The Underbelly is a venue at the
Edinburgh Festival Fringe off
Cowgate. From 2001-2004, Underbelly was the only venue operated by
Underbelly Limited. In 2005, Underbelly added the Baby Belly venue. In
2006, these venues were joined by the E4
UdderBELLY and the Cow Barn.
1 History of the Underbelly
2 Underbelly today
4 See also
5 Performers at Underbelly
6 External links
History of the Underbelly
Underbelly was first opened in 2000, as a small performance venue for
five shows brought to the Fringe by the long running Fringe company,
Double Edge Drama. The Double Edge directors, now directors of
Underbelly, had heard of the venue through a production of Gargantua,
performed by acclaimed Scottish company, Grid Iron in the haunting
vaults below the central library of Edinburgh. The site was discovered
by Judith Doherty and named 'Underbelly' by Judith and her Co-Artistic
Director, Ben Harrison. Whilst Grid Iron staged one show there, the
vaults proved the perfect location for all five of Double Edge's shows
with the company winning a Fringe First and sell-out houses for its
critically acclaimed productions of Bent and Marat Sade.
Underbelly Limited and By Popular Demand Productions Limited
were set up to turn the Underbelly into a professional venue with a
number of performance spaces and a wide range of productions. The
venue was set up with performance spaces in the Iron Belly, White
Belly and Big Belly. The Belly Laugh (then named the Belly Bar) was
also used for late night cabaret as well as the venue's second bar.
Space downstairs which is now used for Belly Dance was used to exhibit
a film installation by Nick Hornby.
In 2002, The Underbelly was renamed The
Smirnoff Underbelly to reflect
its sponsorship by
Smirnoff Vodka. The number of performance spaces
was increased to include the Belly Button and Belly Laugh comedy
venues and a third bar, the Jelly Belly, to the first floor. The
number of shows increased from 18 to 50+ and this was the year that
Underbelly really started to make its mark.
In 2003, the Belly Dancer was soundproofed to ensure that it can be
used throughout the day without disrupting performances in other
spaces. This allowed Underbelly to team up with Forth One 97.3 to host
a series of free live music gigs every night in the Belly Dancer,
known as the Forth One Fringe. These gigs over the years since have
included established acts like Mark Owen,
Ocean Colour Scene
Ocean Colour Scene and Skin
and new bands like Keane, Athlete, The Thrills, Nizlopi and many other
bands on the cusp of breaking into the big time.
In 2004, the Delhi Belly space was added. The bars were rearranged to
create more space and ease congestion and queuing. Finally, a brand
new large box office was created in one of the rooms off the front
alley, which freed up the old box office to become a larger and more
usable publicity office with a sofa and coffee. The shows at the
Underbelly venue won a record number of awards, including the Perrier
Award for Jackson's Way; Fringe First Awards for The Ignatius Trail,
Manchester Girl and The Jammer; Perrier Newcomer Nomination for Joanna
Neary in Joanna Neary is Not Feeling Herself; and an Amnesty Award
nomination for Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.
In 2005, Underbelly was joined by the Baby Belly on Niddry Street,
just off Cowgate, a two-minute walk from the original venue. The
number of shows was now up to 140 spread over the three weeks of the
The floor plan for Underbelly.
Underbelly is now just one of four venues operated by Underbelly at
Edinburgh Fringe, but remains at the heart of Underbelly's
operations and represents the true original spirit of Underbelly.
Edinburgh Fringe has come on for criticism in recent years for its
commercialism and corporate sponsorship. Underbelly has been
Smirnoff for much of its life.
Performers at Underbelly
Performers who have appeared at Underbelly over the years include
Stewart Lee, writer of Jerry Springer - The Opera
Will Adamsdale aka Chris John Jackson in Jackson's Way
Stephen K Amos
The Penny Dreadfuls
Frisky and Mannish
The Fitzrovia Radio Hour
Willis & Vere
The Guardian article on Underbelly
The Scotsman article on Underbelly
Coordinates: 55°56′54″N 3°11′33″W / 55.94833°N