The Ladyboys of Bangkok, one of the most popular and longest-standing Festival shows, have lost the prime location they have held at the heart of the Meadows for the past 17 years.
The show was pipped by major Fringe promoters Underbelly for the lucrative site in a new competitive bidding process introduced to generate more revenue to reinvest in city parks.
Ladyboys promoters have branded the tendering process “ludicrous” after it emerged that the difference in scores between the two bids after the evaluation process was just 0.04 per cent.
And they will now consult lawyers over the city’s handling of the saga.
Rent on the site is set to triple. The Evening News understands that rental costs alone are likely to top £40,000 per year compared with the previous fee of £12,500, with an additional percentage levy on ticket sales also flowing to the city.
Campaign group Friends of the Meadows had called for measures to protect the park from damage caused by events, as well as additional stewards to prevent littering, barbecues and antisocial behaviour on the park during busy summer months.
Ladyboys bosses claim they were hamstrung by a request the day after the deadline for bids passed to fill in a new form modelling potential city revenues on a fixed £120,000 figure for ticket sales lower than their own estimate.
“We need to take legal advice on the tender,” said Ladyboys founder and promoter Phillip Gandey. “It’s very disappointing. We’ve been there for 17 years.
“The point of this was to get the Ladyboys to pay a market value for the site. If the bids were so close together, surely that demonstrates that the Ladyboys were willing to pay a market value. The whole exercise seems to be aimed at ‘can we remove the Ladyboys of Bangkok from the Meadows’, in my personal opinion.”
However, despite the setback, Mr Gandey insisted the show would find a new venue in the city and would not be driven out of Edinburgh.
He said: “We are in negotiations and we hope to be able to announce within 14 days which other site the Ladyboys will be going to in Edinburgh. Unequivocally, the Ladyboys of Bangkok will be returning to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival.”
Friends of the Meadows convener Heather Goodare welcomed the added revenue. She said: “It’s still not very much when you compare it to £2000 per night to rent Bristo Square, but thank goodness that it’s a lot more than it was before.”
City environment convener Lesley Hinds said: “The council’s tender process is a fair and rigorous assessment and Underbelly will still be required to apply for the use of the Meadows event site.
“The tender took place because we want to make sure the council receives the best deal possible for leasing the site during the city’s busiest time of year. More money is expected to be raised and will be re-invested in the Meadows and other parks, which is much welcomed.”
A city council spokeswoman added: “Tenders were required to offer a balance between the city’s events programme and the use of the Meadows for recreational users and each bid was considered equally. It is expected much of the money raised will be re-invested into improving the Meadows as a green space within the city.”
A spokesman for Underbelly said: “Underbelly confirms that City of Edinburgh Council has informed us that we have been appointed preferred bidder for the Meadows site.”