Rooms for improvement

Comic praises Assembly plans

Plans that could take Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms out of action as a Fringe venue have been praised – by one of the comedians who performs there.

Danny Bhoy, who lives in the city, said council plans to upgrade the building and install shops and an upmarket restaurant should go ahead – despite the complaints of William Burdett-Coutts, who leases the venue every August.

‘It is absolutely right that the council should want a building as historic and impressive as the Assembly Rooms to be operational year round for the people of Edinburgh, rather than the private reserve of a London-based promoter for one month of the year,’ the comic said.

‘I'm sorry if the much-needed restoration of one of the finest buildings in Edinburgh, serves as an inconvenience to the “nest egg” of the festival, but despite all the speculation Edinburgh does actually exist outside of the month of August. Some people even live here...’

The planned £10million refit is likely to take the 18th century building out of action for at least one festival – but Burdett-Coutts fears the proposals could also make it permanently unviable as a Fringe venue.

He said: ‘Quite simply, if the council was to go ahead with this it would shut us down. The whole guts of our operation would be ripped out. They are talking about us losing three of our main spaces, and the club bar, which is obviously one of our main sources of revenue during the Fringe.’

Bhoy is currently involved in legal wranglings with Burdett-Coutts’s company over box office receipts from his run in the venue’s flagship Music Hall room this summer.

He added: ‘I think it's high time that the big Edinburgh Festival oligarchs started to think less about protecting the status quo, and started to think about how they can drive down the escalating costs put on performers bringing a show to Edinburgh.

‘It seems that when a show “takes a hit” in Edinburgh the last people to pick up the tab are the venues.’

Published: 18 Dec 2006

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