Ladyboys may go to Glasgow over Meadows price rise

The Ladyboys of Bangkok have been leasing the Meadows during the Festival for the last 16 years. Picture: contributed
The Ladyboys of Bangkok have been leasing the Meadows during the Festival for the last 16 years. Picture: contributed
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The best-selling show on the Fringe has threatened to quit Edinburgh over proposed new costs to rent the Meadows – and may switch to Glasgow instead.

The Ladyboys of Bangkok say a shake-up of park leasing rules – which is set to increase their costs and may curtail the length of their run – could make the summer extravaganza too expensive to produce, stripping the Capital of one of its most popular annual events.

It comes as a new Parks Manifesto was rubber-stamped, which encourages shows to compete to perform at the Meadows – a move designed to reap greater income from the park in order to invest in its maintenance.

It includes strict new guidelines restricting how long a show can run on the grass, with acts now limited to just 23 days of performances.

Campaigners have long lobbied for the Ladyboys of Bangkok to accept shorter runs on the Meadows and pay higher rates to cover the cost of re-laying grass.

But Phillip Gandey, promoter of the famous cabaret act, said a tendering process and higher costs “would put the show at risk”.

“The Ladyboys are the top selling show at the Fringe, and 75 per cent of our customers are local people,” he said.

“If we had to tender a fortune, we couldn’t make it pay.

“We would have to take it somewhere else like Glasgow. We’ve just had a very 
successful two weeks in Dundee, and we have been invited to do one-and-a-half weeks in Aberdeen on the seafront at the invitation of the council, who welcome us with open arms.”

The Ladyboys of Bangkok have been performing annually in Edinburgh since 1997 and been based on the Meadows for the past 16 years.

Mr Gandey said the popular touring show had examined “various other options” but could not find another suitable site in Edinburgh which could mean they “have to go elsewhere”.

No other production could have the same longevity on the Meadows, said the promoter.

“There have been several attempts to make the Meadows a success by other companies,” he said. “They come for one year and then go away.”

It has been claimed the £600-a-day paid by The Ladyboys of Bangkok is “peanuts” compared with rents faced by other festival venues and local campaigners have been pressing for higher rents to fund the protection of the park.

The act’s threat to quit the Capital has been echoed by Fringe external relations chief Neil Mackinnon, who said the planned changes could mean “the difference between [acts] running that event in Edinburgh and running it in another city will be the difference between being able to run it for 23 days or for 27 days”.

Environment leader Cllr Lesley Hinds said the new leasing system was a “balancing act” between the needs of the city, performers and local residents.

She said: “These recommendations will strike a balance between taking care of our award-winning parks and promoting the city’s major events.

“This manifesto aims take into account the views of park users, event organisers and sports clubs to make our green spaces accessible for everyone.”