Karen Koren: There’s no Balloon at Cowgate

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GREAT to have everyone back at work so we can get on with planning events and new lively things for the future, although it is difficult in this economic climate to know what is going to work or not.

The Gilded Balloon had one of its best Festivals for years last August, and obviously I would like 2012 to be just as successful.

There is lots of talk around that the Olympics will affect the Festival in a bad way. I personally do not think that will be the case. I believe that there are audiences for sport and audiences for live entertainment and that they are not necessarily the same - there are more than enough people to make both events successful.

While the Edinburgh Festival Fringe does not have as much to spend on advertising and publicity as the Olympics, we do have the advantage of being the biggest and oldest arts festival in the world. This carries a lot of clout and this does give us an edge.

I was taken down memory lane by a photographer the other day. He had been given the task of photographing me at what had been the Cowgate site of the old Gilded Balloon. It was for a story on the SoCo branded gapsite, as it is now known. This was where, ten years ago last month, the old Gilded Balloon burnt to the ground along with a couple of pubs, the old La Belle Angele, arts offices, a gallery and university buildings.

There were 11 owners in total, which did not include the Gilded Balloon as we only rented the premises. Planning permission has now been obtained to build a 200+ bedroom hotel on this site, together with a new cultural and leisure hub. It is interesting to note, though, that while La Belle Angele may get the opportunity to go back there, the Gilded Balloon has not been approached.

We tried to talk to the owners a few years ago, however, though they state they’d like an eclectic mix to revitalise the Cowgate. There appears to be no indication that this will be the case.