FESTIVALS chief Steve Cardownie has demanded a probe after one of the Fringe’s most popular shows was ousted from its prime location.
The Ladyboys of Bangkok, a long-standing summer fixture on the Meadows, last week learnt that it had lost out to promoters Underbelly in a new bidding process designed to generate more cash for the city to invest in parks.
But the tendering process was branded “ludicrous” by Ladyboys bosses after they lost out by the tighest of margins.
Today, they blasted the decison to give the highly sought-after site to an “unproven product”.
Now Councillor Cardownie, deputy council leader and festivals champion, has said that “legitimate questions” surrounding the tender needed to be answered.
Lawyers representing the Ladyboys have written to the city asking why the rules were amended after the closing date for bids on January 15 – after interested parties were asked to provide information on their estimated revenues.
Questions have also been raised about the closeness of the final scores, with Underbelly beating the Ladyboys by less than half a per cent under the council’s scoring system.
Cllr Cardownie said: “I have asked the director of corporate governance to look into this to satisfy itself that the council conducted itself properly, and all the proper procedures gone through in terms of awarding this contract.
“Specific questions have been asked by [Ladyboys founder and promoter] Phillip Gandey and they seem to be legitimate questions. This will look into the whole process, taking on board his comments.”
Mr Gandey claimed the show had been hamstrung by a request to fill in a new form after the deadline basing revenues on a fixed £120,000 estimate – even though it expects to make more at the box office.
“We know within five per cent what we are going to make. It’s the top-selling show in the Fringe and we have been here for 16 years,” he said.
“Why remove it for an unproven product? How can you ignore 22,000 people who put pen to paper last year [to sign a petition] saying quite categorically: ‘We want the Ladyboys.’ It is the economics of madness and has the democracy of a dictatorship.”
He said that Underbelly, which hosts the biggest acts in the festival and runs the Christmas attractions, had gained a “stranglehold” on the city’s entertainment offering in summer and winter.
He added that two local companies were planning to merge in a bid to challenge Underbelly’s “monopoly”.
The Ladyboys will be represented by Glasgow-based solicitors Hill Brown as they challenge the council’s decision.
A spokesman from the council was unable to confirm whether the legal letter had been received. Meanwhile, Mr Gandey claimed that the show already had already been offered the use of two privately-owned sites within the city.
Underbelly declined to comment.