Gilded Balloon lays off staff as new funding plea is made

One of the best-known operators at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has called on the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland to announce a rescue deal for the Scottish comedy sector within days – as it revealed it has had to start laying off staff.

Gilded Balloon has been a mainstay of the Fringe since 1996.

Gilded Balloon is the second Edinburgh-based company to announce redundancies in the space of a few days after The Stand Comedy Club said it had been left with no option but to start laying staff off.

Both are involved in the Save Scottish Comedy campaign, which has been big-name comics like Frankie Boyle, Janey Godley and Kevin Bridges.

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Gilded Balloon has criticised the “vague answers” it says the government and Creative Scotland have responded with following pleas for financial help from performers, promoters and venues over the five-month shutdown of live comedy.

Mother and daughter Karen and Katy Koren run Gilded Balloon.

An open letter from the comedy industry warning that it was on the verge of “extinction” and urging the government and Creative Scotland not to forget about the industry “at this crucial moment” was published in early July – days after the UK government announced that Scotland would be getting a £97 millionm share of a £1.57 billion rescue package for the UK’s cultural sector.

The Scottish Government has highlighted a £1.25m rescue package for the Fringe Society, which includes a £1m interest-free loan.

However The Stand told at the weekend how it had had “no solid offers of real help”.

A new open letter from the industry also warned that long-standing companies were on the brink of being “lost forever.”

Gilded Balloon artistic director Katy Koren said: “It’s important that we continue to keep the pressure on and raise our voices in order to save Scottish comedy. We need immediate assurance from Scottish Government, as in this week, that we are going to be included and confirmation of a date when a rescue package that comedy is eligible for will be announced.

“I have just had to make 50 per cent of my year-round team, some of whom have worked for us for five years, redundant.

“This emergency funding is too late already. We need the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland to announce it this week – not keep giving vague answers that funds will be ‘announced soon’.

“I understand there are a lot of other art forms to consider but they have now announced a funding package for grassroots music venues, the events industry, the National Trust for Scotland, Museums & Galleries Scotland and more.

“There is obviously a fundamental misunderstanding in how Scottish Government think they have supported comedy. There is little to no evidence of any of the funds they repeatedly mention actually reaching comedians and comedy venues.

“Some of us have received some resilience funds, but that was months ago when the crisis first hit and now we are at a very worrying crossroads. We need help, and we need it now.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “We continue to work urgently with Scottish Government officials to influence the allocation of remaining budget from the £97m the UK government provided in emergency support for culture and heritage.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Scotland’s comedy circuit is rightly famous throughout the world and we are determined to do everything we can to help it through the devastating economic impact which this pandemic is having.”

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