Edinburgh Fringe rivals fight over Assembly venue name

Assembly Rooms The newly refurbished Assembly Rooms are due to reopen in July

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The men behind two of the Edinburgh Fringe's biggest operations have locked horns over the name used by the newly-refurbished Assembly Rooms.

William Burdett-Coutts, who has run the Assembly for 30 years, moved from the 225-year-old venue last year after losing the Fringe contract to run it.

However, he has said new operator Tommy Sheppard should change its name during the Fringe to avoid confusion.

But Mr Sheppard has described the demand as "stunningly arrogant".

An Edinburgh pub called Assembly also said Mr Burdett-Coutts threatened it with legal action over its name.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly pub in Potterow said: "Mr Burdett-Coutts entered into a conversation a few months ago about how we shouldn't have the name.

"Legal action was threatened from him when we said 'no', but no action came of it."

The Assembly Rooms will reopen on Saturday 21 July following an 18-month, £9.3m refurbishment project.

Start Quote

It shows breathtaking ignorance and arrogance to ask for the Assembly Rooms to be renamed”

End Quote Tommy Sheppard Assembly Rooms

Edinburgh City Council, which owns the Assembly Rooms, did not award the new five-year Fringe contract to Mr Burdett-Coutts.

Instead, it will allow Salt and Sauce, of which Mr Sheppard is the director, to operate the George Street venue during the Fringe.

Mr Sheppard told the BBC Scotland news website Mr Burdett-Coutts's request to change its name was "stunningly arrogant".

WWE Hardcore wrestler Mick Foley and veteran Labour politician Tony Benn are among the acts who will perform at the venue during this year's Fringe, in August.

Mr Sheppard, who already operates The Stand comedy venues, said: "It shows breathtaking ignorance and arrogance to ask for the Assembly Rooms to be renamed.

"It is nonsense and just sour grapes on his part that he didn't get the contract.

"He suggests I call it The Stand at the Assembly Rooms but only about one third of the programme is going to be comedy.

"He should be the one to change his name now that he has nothing to do with the Assembly Rooms.

Salt and Sauce

Mr Burdett-Coutts has moved his operation and the Assembly name to George Square at Edinburgh University.

He told the BBC Scotland news website: "I think it is very confusing for the public and therefore it could do with some clarity.

"The implication is Tommy is the Assembly Rooms and inevitably that he is doing what we were.

"He should call it Salt and Sauce Assembly Rooms so people know that he is running it.

"We are not likely to change our name after 32 years, as the public know who we are now.

"We have the copyright to the name so we did speak to the Assembly pub but we have since realised it's not an issue as they don't put on any shows, so it won't directly impact on us."

Lynne Halfpenny, Edinburgh City Council's head of culture and sport, said: "The Assembly Rooms has been known as the Assembly Rooms for nearly 250 years and we certainly have no plans to change the name."

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