Hugely successful Ladyboys of Bangkok set for new Leith home at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2020

Two of the biggest-selling Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows in modern times are set to be relocated to Leith in the wake of calls for events to be spread out more across the city.

Sunday, 29th September 2019, 7:34 pm
Updated Monday, 30th September 2019, 6:00 am
Ladyboys of Bangkok on tour in 2019. Picture: Reuters

The Ladyboys of Bangkok and international cabaret show La Clique would be the first Fringe shows to be staged on Leith Links for more than 15 years.

The creators of the two shows, which have gone on to become huge international success stories after starting out at the Fringe, have struggled to find suitable sites for them in recent years.

Leith Links had been hugely successful as a site for big top venues in the 1980s and 1990s, with Archaos and Circus of Horrors among the hit shows. It has played host to the Mela festival in recent years after it outgrew Pilrig Park, off Leith Walk.

Next year will mark the 21st anniversary of the Fringe debut of the Ladyboys of Bangkok, an act created after circus and cabaret impresario Philip Gandey was taken to a show during a stop-over in Thailand.

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The group have been seen by more than 3.5 million people since 1998 and are now on tour for nine months of the year.

La Clique was created for the Famous Spiegeltent venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004, where it debuted in George Square Garden, and then went on to be staged in Brighton, London, Adelaide, Melbourne, Dublin and New York. A version of the show has been staged in Festival Square in Edinburgh during the city’s last two Christmas festivals.

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Finding a home

A spokesman for the Ladyboys, who have performed on a gap site in Fountainbridge after losing their long-time home on the Meadows, said none were available in 2020.

He added: “We’re working with the council to find a permanent new home in Edinburgh for the show. We have a lot of support from them and the Fringe is spreading out a bit these days.

“Edinburgh is always the highlight of our tour every year and around three quarters of our tickets are sold locally but we are effectively homeless at the moment.”

Mr Gandey added: “The Ladyboys of Bangkok were born at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 21 years ago — we have an affinity with the city and even change the end of the show when we’re in the city to celebrate and pay homage to our adopted home.

“The Edinburgh audience start booking in December for our visit – the local people want us to be in the city.

“If the support wasn’t there we wouldn’t be so desperate to find the show a more permanent home. We look forward to resolving this issue with the help of the council and to returning in 2020.”

The Ladyboys announced a relocation to Pilrig Park at the beginning of this year, but were forced to rethink their plans in the wake of a backlash from local residents who said the park was unsuitable for the Fringe show. Plans for the Leith Links site are out for public consultation at the moment.

Leith councillor Gordon Munro said: “This is a speculative application that is inappropriate for this location.

“There have been complaints for two years running about the Mela and parking in particular. There must be a more appropriate site elsewhere in the city. It’s laziness on the part of the applicants part and by council officers who know the city best .”