Underbelly calls for truce as Edinburgh venue row threatens to roll on

 

One of the most prominent venue operators at the Edinburgh Festival has spoken out against a rival who is “threatening to destroy” the event with his claims of infighting, and called for a truce.

Charlie Wood, the co-director of Underbelly, took aim at Tommy Sheppard, who runs the Assembly Rooms. Mr Sheppard had criticised the so-called Big Four venues, which includes Underbelly, for “squeezing out the spirit of the fringe” with “over-commercialisation and over sponsorship”.

Mr Wood told The Independent: “I’m really angry. I think he’s doing himself, us and every artist in this festival a huge disservice.”

Referring to the drag of the Olympics on ticket sales at the start of the festival, he added: “This year, of all years, we need to celebrate this festival, not denigrate it. Our blood and water is ticket sales, and Tommy is threatening to destroy the festival by putting up this picture of infighting.”

Yet, he offered an olive branch to his rival. “Let’s call a peace…let’s close our hostilities and celebrate the next two weeks.“

Mr Sheppard, who runs The Stand and took over the Assembly Rooms this year, has been hugely critical of the Big Four: Underbelly, Pleasance, Gilded Balloon and Assembly, which is no longer connected to the Assembly Rooms venue. He responded yesterday: “I really like Charlie and have no wish to trade insults with him,” adding: “It’s nothing personal but we do have an entirely different approach to the festival.”

Mr Wood said: “Most people don’t care about this tribal war that is apparently happening at the festival. I’m sure it looks like, from an outsider’s point of view, a whole bunch of infighting arty twats and actually it’s not. It’s the most amazing festival, with extraordinary art going on that we all produce.”

Mr Wood founded Underbelly with fellow director Ed Bartlam in 2000 to operate one venue at the Edinburgh Festival. It has since grown into one of the largest venue operations at the event.

He said: “Tommy sends out a message that it’s trouble and strife and infighting and yet somehow he’s the great saviour of the festival,” before pointing to Mr Sheppard taking sponsorship from an alcoholic drinks brand.

He also raised the problems at the opening weekend at the Assembly Rooms when unhappy punters bombarded the venue with complaints over a late-running performance, overcrowding and long queues.

Mr Wood said: “You have to have an eye for the bottom line to make it a professional organisation. We employ 365 staff to make sure it runs smoothly so you do not get horrors like this where there’s a mad crush and they can’t run the venue professionally. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t criticise someone for running a commercial professional organisations then not run your own professionally.”

Mr Sheppard admitted: “We had a technical problem with one sold out show. We apologised to the customers who were inconvenienced, we fixed the problem and our operation has been like clockwork.”

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam