Gilded Balloon to expand Edinburgh Fringe into Museum of Scotland

One of the longest-running promoters at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is to take over part of one of Scotland's busiest visitor attractions.

Rory Bremner will be among the acts performing at the National Museum of Scotland as part of the Fringe deal. Picture: TSPL
Rory Bremner will be among the acts performing at the National Museum of Scotland as part of the Fringe deal. Picture: TSPL

The National Museum of Scotland will become a round-the-clock venue for the first time to coincide with its 150th anniversary under a new partnership with Gilded Balloon.

The museum’s 200-capacity auditorium, which is normally used for lectures, will instead host stand-up comedy, live music, drama and children’s entertainment. Comic Rory Bremner and singer-Horse McDonald are among those lined up to perform at the new-look venue in August.

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It will be unveiled weeks after the museum, which already hosts hugely-popular live music events in its main hall, unveils ten new science, technology, art, fashion and design galleries.

The attraction, which has struck a deal with Gilded Balloon to use the venue until 2018, has also experimented with several late-night events showcasing Fringe artists in recent years.

The new venue also marks the latest expansion move by Gilded Balloon since its 30th anniversary last summer. Earlier this year it emerged it had snapped up The Counting House complex, one of the biggest venues for free shows.

Both the museum and The Counting House are a short walk from Gilded Balloon’s long-time home at Teviot Row House. The expansion has coincided with moves by Gilded Balloon founder Karen Koren, who has helped forge the careers of Dylan Moran, Peter Kay, Bill Bailey and Tim Minchin, to hand over the reins to her daughter Katy.

Edinburgh-born Bremner, a Fringe favourite since the late 1980s, will be back with a full show for the first time in several years this summer. A special guest will join him for each hour-long show during his run at the museum.

Fife-born singer MacDonald, who shot to fame on the Scottish music scene in 1990, is joining forces with the writer and actresss Lynn Ferguson to create an “autobiographical play” which will explore the challenges she faced growing up gay in Scotland.

Others shows include Shakin’ Shakespeare, adaptations of Macbeth, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, a King Arthur story by War Horse creator Michael Morpurgo, featuring Game of Thrones star Sarine Sofair, and a science event with TV astronomoer Mark Thompson.

Stephen Allen, head of learning and programmes at the museum, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Gilded Balloon in what is a new venture for us, becoming a Fringe venue for the duration of the festival. Their line-up brings additional excitement to our summer activities and with shows for children and grown-ups alike we really do have something for everyone.”

Karen Koren said: “I am so excited to be working with the National Museum of Scotland. The shows will complement the work they already do and will be a great addition to our programme.”