Tag Archives: Alan Anderson

Cowgatehead chaos: the unseen emails

This week’s Grouchy Club podcast

Copstick argues her point in this week’s Grouchy Club podcast

This week’s Grouchy Club Podcast features a slight disagreement between co-host Kate Copstick and me about the mess over the Cowgatehead venue at this year’s upcoming Edinburgh Fringe.
VIDEO HERE
AUDIO-ONLY HERE

In the podcast, I say that I think Peter Buckley Hill (known as PBH) of the PBH Free Fringe and the competing Freestival organisers are both telling the truth as they perceive it, even though their versions of what has happened seem mutually exclusive. You would have to listen to the podcast to get the idea. (Never knowingly underpromoted.)

The basic highly-simplified situation is that both organisations claim to have had rights to the Cowgatehead venue. The PBH Free Fringe now have a written contract; the Freestival claim to have had an earlier oral contract. Under Scots law, oral contracts are legally binding.

The key point to me is the point at which the Freestival offered a ‘compromise’ solution of splitting the rights to the building in two (as they were last year) with the PBH Free Fringe staging shows in the upper half of the building and the Freestival staging shows in the lower half.

It was the point at which this proposed ‘compromise’ meeting did not happen that it became inevitable that acts could lose an estimated £77,000.

As I understand it, the idea of splitting the building is currently totally unacceptable to the PBH Free Fringe. There is also disagreement over the number of venues possible in the building, with PBH saying it is not possible to put nine performance rooms in the bottom half.

In a statement on 5th June, Frank Galbraith of PBH Free Fringe wrote (the capitals are his):


So that we are all clear on this point the licensee has confirmed with us and the Fringe Office that NO COMPROMISE MEETING WAS EVER AGREED OR EVEN DISCUSSED WITH FREESTIVAL FOR THEM TO USE OR SHARE THE BUILDING.


As I understand it, the compromise suggested by Freestival involved splitting the high-rise venue (as last year) with the Free Fringe running six rooms (at the top) and Freestival running nine rooms (at the bottom), three of which they would specially build.

As I understand it, the PBH Fringe holds that it is not possible to have nine rooms in the bottom half of the building.

On Scots comedian Alan Anderson’s Facebook page, there is a posting from Al Cowie, who was part of the team administering the Freestival last year (but who is not working with them this year). He writes that, last year, Freestival themselves built the six rooms used and he continues:


Freestival had budgeted for building a further 3 rooms this year, and would no doubt have done so in the current situation had PBH allowed this. So while PBH has made claims that the 3 rooms never existed, this is correct but also disingenuous.

As for the meeting between the licencee and Freestival, before PBH then phoned the licencee again (according to PBH’s own words), apparently when the licencee met with the Freestival team, he agreed in principal with PBH getting the top of the building (above George IV Bridge). PBH had it last year, and 6 spaces could be housed there with ease (there is space there for substantially more stages in fact). Freestival would stay in the bottom. As compromises go, it was a good one.

Of course, this is if we are to believe both PBH and Freestival (and the words used by PBH denying the compromise are very careful in not saying that Freestival have lied about their meeting with the licencee or whether the licencee agreed, it is other people interpreting those words as him saying that Freestival lied).

PBH’s response to Freestival arranging a meeting and reaching out to PBH and the Fringe Society to moderate (again, taking my information from what PBH wrote) was to phone the licencee. After that conversation, there was no compromise on the table, there was no meeting in London to happen, and further, it was at this stage the PBH also said that he now had two other Freestival venues as well, the Tron Kirk and St John’s, so disrupting many more shows.

The Cowgatehead building is massive (it used to be a library) and can take at least 19 stages, plenty of space for the 9 stages for Freestival’s, 6 stages of PBH’s and at least space for 4 more. If PBH had wanted to allow Freestival to use the space, he would still have had his 6 stages. But doing so would not damage Freestival as much (and I genuinely don’t think that PBH did this to harm the acts, I think that they are merely collateral damage in his entirely public desire to make Freestival to fail and collapse. And fair play to him, he’s probably succeeded in that).

However, the fact that the damage to acts wasn’t meant personally, doesn’t change that the damage was deeply personal to those of us who were booked into the venue by Freestival.


It would be easy to assume that this whole anarchic ongoing mess was partially caused by the PBH Free Fringe and the Freestival being at each others throats in the whole run-up to this fiasco and that neither side knew what the other side was doing.

This was certainly what I thought had happened.

However, it seems that, earlier this year, there was co-operation between the two apparently opposing organisations and that the PBH Free Fringe, as an organisation, was perfectly prepared to share the Cowgatehead building with the Freestival and acknowledged that a nine-room Freestival operation was at least entirely possible.

In the emails below, the people involved are:

FREE FRINGE
Frank Galbraith
Paul B Edwards

FREESTIVAL
Julian (Jools) Constant

At one point, the Fringe Office itself becomes involved.

Suruchi was a Fringe venue in 2014.

The Elio mentioned is Elio Crolla. I understand the Crolla family own the building and, this year, have rented it out to Kenny Waugh who is the gent farming out rights for the Fringe performance rooms.

I have altered abbreviations to make the correspondence more understandable – For example, I have changed Cgh to Cowgatehead.


20th JANUARY 2015  

From: Julian Constant
To: Frank Galbraith

Hi Frank.

I hope you and mags are well. We are looking for another bar of our own this year and wondered if you were going back into the top half of Cowgatehead. If you are we will stay well away and not tread on toes.

Any pointers for other empty spaces for bars which you don’t want would be appreciated.

By the way. We won’t be doing Suruchi  this year if you guys want it. It’s a 30 seat nice room.

Warmest regards

Jools


20th JANUARY 2015  

From: Frank Galbraith 
To: Julian Constant

Hi Jools,

All well here, hope all ok with you.

I had agreed with Elio to use same space again this year.

However Elio has now taken seriously ill with cancer and is presently in hospital. I understand he may not be with us for much longer, days as opposed to weeks.

Very sad situation for a young man (46ish) and his family.

I will check with his brother, when the time is right, what his plans are for the upstairs level.

I will let you know about other available spaces you can approach, including void spaces suitable as pop up bar, when I get home.

Cheers for now.

Frank


5th MARCH 2015

From: Paul B Edwards
To: Julian Constant

Hi Jools,

Frank’s alerted me to the Freestival listing of nine stages for Cowgatehead this year (I’m trying desperately hard not to get involved). Can I just check with you that this is maximising the space below the George complex and doesn’t include George itself?

We’re obviously keen to have our venues back again and I’d rather know in advance what you’ve negotiated if it affects us. I hope to God you haven’t encroached on it (I don’t think you would have) and would appreciate it if you could let me know asap. Things have been fairly quiet and aggro free this year and I really would rather keep it that way!

Cheers,

PaulyB


5th MARCH 2015

From: Julian Constant
To: Paul B Edwards

Well well. Last year aggression & rudeness… I offered to meet you last year to discuss talk about all of this properly in a adult fashion. Then I get first hand reports from two different people that you were loudly & openly slagging me off in the loft bar to anyone who will listen… & now you’re making semi polite requests for information. I will discuss whatever is or isn’t happening in Cowgatehead with Frank (as he is a reasonable man worth having a conversation with) as and when it becomes appropriate.

Jools


5th MARCH 2015

From: Paul B Edwards 
To: Julian Constant

You’re damn right I was slagging you off last year. I made no secret of it and how I thought you acted was disgusting. It wasn’t just you though. It was all of the Freestival people. I myself suggested we talked about this year at the end of the Fringe when you attempted to glad hand me in The Loft itself, but not until after the dust had settled. This year I’ve sent a discreet request for information to you in the hope Peter won’t get ill again because you’re trying to take our venues. It was also in the vain hope you weren’t being underhand.

I’ve refused to get involved this year and sent the email below in an attempt to avoid any nastiness. I see it was in vain. Let’s just put it this way – If you have the nine stages that are potentially available in Cowgatehead this year – great, I’m pleased for you, well done. If you have made attempts to nick the George complex you’re just proving what I have (sadly) long suspected.

I really do hope I am wrong, for pete’s sake, for Peter’s sake.


10th MARCH 2015

From: Fringe Office (Participants) 

To: Julian Constant
CC: Fringe Programme

Hello Jools,

Thanks for letting me know. There were a few things to add to the venue to make it live and I’ve done that just now. I think it was the confusion around people asking about Cowgatehead as a venue and not the new name of Cowgate Tops George IV Bridge with the space names of Cowgatehead 7, Cowgatehead 8 and Cowgatehead 9. I’ve copied the programme team in so that they are aware as well.

Just so you know, the Free Fringe has not told us they aren’t using this space this year, and they do have an active venue at the same address as Cowgate Tops George IV Bridge called the name they gave it last year, George on the Bridge. We’ll monitor how things go to ensure shows end up in the right spaces.

You’ll also always have the proofs as well to double check.

Best wishes,

Kevin


19th MARCH 2015

Frank Galbraith  
To: Jools Constant

Hi Jools,

All well here, hope you’re well and not getting too stressed!!! the fekin Edinburgh Fringe does that to people.

Also, that fekin building attracted enquiries from all over the world this year, including the Bangkok girlie boys. When they lost the meadows this year Giorgio told me he was offered £50k for Cowgatehead.

Its a great building but it does come with high levels of stress at times, especially when the EdFringe deadlines keep getting earlier.

Hope all goes well for you this year and off course stress free.

Cheers for update,

Frank


19th MARCH 2015

Julian Constant 
To: Frank Galbraith

Hi Frank

I hope you and Mags are well.

After hearing 6 different versions of what is happening to Cowgatehead all from credible people all claiming to have the definitive answer from someone on the inside… We now finally have a conclusion.

Kenny Waugh has signed the deal to take the lower half & you have the floor at George IV Bridge Street street level.

I should have just listened to you in the first place.

I will alter the location description we have used on edfringeware so that no more confusion is caused.

Warmest Regards

Jools


As I understand it, the signed deal referred to in the final email is between Kenny Waugh and the owner of the building for rental (by Kenny Waugh) of the building.

 

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Oz comedy news: mermaids in Perth and British Laughing Horse in Adelaide

Marcel Lucont and mermaid in tank in Perth

Comedy promoter Alex Petty of Laughing Horse and Edinburgh’s Free Festival tells me he has no news of Bob Slayer more up-to-date than my blog of yesterday, when Bob had fled Perth for Coober Pedythe opal-mining centre of the world.

“I last saw him heading for the Outback with Jimbo and a goat in a van,” Alex says. “I’m hoping he survives the trip (and more importantly the Outback survives Bob) and he makes it to the Adelaide Fringe, which starts on the 24th.

“Perth is a relatively little town, but it clearly couldn’t handle the over-the-top charms of Mr Slayer, who managed to out-drink everyone and get in trouble in his first two days in the town even with the limited about of drinking time available (half the bars close at 9pm for god sake). Bob has promised to behave for Adelaide. Let’s see.

Perth is a great little Fringe. A baby Fringe that will hopefully grow over the coming years. Probably what Edinburgh was like 50 years ago, but with sun, mosquitoes and expensive beer. The size of the Fringe fits the city perfectly. Unlike Edinburgh. It’s well worth visiting British performers thinking about doing Perth as well as Adelaide and Melbourne. (but let’s hope it doesn’t grow too big!).

Eric and Marcel Lucont had great runs and Marcel was last seen swimming around a tank with some mermaids. You don’t get that in Edinburgh; there would be ice on the water.”

Alex’s Laughing Horse, Alan Anderson and Nik Coppin are running the Austral venue at the upcoming Adelaide Fringe.

Alex says: “It seems odd to me that, in Adelaide, performers can travel half way around the world, put on paid shows and come home with a profit and a tan – both of which are near-impossible in Edinburgh. I’m getting into Adelaide to build the venue and hoping it will be a warmer version of what I do in Edinburgh with the Free Festival.”

Alex, never one to hold back on publicity, says: “We’re bringing Free Festival acts Nik Coppin with his Shaggers show, David Lemkin, Blues singer Mike McKeon, storyteller Sameena Zehra, comic John Scott. It’s great fun to get these shows from their freebie venues in Edinburgh to the other side of the planet. And of course Bob Slayer… possibly… if he gets there.

Alex is also bringing over to Adelaide the much-admired-by-me German comic Paco Erhard (blogged about here) and also Hollywood comic and actor Craig Shaynak, a sturdily-built chap who once threatened to beat me up over what he perceived as a lukewarm review by me of an old show of his which I wrote for the Chortle website. I think he was joking. He has always otherwise been terribly friendly to me. And he is very funny. An excellent performer. I cannot praise him enough. I love him. I want us to have babies together. He may not have been joking.

I notice Alex is also staging a Laughing Horse pick-of-the-Fringe show and has (as he did at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe) blatantly stolen the late Malcolm Hardee’s idea of prefixing the title with “Aaaaaaargh!” so it gets an early alphabetical listing in the programme.

It’s blatant theft!

He has nicked Malcolm’s idea!

Malcolm would be proud of him.

And I think I could beat him in a fair fight.

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