The Gilded Balloon ("Why called the Gilded Balloon?") was established in 1986 and is now one of the three largest and well known venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Gilded Balloon has experienced a dramatic evolution from its modest origins of one theatre with seven shows per day, to operating seven venues, with over 70 shows per day featuring performers from across the globe, all encapsulating the very essence of the Fringe.
In its third festival year, and with a dedication to comedy, the Gilded Balloon devised 'So You Think You’re Funny? in order to discover new comic talent; it has now developed into the most influential competition of its kind in the UK. The pedigree of the competition is reflected in the list of past winners: Bruce Morton, Phil Kay, Rhona Cameron, Lee Mack, Dylan Moran, Tommy Tiernan and Peter Kay. These individuals are all now established comedians, many of which receive frequent television work.
It takes time and patience to establish and gain a reputation within a festival arena and over the years the Gilded Balloon made its mark on various venues, but its constant home for 16 years was in the heart of the Cowgate. The Studio, where it all began, was well known for its music and intimate bar, while the old favourites included Backstage I, II and III and the all year round Gilded Saloon.
During this time the importance of the Gilded Balloon was officially recognised when it joined forces with two other main Fringe venues to host a Comedy Festival within the Fringe. This successful grouping undoubtedly enhanced the strengths of the Gilded Balloon and led to unprecedented television, radio and press coverage. Today the Gilded Balloon maintains powerful links with independent television companies outwith and during the Festival, most notably with Angel Eye Film & Television who made "Edinburgh or Bust" for Channel Four Television.
In 2001 the Gilded Balloon expanded to Teviot Row House to include a more diverse range of entertainment including children's shows, cabaret and physical theatre; housing five venues and seven bars it proved to be extremely popular. In 2002 the infamous Late 'n' Live moved permanently from Wilkie House to Teviot Row House, taking over a larger space with a 5am bar licence and a live link to the prestigious Library Bar. It was in hindsight a fortuitous decision, as no one could have known what was going to befall the Gilded Balloon a year later . . .
On 7th December 2002 a fire in the Cowgate destroyed part of the heart of Edinburgh’s old town. Although the fire brigade arrived within minutes the fire had quickly spread to the South Bridge before consuming the Gilded Balloon. The fire burned for three days and a total of eleven buildings were destroyed in one of the worst fires Edinburgh has ever known. Click here for more information about the fire.
Although devastating, the Gilded Balloon, not to be defeated, dusted itself off and focused on Teviot Row House.
It was a year of change for the Gilded Balloon who teamed up with Underbelly to publicise their shows. The Gilded Balloon sponsor, Metro, produced a brochure highlighting round the clock entertainment and proved to be an invaluable guide to all the shows at both venues. 300,000 brochures were printed and distributed by Metro nationally throughout Scotland and England.
The Gilded Balloon's position as a premier venue is based on intriguing, imaginative, adventurous and international programming covering exciting dance and physical theatre, spine chilling plays and challenging drama, children's shows and the cream of stand up, improvisation and character comedy.
Karen Koren, Artistic and Managing Director, is the founder and continuing creative force behind the Gilded Balloon.The creation in 1986 of the Gilded Balloon continues to provide a forum for avant-garde stand up comedians and writers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Over the years, Ms Koren has earned a deep respect throughout the comedy and entertainment industry both in the UK and abroad. The Award winning track record at the Gilded Balloon is ample testament to her success in innovative programming and in her instinct for unleashing previously undeveloped potential.