Tag Archives: David J Hand

Improbable but true: The Edinburgh Fringe ‘Big Four’ venues are not so big

Two updates to yesterday’s blog in which I mentioned an odd coincidental meeting at an Edinburgh Fringe launch in London.


I also mentioned that, last night, I was going to a London Fortean Society talk on The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day.

I had already seen this talk by David J Hand back in February at the splendidly-titled Dirty Dick’s in the City of London. But the talk was so interesting I thought I would see it again. It may seem improbable that I would see it a second time, but it is true.

Conway Hall - improbable meeting place

Conway Hall – an improbable meeting place

This was the first meeting in the Fortean Society’s new, occasional, venue Conway Hall at Red Lion Square in Holborn.

The host asked how many people had been to a Fortean Society meeting before. I think only three hands went up.

There were, I think, just over 100 seats and eventually only four empty seats remained, scattered around; one was next to me. Almost at the last moment before the talk started, a man sat in the seat. After the talk finished, we chatted.

He, too, had been to a Fortean Society meeting before. In fact, he, too, had seen exactly the same lecture back in February.

A coincidence. Not a big one. But, in a hall of just over 100 people, only three of whom had been to any Fortean meeting before, with only four empty seats before it started, another man who had seen exactly the same lecture before had sat next to me. Proof that coincidences, miracles and rare events do happen every day.


In yesterday’s blog, I also mentioned going to a launch event for the Edinburgh Fringe’s ‘Big Four’ venues – the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly.

This brought a comment from Charles Pamment, who runs the Space UK venues at the Fringe:

Charles Pamment at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

Charles Pamment of theSpace at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

As you know I’m not one to rock a boat but I reckon but all this rock and roll over the term the festivals “big 4” when it comes to venues is a tad inaccurate, depending on I suppose ones definition of ‘big’ of course. In fringe terms I’d like to think it means a venues performance programme size, a number of shows, or number of difference performance genres or even the number of sub-performance genres defined in the fringe programme. What else could it be?

Knowing you as one who still embraces the fringe ethos as a platform for all I thought you would appreciate some stats, these may be a little rough as not all shows are listed on the fringe site yet but for all wants an purposes we (theSpaceUK) have produced the largest programme on the fringe since 2012. 

And this year is no exception, this August we will include some 290 shows in our programme, apparently the largest programme by one producer in the history of the fringe, so I’m told.

This is likely to be more shows than two of the big 4 put together (recent years define such), and near on 60 more than the Pleasance and give or take a few, 100 more than Assembly.

Now, you could I suppose throw in the free fringe as the producers of the largest programme, but I suppose there seems to be a varied number of different producers of that these days too. So, I suppose when one hears this weary term ‘big 4’ you can understand that one wonders exactly what that defines or is it as someone recently said to me simply a 00’s term that stuck!

Charles is. of course, correct, in that Space UK is a bigger provider of Fringe shows than any of the oft-called Big Four.

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Improbability factor of L.A. actress and a man at the Edinburgh Fringe, London

Charlie Wood(Underbelly), William Burdett-Coutts (Assembly), Ed Bartlam (Underbelly), Karen Koren (Gilded Balloon), Kath Maitland (Edinburgh Fringe), Anthony Alderson (Pleasance)

(L-R) Big 4 Fringe venue owners Charlie Wood (Underbelly), William Burdett-Coutts (Assembly), Ed Bartlam (Underbelly), Karen Koren (Gilded Balloon), Kath Maitland (Edinburgh Fringe) and Anthony Alderson (Pleasance)

Tonight, I am going to a London Fortean Society lecture by David J Hand on The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day.

Well, one happened last night when I went to the ‘Big Four’ venues’ Edinburgh Fringe launch at the Udderbelly on London’s South Bank.

I was with Rochdale-born, L.A.-based actress and producer Amanda Fleming (no relation). She was off getting drinks (that is what producers do) when I was accosted by two people – a man and woman.

“Where are you from?” they asked me.

It turned out they meant: “What do you do?”

They were theatre producer Jude Merrill and writer/performer Saikat Ahamed, plugging their new Edinburgh Fringe production Strictly Balti.

“We were told,” said Jude, “that the important thing to do to get publicity was to find bloggers.”

“That’s only,” I said, “because no-one knows what’s going on in the media now and people are clutching at any and every unknown straw.”

Strange results from a decision in Birmingham

Strange results from a parental decision in Birmingham, UK

Strictly Balti tells the true story of how Saikat Ahamed’s Bangladeshi parents in Birmingham – a family of lawyers, doctors and suchlike respectable professionals – did not want him to become an actor so persuaded him to take dancing lessons. The result was that he decided he wanted to become an actor.

At this point, Amanda Fleming (no relation) came back with drinks.

I introduced her to them.

They had a little chat.

Saint Ahamed, Jude Merrill and Amanda Fleming last night

Saikat Ahamed, Jude Merrill & Amanda Fleming (no relation)

Then Saikat Ahamed said to Amanda Fleming (no relation): “Have I met you?”

There was a pause.

“Did you stay in my house?” he asked.

I looked at Amanda Fleming (no relation).

I saw the sudden realisation on her face.

“Good God!” she said.

“I had a house in Ilford,” Saikat told me.

“You did?” I asked. “I was partly brought up in Ilford. Your house wasn’t 39 Mitcham Road was it?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“That’s a pity,” I said. “I would have been an even better coincidence.”

“I was doing a pantomime,” said Amanda Fleming (no relation).

“Oh no you weren’t,” I said.

“Oh yes I was,” said Amanda Fleming (no relation).

From Birmingham, Ilford, Rochdale and London to this

From Birmingham, Ilford, Rochdale and Los Angeles to Edinburgh Fringe London launch

“We had a mutual friend, Lee,” said Saikat Ahamed. “You weren’t staying there long.”

“It was only,” said Amanda Fleming (no relation), “like two or three weeks, during rehearsal time.”

They had not seen each other for around 15 years and then only for a few weeks and he had accosted me randomly as I passed at an Edinburgh Fringe press launch to which Amanda Fleming (no relation) had also come. As she was temporarily not in L.A.

Tonight, I will be paying special attention to The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day.

Who knows what may happen?

There is a trailer for Strictly Balti on youTube.

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