Tag Archives: Kenny Waugh

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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New Freestival & Free Fringe words – Cowgatehead Chaos Beyond Our Kens

The Cowgatehead venue last year

Cowgatehead in Edinburgh, scene of the ‘Free’ power tussle

The last couple of days, this blog has been devoted to – mesmerised by – one topic.

Welcome to Day Three.

There can only be two sensible explanations for the wild madness of the current Cowgatehead venue debacle in Edinburgh.

One is that it is an astonishingly intricate attempt to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe.

The other is that it is all some fly-on-the-wall pilot for an upcoming TV comedy series.

Those are the only two sensible explanations but, of course, any sort of sense has long since been thrown out the window in this ongoing debacle involving an Edinburgh Fringe venue apparently owned and run by three members of the same family, all of whom are called Kenny Waugh and one of whom was the chairman of Hibernian Football Club. 

You can do your own Googling and there are more recent articles, but a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News in 2006 described one of the Kenny Waughs (the Lord only knows how you define which) thus:


The son of former Hibs chairman Kenny Waugh Jnr, 44, is now the owner of Festival Inns – the operator that owns numerous city bars and clubs including The Three Sisters, Beluga and Cargo.

Initially working part time in the pubs run by his father, the former joiner developed a feel for what was required to cut the mustard in Edinburgh’s bar scene.

He went on to form his own public house business, Thistle Inns, in 1990 with his cousin, pub operator Billy Lowe. In 1997 they sold out to brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle for £20 million. “Billy was a pub operator and it seemed an ideal partnership where I could find and build the pubs and he would run them,” Waugh has said.

He then set up Festival Inns, which now owns bars and clubs in Edinburgh, Bridge of Allan, St Andrews and Aberdeen, and has an annual turnover of £25 million.

In a recent survey from The Publican magazine, Mr Waugh was positioned 63rd in the 100 richest people involved in Britain’s licensed trade, with wealth estimated at £13.3 million.


Now back to the current Edinburgh Fringe debacle.

Yesterday afternoon, the Freestival issued a press release. It read: 


Freestival board member Jools Constant met with the licensee of Cowgatehead, Kenny Waugh, this afternoon and has hammered out a compromise agreement under which Freestival would retain the lower 3 floors which are already booked in. Under this arrangement no Freestival acts would be required to move, and all existing time slots would be honoured. PBH would take the upper floors and would have ample space for the 6 rooms he has proposed and would be able to book those as he sees fit. A meeting to discuss this is arranged for next week. Freestival and the Licensee have already confirmed attendance. All that remains is for Peter and the Free Fringe board to sit down with us and work out the details.

We have sent an e-mail to Peter requesting that he meet with us in the spirit of cooperation and in the best interests of the acts.


One might have thought this was an ideal outcome.

Both sides – the Free Fringe and the Freestival – claim to have the welfare of the performers at heart.

This proposed compromise would mean the already booked Freestival shows could go ahead as planned, as paid for and as listed in the Fringe Programme. And the Free Fringe could book in extra shows not printed in the main Fringe Programme (which comes out next week).

Then the Free Fringe posted this as a message on the closed Free Fringe Facebook page. It refers to PBHFF, which means PBH Free Fringe. PBH is Peter Buckley Hill, the man who originated and still controls the Free Fringe organisation:


Performer Doug Segal’s take on the Cowgatehead debacle

Performer Doug Segal’s take on the Cowgatehead debacle

Frank Galbraith

As most of you know since 2010 I have been assisting Peter and the PBHFF Artistic Directors with venue sourcing, negotiating, retention etc amongst other voluntary duties that we all get involved with.

Whilst, understandably, people are looking for information regarding the Venue Cowgatehead, I feel it only right that our own members be given the facts so that we can put a stop to the speculation that PBHFF are somehow to blame for Freestival’s predicament.

To alleviate any doubt, I can confirm that PBH Free Fringe have agreed terms and exchanged signed venue contractual agreements to provide performers at Cowgatehead & Cowshed during Edinburgh Fringe 2015. This information was passed to the fringe office on Thursday 21st May 2015. Copies will be sent to the relevant bodies only.

One thing that most of you weren’t aware of is there were several parties interested in leasing the Cowgatehead space this year, at least four including a bid from Freestival in conjunction with a new sponsor to operate the bars.

When I spoke with the owners during Feb/March this year I expressed our interest in using the Cowgatehead spaces during Edfringe 2015. I was informed by the owners that several bids had already been submitted to lease the entire building and that they were presently considering their options on either leasing as one unit or whether to split into two units. I was also asked if they split into two would PBHFF be interested in also using the top floor levels (George IV Bridge) again as we did in 2014, obviously I said yes and that I would discuss the terms with our license operators and get them to discuss further with the owners and their agents. During my discussions with the license operators I was informed that Freestival had also approached them with an interest in using the entire building.

At this point PBH informed the fringe office that PBHFF may be using the building this year and that no other promoters have confirmation from the owners or lessors to use CGH. PBH also advised the fringe office that they should be wary of accepting adverts from any performers until the licensees and promoters status was confirmed. I also know this information was relayed to Freestival as they had informed the fringe office that they have confirmed use of the spaces for 2015.

As you now know PBH was contacted by the newly announced lessor of the building and asked if he would promote the venue this year. When PBH informed him that we had discussed providing the entertainment with one of the other interested parties he said he already knew this. When we also told him that Freestival had already informed the fringe office that they were using the venue and that they had already booked acts, the lessor was furious and stated that he did not nor would he be giving them permission. He also stated that he couldn’t have given such permission anyway as he had not yet secured the lease himself.

As we had already received an indication from the owners that PBHFF, to at least some degree, would be operating as the venue promoters this year we put on standby several performers for the venue. However, we decided not to declare this until we had 100% confirmation and a signed contractual agreement.

Having further discussed the offer to promote the venue with our Artistic Directors we met with the lessor the following day and signed the agreement contracts.

With regards to St John’s (Bar Bados) the lessor informed us that it was decided last year that no shows would be programmed into the venue for 2015 should the venue be made available to him. The reason being sound pollution from the bar was interfering with the performances and the performers were asking that the bar area be kept quiet or not be used during all performances. As a result bar taking suffered. The lessor also confirmed that no agreement is/was in place with Freestival to use the venue this year and we also have a signed venue contractual agreements to provide suitable musical acts this year.

With regards to Tron Kirk we also have a signed venue contractual agreements to promote all acts during the fringe and our Artistic Directors for music and cabaret have been informed.

Whilst the allocations and booking of acts has absolutely nothing to do with me, I have been assured that every consideration will be given to the performers affected and that PBH and the Artistic Directors are presently working on the list.

There also seems to be some discussion about the number of available spaces/stages within CGH this year. We have discussed this with the lessor and it is totally impractical to put 9 stages in the available floors. We are presently discussing options for the best usage of possible additional space within the building and hope to announce the details in a few days.

This has been an extremely busy time for all the team at PBHFF, not withstanding looking after 40+ Venues with 60+ stages this year, whilst trying to accommodate a backlog of 100’s of performance applications over and above those that were promised slots by Freestival.

It is now disappointing to see that some people are going on the attack without first knowing the circumstances. However it is even more disappointing to read the statements made by Freestival basically accusing PBH of stealing their venue out of spite.

For the record, when I spoke to the parties that were involved in tendering for the CGH space they informed me that Freestival were never promised use of the venue. From what I now read they are saying that negotiations was with their sponsors it was their sponsor that negotiated the agreement due to their involvement with the building. That statement is inaccurate as their sponsors have no connection with CGH and are/were not in a position to give any assurances that Freestival would be the venue promoters no matter who were the licensees.

I also find it extremely disturbing that Freestival claim to have entered into discussions with two of the parties that were tendering for the site and agreed with them to provide all their entertainment, a claim that is denied by the parties, and then go directly to the property owner and submit their own bid to lease the site and run the bars along with another new sponsor they had approached.

PBHFF have now had to suffer a backlash of derogatory comments in the press and on social media about how the PBHFF team operates. Let me assure you that we are not smarting over this situation and completely sympathise with the performers that have been let down due to the mismanagement of their promoters. We have conducted ourselves in a professional and ethical manner during our negotiations with all parties involved. However, we will not accept unjustified criticism from the people that caused this situation just to try and save face.

PBHFF will continue with the same ethos to promote the true free non for profit model that was put together by most of the performers involved in these discussions. We do not accept sponsorship or grants, we work in harmony with the goodwill of our venue owners and performers to offer a totally free platform for the performers. We don’t pay for venues, we don’t charge our performers a registration fees or take advanced audience bookings to watch a free show for £5.

The PBHFF model has worked for the last 20 years and we hope for it to continue for the foreseeable future.

I trust this explains the situation thus far, well from my perspective anyway. Let’s hope that, given the opportunity, the performers issues can be resolved amicably and we all have a really good Edinburgh Fringe 2015 and beyond!

sláinte

Frank
PBHFF
Venues Coordinator

UPDATE: The PBHFF team are working extremely hard to resolve the situation for the Freestival acts. Having just now discussed the situation with the licensee, in light of recent Freestival claims, PBH will remain as venue promoter for Cowgatehead & Cowshed. A further planned meeting has been arranged for later this week and all performers will be updated.


Call me old-fashioned, but the phrase “completely sympathise with the performers” used in the above does seem tailor-made for any proposed TV sitcom based on all these shenanigans.

I am merely a bemused observer, but all this seems to me to be more about controlling a venue and not about the welfare of and financial consequences to the performers. A classic case of the road to Hell being paved with long-forgotten good intentions.

There was a sentence in there that said: “Let’s hope that, given the opportunity, the performers issues can be resolved amicably.”

It seems to me that a possible opportunity arose and was rejected.

Copstick and me, both bemused, at the Grouchy Club Podcast yesterday

Copstick and me, both bemused, at the Grouchy Club Podcast

Yesterday, between the issuing of the Freestival press release and the Free Fringe Facebook posting, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I recorded our weekly Grouchy Club Podcast.

Now overtaken by events, it may still be of interest. It discusses, among other things, the Cowgatehead chaos, Copstick’s admiration for Peter Buckley Hill and Scottish law under which (unlike English law) an oral agreement is legally binding.

The 40-minute podcast is available in audio

– on Podomatic

– on iTunes

And in vision on YouTube.

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