Bhoy, what a row

Comic and Fringe venue at loggerheads

The director of Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms has hit back after comedian Danny Bhoy claimed he is owed £68,000 from his Fringe run last year.

The Scottish comic said he intends to launch a lawsuit over the money, and complained that the dispute means he will have to skip the Edinburgh festival for the first time in nine years.

However Assembly director William Burdett-Coutts says Bhoy only has himself to blame after signing with a new agent, in breach of an agreement they had signed. And he says the amount involved is £30,000, not £68,000.

Although disputes are common between performers, who can lose thousands of pounds playing the Fringe, and venues, who also say they struggle to make ends meet, this row is complicated because Burdett-Coutts set up a company, Ask Entertainment, to handle Bhoy's appearances.

Burdett-Coutts says that Assembly Rooms properly paid Ask Entertainment for Bhoy’s run in August. But Ask folded in the autumn, after Bec Sutherland, who had been running it, formed her own company to look after Bhoy, in breach, Burdett-Coutts says, of their agreement.

Burdett-Coutts insists Bhoy’s dispute should be with Ask, which no longer exists – because of the comic’s own decision to sign up with a new agent.

‘It's a very unfortunate and difficult situation, but it is one of his own making, not mine,’ he said. ‘I put a huge amount of money into working with him. It's not like I walked off with the cash or anything. I think somebody should tell him to grow up.’

He blamed Bhoy for killing the company at the end of its first year of trading, before it had chance to turn a profit.

Bhoy, who is currently touring Australia, had made the dispute public by complaining to The Scotsman newspaper

The comic said: ‘The whole thing is really depressing. I've been doing the festival for eight years and I love it. I'm not even going to do it this year because I'm so distressed about it.

‘I don't massively need the money, but I have a responsibility to the comedy world. If people are being booked at the Assembly Rooms this year and it happens again, that's terrible. I want to make people aware of the situation.’

Bhoy now plans to sue, backed by the performers' union, Equity.

Takings from Bhoy’s Assembly Rooms run last August were about £150,000, but the comic claims he has seen only £15,000 of that. Normally, the venue takes 40 per cent with the rest given to the comic and his producers.

Bhoy has previously been stung by the collapse of another Fringe operator when Pod Deco, which planned to offer performers a much more generous slice of box office takings than normal, failed in 2004, leaving many acts unpaid.

Burdett-Coutts also recently folded sister company Assembly Management, which looked after comics Boothby Graffoe and Tony Law.

Published: 6 Mar 2007

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