Karen Koren: Tommy has work cut out

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I can’t work out how to programme 100 shows a day in ten venues for the Festival and it’s doing my head in.

It isn’t easy to choose the right shows that all work well together and sell tickets – it’s not quite as simple as it sounds, even although I have been doing it for 26 years.

After reading his comment piece in Monday’s Evening News about the Assembly Rooms, The Stand’s Tommy Sheppard seems to think it is easy as pie to programme a new venue. But how he is going to close George Street to traffic and make it a family friendly area, with hedge perimeters instead of fencing?

I know only too well that this kind of thing costs money, and whether it will be good for the area or not remains to be seen.

I also heard he wants to put a Spiegeltent in the middle of George Street. I’m not sure the other traders would necessarily appreciate it, and where are the public supposed to park? But I do agree that there needs to be a balance in Edinburgh and not all of the Fringe needs to be up around the university and the Old Town.

There was a time when there wasn’t a purple cow in Bristo Square and no Spiegeltents in George Square. However, the atmosphere around the university area is second to none and you really feel you are part of a Festival. It will be hard to replicate the same kind of atmosphere in George Street.

In the past, when the Assembly Rooms had six different venues in the building during the Festival, it attracted more of a local audience than the Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly. Now, though, there will only be two venues in the building, of around 600 seats and 300 seats – there can’t be as many shows as there are around the university, which now has closer to a few hundred shows between us everyday throughout the Festival.

I do wish Tommy the best of luck trying to make the New Town into a Festival hub, but he has a hard task ahead.