Cash row hits venue

Comics' claim for unpaid fees

A group of comedians are threatening legal action against an Edinburgh venue over hundreds of pounds of unpaid fees.

The news will cause alarm among other acts planning to perform at the troubled Cowgate Central during the Fringe, which opens this week.

The comics say the venue had guaranteed them payment to perform at its regular club nights earlier this year, with cancellation fees if the shows were dropped.  But when the gigs were pulled over problems getting a drinks licence, the venue reneged on the deal.

By that time, the comedians were out of pocket on fares spent to get to Edinburgh – and some were not even told of the cancellation until the day before their gig.

Stand-up Danny James had been booked for a month’s worth of compering gigs. He said: “I had spent £228 on train fares in advance. Not only did they guarantee they would honour the money for the fares, but they guaranteed they'd honour the bookings as well. They now owe me more than £800, and I have instructed a solicitor.”

Martin Bigpig, Kevin Hayes and Gary Delaney are among the other comedians affected.

Agent Jon Briley has now given venue owner Thomas McAleer seven days to pay the outstanding money or face further legal action through the small claims court.

When Chortle asked Mr McAleer for comment, he said: “Stop annoying me, you’re nothing more than a little shit. I’ll see you in court when I’m good and ready.”

McAleer is threatening to take legal action against Chortle over a previous story about the closure of Cowgate Central’s comedy nights and the departure of its comedy booker Corry Craig.

At the time, he claimed: “All acts booked by my company have been and will continue to be paid as they present themselves."

The venue has now also cancelled the late-night comedy and music shows it had planned to stage during the festival.

McAleer previously sacked his colleague in the operation, American stand-up Paul Wagner, after he announced ambitious plans for huge tented venues on the fire-damaged site of the old Gilded Balloon – plans which, as old Fringe hands predicted, came to nothing. McAleer claims the announcements had not been agreed by him.

Meanwhile, The Scotsman todayreports that joiner Kim Tebble and builder Ken Smillie  have also lodged claims against McAleer, saying they owe him money for renovation work on Cowgate Central.

Published: 2 Aug 2004

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