The Gilded Balloon

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The Gilded Balloon at Teviot Row House, during the 2004 festival

The Gilded Balloon is one of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's best-known venues, established by Karen Koren in 1986 in Edinburgh's Cowgate. When a fire destroyed the original premises, Teviot Row House in Bristo Square became the Gilded Balloon's main venue.


The Gilded Balloon was established by Karen Koren in 1986, operating on a site on Cowgate in the building that was formerly J and R Allan's department store, staging seven shows a day.[1][2][3] The name is taken from James Spittal, a draper and silk merchant who built the building in 1823 as a warehouse to his shop "The Gilded Balloon".[4]

In 1988, it devised the competition "'So You Think You're Funny",[1][5] which has been won by many notable comics including Rhona Cameron, Lee Mack, Dylan Moran, Tommy Tiernan and Peter Kay; other finalists have included Ed Byrne, Jason Byrne, Ardal O’Hanlon and Johnny Vegas. The competition was sponsored by Channel 4 from 1993 until 2004,[6] with five and the Paramount Comedy Channel taking over in 2005. Karen Koren is one of the major supporters of Australian comedy talent, and has produced a number of notable Australian acts at the Gilded Balloon over the years, including Greg Fleet, and is particularly noted for being the springboard for the careers of Tim Minchin and Drags Aloud.

In 2001, the Gilded Balloon expanded to include Teviot Row House in Bristo Square, which is owned by the Edinburgh University Students' Association. On 7 December 2002, a fire devastated its original Cowgate base.[2] In 2007, the C venues used the space to create a new venue, the 'Soco Urban Garden'.[7]

The Gilded Balloon continues at Teviot Row House which, in 2014, contained nine performance spaces.[8] The Debating Hall being the Biggest seating 360 and The Turret being the smallest at 50 seats, Other venues include The Dining room, The Wine Bar, The Wee Room, The nightclub, the Sportsmans, The Balcony and the Billiard room.

The Gilded Balloon is based in Offices at 25 Greenside Place in Edinburgh and is run by a small team of full-time staff [9]

  • Karen Koren (Artistic Director)
  • Rowan Campbell (General Manager)
  • Lindsay Howarth (Assistant Programmer and Events Manager)
  • Stephen Armold (Production Manager)
  • Andrew Kirkby (Technical Manager)
  • Alex Macdonald (Finance Manager)
  • Stephanie Lim (Arts Administrator)
  • Christine Moorhouse (Admin Assistant)

During his early career, Russell Brand was forcefully ejected from the Gilded Balloon.[10]


  1. ^ a b Cornwell, Tim (5 June 2010). "Old faces return for Gilded Balloon's 25th birthday". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  2. ^ a b Brocklehurst, Steve (31 July 2003). "Fire fails to burst the Balloon". BBC News. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  3. ^ Raymond Duncan and Shan Ross (10 Dec 2002). "Personal cost of fire that tore through capital Tears of Gilded Balloon's artistic director". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "So You Think You're Funny?". Chortle. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  6. ^ "Channel 4 'So You think You're Funny' page". 
  7. ^ "C Soco Urban Garden". Edinburgh Guide. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  8. ^ "". 
  9. ^ "GB staff list". 
  10. ^ Logan, Brian (17 August 2004). "Edinburgh festival: Russell Brand". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010. 

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