Karen Koren gives Gilded Balloon empire to daughter

Karen and Katy Koren celebrate The Gilded Balloon's 30th anniversary. Picture: ScottTaylor
Karen and Katy Koren celebrate The Gilded Balloon's 30th anniversary. Picture: ScottTaylor
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SHE has been one of the biggest personalities and influential figures on the Fringe for the past three decades.

But now comedy queen Karen Koren is set to hand over the reins of her Gilded Balloon empire to her daughter.

Katy Koren is being groomed to take over the company her mother launched with a one-room venue in the Cowgate exactly 30 years ago.

The 27-year-old has quit a career in the design industry to help run Gilded Balloon with the veteran impresario, who turned 65 earlier this year.

They are preparing for an “extended handover” over the next few years, with plans to expand Gilded Balloon’s activities overseas and set up a year-round venue in Edinburgh.

Ahead of a 30th anniversary gala this weekend, Gilded Balloon’s founder insists she will still be involved with the Fringe for years to come, adding that she has no intention of ever retiring.

The venue helped launch the careers of Tim Minchin, Dylan Moran, Peter Kay and Bill Bailey. It also launched institutions like the notorious Late ‘n’ Live show and annual So You Think You’re Funny 

Gilden Balloon had expanded to more than a dozen locations in the Cowgate when it took on Teviot Row House, its current base, in 2001.

Less than 18 months later its original base in the Cowgate was destroyed in a fire.

Katy Koren, who worked in the front of house office and in the bars at Gilded Balloon as a teenager, has been working in recent years in event management in the design industry. Initially, she will be responsible for all Gilded Balloon marketing and promotional activity.

She said: “I wanted to work in design from the age of around 15 and didn’t want to stay in Edinburgh after I turned 18.

“I did separate myself from Gilded Balloon a little bit.

“But about two years into my job, I wasn’t really sure where I wanted my career to go within design. I really enjoyed event management and wanted to do more of it.

“I know how great the industry is in Edinburgh. I’ve always thought about running my own business and Gilded Balloon is so close to my heart.

“It was too good an opportunity to miss.”

Ms Koren’s son, Kristian, a freelance graphic designer, has already been working with the company each summer for the last five years.

The proud mother said: “This is all Katy’s idea. I certainly wouldn’t push either of my children into such a dicey and scary profession.

“I’ve always been very 
supportive and helpful to performers. I’ve tried to run it in a kind of family and maternal way.

“My ambition for Katy is to make Gilded Balloon her own and have her own ideas. I’m not going to say to her: ‘You’re not allowed to do this or that’.

“The industry has changed so much since I started out. It is now so tough. It’s just about being one step in front.”