Promoter wants Assembly Rooms rebranded under new boss

The Assembly Rooms
The Assembly Rooms
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IT is the 225-year-old arts venue which helped elevate the Festival to its status as global arts hub – but what’s in a name anyway?

A veteran events operator has urged Fringe chiefs to consider changing the name of the Assembly Rooms during the Festival now he is no longer involved, sparking a row with the new operator.

Assembly Theatre boss William Burdett-Coutts lost the contract to host events at George Street attraction after 30 years and moved his operation – and name – to George Square at Edinburgh University.

He said the new operator, The Stand Comedy Club owner Tommy Sheppard, should change the name of the venue during August to avoid confusion and suggestions that the two are linked.

In response, Mr Sheppard said the suggestion was “absurd and ridiculous” and pointed to the two decades of history of the famous venue.

Mr Burdett-Coutts has involved Fringe chiefs and the row has now played out in arts and comedy publications.

He suggested Mr Sheppard was taking advantage of Assembly Theatre’s 30-year association with the venue and urged him to put his own name to the Assembly Rooms.

He told the Evening News: “Assembly Theatre has run this venue for 30 years and it is an established name, so at the moment the overlap of the two is confusing.

“I’d call on Tommy to declare that he is running the Assembly Rooms, call it The Stand at the Assembly Rooms for example.”

The city council last year handed the new five-year contract to Mr Sheppard.

The revamped Assembly Rooms is expected to be a huge draw after a £9.3 million refurbishment and the arrival of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.

Mr Sheppard said: “We’re very proud to have won the contract to operate the Assembly Rooms.

“The building has been the Assembly Rooms for 225 years, why would anyone want to change its name? It’s the most absurd and ridiculous suggestion I think anyone’s ever heard.

“People might well go to the Assembly Rooms and get confused about who’s actually putting on the event, but I don’t think anyone’s going to get confused about where the Assembly Rooms is.

“William is just engaging in a bit of sour grapes because he never got the contract and he finds himself in an unfortunate position because he decided to name his company after it.”

Karen Koren, who operates the Gilded Balloon, said both events would expect to do well.

She said: “What are the pair of them arguing about? William, after 30 years, is not happy. He did a brilliant job but things have moved on.

“All these businesses are going to work because the Festival is a huge draw, but they’re much better working together.”

Who are you calling unoriginal?

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The Chemical Brothers vs The Dust Brothers: British electronic duo Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons played as The Dust Brothers – sharing a name with the award-winning producers of the Beastie Boys – in the 1990s until they included a US date and were threatened with legal action.

Macedonia vs Greece: The tiny Eastern European state was locked in a dispute Greece over its name – the latter having a northern region of the same name. It even stopped Macedonia joining Nato until the International Court of Justice ruled against Greece.