Rights of Assembly

Naming row flares up as Fringe line-up launched

Bosses of Edinburgh’s Stand Comedy Club have unveiled their Fringe programme at the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms – reigniting a dispute with the company turfed out of the venue after almost 30 years.

The historic George Street venue, which reopens in July following a £9.3million refit, will be known as Assembly Rooms Fringe during the festival and offer a line-up that includes Stewart Lee, Jerry Sadowitz and Les Dennis.

It is being programmed by The Stand’s parent company, Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions, which secured a five-year deal with Edinburgh Council to run the venue.

But Assembly Theatre, which ran Fringe events in the building until its 2010 closure forced the company to relocate across town in George Square, says the new name could baffle the public and be considered ‘passing off’.

Its artistic director William Burdett-Coutts, who was a fierce opponent of the refurbishment, said of the newly revealed name: ‘I think its rather disingenuous and confusing for the public.

‘In my opinion, he [The Stand boss Tommy Sheppard] should declare his company is working at the Assembly Rooms – for example, calling it The Stand at the Assembly Rooms –  otherwise it is an attempt at passing off.’

However, Sheppard hit back, saying that the venue is called The Assembly Rooms; that his company is not called The Stand; and that linking the building with his comedy clubs would be inappropriate, as only 40 per cent of shows at Assembly Rooms Fringe this year are comedies.

Launching the programme yesterday, Sheppard made a point of the fact that his team were the ‘first Scottish custodians‘ of the venue and said: ‘People who know the building of old will be delighted by this programme and we hope to attract many others for the first time.’

The line-up of comics at the venue also include 2010 Edinburgh Comedy award winner Russell Kane, former WWE wrestler turned stand-up Mick Foley, and Swedish star Magnus Betnér. 

Meanwhile, Les Dennis stars as a faded northern working men's club comic in the play Jigsy; while Arabella Weir, Jan Ravens, Mike McShane and Phil Nichol lead a strong ensemble cast for award-winning playwright Dave Florez’s new work The Intervention, about alcoholism.

Other highlights of the programme, which goes on sale at the venue’s website at 1pm today, include Scotland's national poet Liz Lochhead, two shows from the National Theatre of Scotland, and a couple of appearances from Tony Benn, previewing a new documentary film about his life in politics.

Meanwhile, the Stand has also renewed its backing of the Fringe Comedy Academy – a free ten-week course, culminating in a showcase at the festival. Last year’s tutors included Fred MacAulay, Raymond Mearns and writers from Mock the Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats.

There are 16 places available for hopefuls who must live in the EH postcode area. Click here to apply.

Major comedy promoters Avalon have also announced their roster for the Fringe, which includes Al Murray previewing his new tour, Richard Herring reprising his Talking Cock show in the same way he revived Christ On A Bike last year, plus shows from the likes of Chris Ramsey, Peacock & Gamble and sketch group Jigsaw.

Published: 27 Apr 2012

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