‘Pop-up town’ plan for Edinburgh Fringe

IT IS billed as the party that never ends in a pop-up town for up to 8,000 revellers that will be “not for the faint- hearted.” Scotland on Sunday can reveal that organisers of huge “hangover hospitals” set up for Munich’s beer festival, the Rio carnival and Spain’s Running of the Bulls event have their sights set on Scotland’s flagship arts extravaganza.

An artist's impression of 'Carnival Camp'. Picture: Contributed

A vast accommodation village for Fringe performers and visitors has been earmarked for the home of the Royal Highland Show, near Edinburgh Airport, for the entire duration of the festival.

Tents, 12-bed dormitory units and en-suite double room chalets will be on offer from £30 to £80 a night. There are plans to install temporary facilities including around 25 bars, food stalls and temporary shops, and two stages for performers.

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The “Carnival Camp”, which will operate a 24-hour shuttle bus into the city centre, is billed as filling a major gap in the market for budget accommodation at the Fringe and there are hopes it will become a regular venture in the city.

However, it has yet to win the full backing of Edinburgh City Council, which has only approved the Royal Highland Showground site in principle, despite two years of discussion over a suitable site. Hostival, set up four years ago by South African entrepreneur Giuliano Giacovazzi to operate at Munich’s Oktoberfest, has also been to the World Cup in South Africa and the European Championships in the Ukraine and Poland.

It now has major expansion plans for “the biggest, wildest and most memorable events all over the world” featuring a mixture of tented villages, cabins and containers. The company’s “Hangover Hospitals”, which are heavily promoted on the Hostival website, normally feature staff dressed as nurses and doctors, although this is being dropped for the Edinburgh venture.

The Ingliston site is the company’s favoured destination but other sites are also under consideration. A spokeswoman said Carnival Camp was aimed at offering a cheaper alternative to costly hotels, guest houses and rented flats in Edinburgh during August.

For example, a room for two at Hotel Missoni, on George IV Bridge, is more than £300 for one of the busiest Fridays during the Fringe while the Radisson Blu, on the Royal Mile, is £350 for the same night.

The brochure for the Carnival Camp states: “Imagine a party that never ends, that knows no time zones or borders; a party that requires no invitation. A place where you can surround yourself with like-minded people and where the party never stops!

“The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, particularly theatre, comedy with dance and music also represented and enjoyed. It is an incredibly festive time in Edinburgh and everyone; local and traveller alike are out to party and enjoy life.”

Daily pub crawls and after-parties are promised at Ingliston as part of a programme of “24-hour entertainment”, while other expected features include a daily cleaning service and bathroom facilities. There are plans to lay on buses every 15 minutes to the city, which Hostival claims will involve a journey of only 18 minutes.

The official website – under a section entitled “What Hostival Is Not” – warns that it is not “5-Star luxury accommodation, a romantic getaway for couples, and not for the faint-hearted and only for people serious about having fun”.

Hostival’s plans for Edinburgh come a year after a portable hotel was set up off the Royal Mile for festival visitors and performers.

But the venture – on the site of the troubled Caltongate development – failed to take off and operator Snoozebox, which later ran into financial trouble, was forced to slash prices after initially trying to charge up to £229 a night for a room.

The city council told Scotland on Sunday it was not aware of the full details of Hostival’s plans for Ingliston, with officials still to meet the company’s representatives for the first time.

A spokeswoman said: “We are due to meet with the event organisers next week to discuss practicalities of the site out at Ingliston and ensure compliance with all current legislation.”

An insider at the local authority added: “It is unwise to be advertising so much about this site when it has not all been agreed yet. We are very surprised at the level of information on this website.”

However, Giacovazzi said it was normal for negotiations over sites around the world to continue “right up to the wire” and insisted he did not envisage any problems with the Edinburgh venture.

He added: “We have decided to come to Edinburgh as this city is home to the world’s biggest arts festival.

“Often the cost of accommodation can deter people and we are hoping to alleviate this problem as well as provide a carnival atmosphere which our clientele expect and enjoy.

“There does seem to be a massive demand in Edinburgh during the festival for what we do and we think the prices we will be charging will fill a gap in the market.

“We typically have at least 800 people at one of our Hostival sites, although the capacity at Ingliston will definitely be 8,000.

“We think it will have a lot of appeal.”

The Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston, which hosts the annual Highland Show later this month, said talks over the Carnival Camp were at an advanced stage. A spokeswoman said: “Carnival Camp makes use of our excellent facility here at Ingliston while enabling the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to grow. This is good news for the organisers and the city’s economy as a whole.”

Twitter: @brianjaffa

Have last laugh for £500 on the Fringe

Heard the one about the Fringe show that costs £500 a ticket?

Officially this year’s most expensive show, This is Your Trial offers punters the chance to watch their bosses or work colleagues being tried in a comedy court.

The roles of prosecution, defence and judge will be taken by a roster of well-known comedians, including Tony Law, Norman Lovett, Janey Godley, Scott Capurro and Glenn Wool.

TV producer David Allison, who has been developing the show for 18 months says: “It is a completely original and unique experience for people. The £500 ticket is for the whole show – not just for one person. It is a private show and it’s all yours.”

Allison’s company This is Your Laugh will be creating six shows during the festival. Each show is written around the likes, dislikes and eccentricities of the person on trial – who is most commonly the boss.

Allison says half the tickets have already been sold. Glasgow solicitors Inksters have signed up, as have Borders Brewery and underwear company Bawbags.

There will also be a charity trial, to raise money for Mama Biashara, the charity run by The Scotsman critic Kate Copstick which supports health projects and small businesses in Kenya.

Allison, who is a newcomer to the Fringe, which starts August, says the trial format works well with groups of friends and workmates. “For them it is a chance to show off to their clients and their friends. It is a chance to do something really special that they will never forget.”

Brian Inkster, of Inksters Solicitors said he was looking forward to being put on trial: “I think it is a great concept and a fun night out. With me being a Scottish solicitor there was an obvious association for being put on trial for a laugh at the Edinburgh Fringe. I may well regret it when I hear the charges and evidence against me.”

However it is not the most expensive Fringe show of all time. In 2008, comedian Doug Stanhope offered to perform a one off show for £7,349 – which he said was the average amount it costs a stand up comic to come to Edinburgh for three weeks.

This Is Your Trial will take place at Bob’s Bookshop, part of the Heroes of Fringe venue.