COMEDY promoter Tommy Sheppard has admitted mistakes were made over the opening weekend at the new-look Assembly Rooms after the venue was inundated with complaints about overcrowded foyer areas, long queues to get into shows and late-running performances.
Days after declaring the revamped Georgian building was “undoubtedly the best venue on the Fringe”, Mr Sheppard has admitted: “We got caught out.”
He said the venue had struggled to cope with the sheer volume of people who turned up on Saturday night to see shows because both events were late, starting at about the same time.
The Stand Comedy Club director admitted changes were being made to the way crowds were being handled after criticism of front-of-house staff.
The staff are understood to be employed by Edinburgh City Council, which awarded a contract to run Fringe shows in the building to Mr Sheppard rather than rival promoter William Burdett-Coutts, who had used it for the previous 30 years.
The city council, which spent £10 million on a controversial refurbishment of the Assembly Rooms, admitted there had been “teething problems” and said it was working with Mr Sheppard to prevent a repeat.
The main focus of complaints over the weekend was over the wait to get into shows and the congestion suffered by many of the first visitors to the venue, with some complaining on social networking site Twitter.
David Henderson tweeted: “40 minutes waiting to get into the Assembly Rooms last night - surely they can get some professional help to manage queues.”
Jim Dawg posted: “Absolutely horrific queue management by Assembly Rooms staff working Camille O’Sullivan. Is this their first time working an event?”
Mr Sheppard said the main problem over the weekend had been the volume of people waiting to see Ms O’Sullivan’s show, which was 30 minutes late starting, and Latin Live, which was delayed by 15 minutes.
He told The Scotsman: “In a way, we were a victim of our own success. We had 1,000 people in the building waiting to get into shows and we struggled to cope on Saturday night.
“We have reviewed the arrangements since then and changes have been made to try to avoid any further problems. It won’t happen again.”
Richard Lewis, the city council’s culture convenor, said: “Our staff are working closely with Mr Sheppard to address the difficulties experienced on Saturday night to ensure everyone has the best possible experience of the excellent Fringe programme at the Assembly Rooms.”