Shows cancelled as main Assembly venue is denied to top promoter
A STRING of shows has had to be cancelled by the biggest promoter at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe after it was forced out of one of its flagship venues, due to dry rot.
The company, which hires the Assembly Rooms from Edinburgh city council every year, has finally admitted defeat over the use of its main ballroom, following the discovery of problems in its roof earlier this year.
But it is also planning to extend its use of the home of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in an effort to rescue other big-name shows. Two new venues will be created at the Assembly Hall, on the Mound, to curb the impact of the loss of the 340-capacity ballroom.
Eleventh-hour talks had been held with the council in the hope of avoiding leaving the Assembly, which has just lost a major sponsorship deal with brewing giant Belhaven. But the ballroom – closed for all events since February – has been ruled out, despite specialists being called in to see if its temporary use was possible.
However, William Burdett-Coutts, director of Assembly, yesterday launched a stinging attack on the council's handling of the affair, saying it had had a "catastrophic" impact on plans for this year's Fringe. The ballroom is the second-biggest Fringe space in the building.
Council officials admitted the discovery of dry rot only in February, despite spending several years studying the condition of the building as part of planning for a 12 million revamp. Crisis talks were launched with Assembly the following month, when council officials insisted repair work was unlikely to be finished in time for the Festival. But these have now ended after Assembly was told there was no question of a reprieve for the ballroom.
Mr Burdett-Coutts said: "We've now been told there's no way we can be guaranteed use of the ballroom. We're desperately trying to relocate the shows we had booked in, and it's had a catastrophic impact on our plans. We've already had to cancel three shows, and there are several more we don't have a home for."
Deidre Brock, culture leader on the council, said: "The unforeseen problems with the ballroom's ceiling pose an unacceptable risk to public safety and, regrettably, this part of the venue cannot be made available for the Fringe."
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