather see work starting to rebuild there."

Wagner performed his one-man show God Inc at last year's Fringe, to mixed reviews. The Scotsman called him "a clever and sophisticated comedian of incredible versatility" while the London Evening Standard said: "God, Inc has the intellectual gravitas of Barney the Dinosaur."

Published: 9 Jan 2004

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