25 years of ups and downs... but lots of laughs
KAREN Koren, 60, born in Edinburgh to first-generation Norwegian immigrants, founded the Gilded Balloon 25 years ago, originally as a theatre space tied to a restaurant in the Cowgate.
In 1986, she programmed seven shows a day. The unusual name dated back to the days when female fans of the first balloonists wore balloon motifs in their clothing.
She was encouraged to start the venture by friends from theatre school, as a venue for alternative comics.
Through the So You Think You’re Funny comedy competitions, and the venue’s Late ‘n’ Live events, Ms Koren helped foster the early careers of comedy stars such as Phil Kay, Rhona Cameron, Eddie Izzard, Johnny Vegas, Tim Minchin and David O’Docherty – many of whom were returning for 25th anniversary shows this weekend.
In 2002, the Cowgate fire, which raged for three days, destroyed the building.
But after several fund-raising gigs Ms Koren moved to Teviot House on Bristo Square, part of Edinburgh University.
She is alone among the major venue bosses as a yearround resident of Edinburgh.
Ms Koren said: “For me, I feel closer to the Fringe because I’m Edinburghbased.”
She counts the fire as the biggest struggle she has faced in her career, especially as it left her without a year-round venue.
Ms Koren said: “We would love to be able to present work all year round, but with the recession it’s just not been possible.”
Karen Koren has promoted new comics for 25 years