25 years of ups and downs... but lots of laughs

The Scotsman - - News -

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

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