Edinburgh Festival Fringe producers Gilded Balloon to launch weekly online variety show

One of the leading producers of shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe promoters is to launch a weekly online variety show this weekend to help raise money for artists who have lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gilded Balloon's Sofa Set List will be launched at 8pm on Friday night.Gilded Balloon's Sofa Set List will be launched at 8pm on Friday night.
Gilded Balloon's Sofa Set List will be launched at 8pm on Friday night.

Comics, musicians, dancers, clowns and spoken word artists will get the chance to perform five-minute slots in Gilded Balloon’s Sofa Set List, which will go out live on YouTube every Friday night for the foreseeable future.

All proceeds from “pay what you want” donations will be shared among the acts who perform on the show, which Gilded Balloon promises will feature “big names, newcomers and all those in between.”

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The show is one of a series of online projects Gilded Balloon has been working on since cultural venues were forced to go into lockdown last week.

It has already programmed dozens of shows for this year’s Fringe, despite huge uncertainty over whether “social distancing” restrictions will be lifted in Edinburgh by August.

Gilded Balloon’s venture had been announced days after The Stand Comedy Club launched a new Saturday night online show.

Billed as a way to “save your sanity while also saving The Stand,” it was watched by 8000 people around the word on the night and has now been viewed 34,000 times online.

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Hosted by Mark Nelson, the second instalment will feature appearances from Daniel Sloss, Frankie Boyle, Jim Smith, Fred MacAulay, JoJo Sutherland and Jay Lafferty. All donations will be split between the performers, the technicians helping to make the show and the club’s own staff.

The Stand hopes the show will raised awareness of an appeal it launched last week to help keep its clubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gilded Balloon put a call for artists to record performances from their own homes earlier this week, saying: “The more of you who get involved and spread the word, the more money we can raised and the more artists we can support.”

Katy Koren, artistic director at the Gilded Balloon, said: “We’re thrilled to announce a new online show that we hope to be releasing weekly going forward. This is just one of the projects the Gilded Balloon team have been working on, with more to be revealed over the coming weeks.

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“This initiative has the specific aim of raising funds for performers who have lost their vital income overnight and 100 per cent of all donations made to each week’s shows will be split equally to each performer involved.

“The unique thing about this show is that it’s open to all types of performance - comedy, theatre, music, cabaret, dance, spoken word and everything in between - you really won’t know what you’ll see next. We hope everyone that tunes in enjoys the show and comes back the following week to see a new collection of fantastic acts.”

Mike Jones, managing director of The Stand, said: “When we closed our doors to the public we were seriously concerned that we might never be able to open them again.

“We make most of our money from bar sales so no customers means no income. But we’ve never been ones to give up without a fight – not on our staff, who are all paid at least the Real Living Wage, not on our acts and not on our customers.

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“With help from our amazing comedians and our friends at Dabster Productions we’re doing what we can to turn a massive negative into something positive. Everyone needs a laugh right now, and the response to our first show completely blew us away, with people messaging to say it was the first time they’d laughed or felt close to normal in days.

“This made us all the more determined to keep going, and to do what we can to shed a little light on these dark times.”

Arts organisations across Scotland have begun working on online ventures since the UK and Scottish governments began to impose restrictions on large gatherings of people earlier this month.

It emerged earlier this week that a forthcoming production due to be staged at Pitlochry Festival Theatre would now be broadcast as a radio play instead. David Greig’s new “river movie for the stage,” Adventures With The Painted People, which is set on the banks of the Tay around 2000 years ago, will get its premiere on BBC Radio as part of a “virtual festival of the arts.”

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Last weekend The National Theatre of Scotland announced it would be joining forces with the BBC and theatre companies across Scotland to create a series of new online plays involving the likes of Cora Bissett, Mark Bonnar, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Kate Dickie, Jenni Fagan, Greg Hemphill and Ian Rankin.

The Scotsman launched its own series of specially-curated online performances last week, with classical musician Alastair Savage and Esther Swift, and singers Pictish Trail and Karine Polwart among the first participants.

Meanwhile a £25m revamp of the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh has been delayed by at least a year after being put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic. The trust which runs the 114-year-old venue said it had officially paused the project, which was supposed to be finished by 2023.