Solicitor’s love of law and musical theatre raises curtain on new Edinburgh showbiz agency
Watching the spectacular West End shows that tour to The Playhouse from his vantage point at the back of the darkened auditorium, law student Joe Boyd dreamed of combining his love of legal practice and musical theatre in a venture to help entertainers in and around the Capital.
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Earlier this month, Entertainment Edinburgh opened its doors on Bread Street. The brainchild of the 37-year-old, now a practising court solicitor for 10 years, Entertainment Edinburgh is an agency dedicated to representing and advising people working in the arts.
Recalling its origins, Boyd remembers, "I started at The Playhouse in 2005 when I was in second year at law school. I was an usher to start with but got made up to supervisor fairly early on and continued as that, apart from when I was away in the Borders doing my legal traineeship."
He continues, "Before I graduated I was encouraged to become Front of House shop steward – The Playhouse was just about to be sold by Live Nation to ATG and there were a lot of redundancies planned. As I was studying law the pressure was on me to do it and I felt obliged, but I also remember seeing shows like The Lion King and Mary Poppins coming to Edinburgh for the first time. I’d talk to the company managers in the pub after the show and realised just how much legal stuff was involved, even in their jobs."
That realisation not only sparked the idea of an agency but also allowed Boyd a way of indulging his two loves simultaneously.
Educated at Duddingston Primary and then Portobello High, he reveals that originally he had considered music as his way into show business.
He explains, "At school, music was one of my strongest subjects. I started playing the piano when I was eight and at high school I played the saxophone, which became my first instrument. I was going to study at the Conservatoire in Glasgow after school but I did work experience with a guy, writing jingles for Real Radio, and he sort of put me off that."
That was when his thoughts turned to the law, although music remains his hobby.
"I'd always been interested in law, particularly the court side of things. I read a lot of Point Crime novels when I was younger and loved Judge John Deed on the television. I think I was attracted to it because, particularly criminal court, is quite theatrical in terms of the dress and the form that it takes, you're portraying real life stories to determine what happened, that can be quite dramatic."
He quickly discovered, however, that life in the legal system is not always as glamorous as his favourite maverick TV judge might make it appear.
"The act of dealing with a live case can be quite arduous - you have to do everything in your power to get the right outcome for your client. In a complex case there can be a lot of papers to go through, working out how they fit into your client's case and how you respond to them. And there are always deadlines as procedural dates are fixed in advance."
Despite that, he describes it as "a very enjoyable job".
Fully qualified in 2011, for the last two and a half years Boyd has had his own practice, Joseph G Boyd & Company Court Lawyers. It's that experience he will bring to bear in his new venture.
"I want to provide a local and effective service to aspiring artists and organisations that operate within the entertainment and the sports industries - I was a director of Edinburgh City Football Club and want to get involved with disciplinary tribunals as well," he says.
The launch comes at an opportune time too, never more is legal and practical advice required in the entertainment world than in August as the Capital hosts the world's largest celebration of the arts, albeit on a slightly more modest scale this year.
"Entertainment Edinburgh will offer a resource from the heart of the Festival City. Instead of people having to go elsewhere to get this sort of advice, representation and service, I can provide that at point of source - in Edinburgh, for Edinburgh, from Edinburgh."
With the Fringe now underway after a year off, Boyd reflects it's at times like this that his agency will come into its own.
"Putting a show on at the Fringe is no longer about just pitching up in Edinburgh with your tent. Edinburgh is a beautiful city but it is very unique, you have to research venues, the best way to market your show, where you will stay and then, when you have a blueprint, come to Entertainment Edinburgh and we will realise that for you.
"As a company run by someone who was born and raised in the city, and who knows it like the back of my hand, as well as doing the contractual and legal side of things I can also take a holistic approach when advising on the practical aspects of staging a production, especially for those who might need advice about venues, accommodation and the like.”
He continues, “The main point of concern for anyone appearing at the Fringe is the arrangement they have with the person, venue or organisation with whom they are contracting – the commercial contract.
"There are various contracts people sign every day of their lives the ramifications of which they understand, whether it's the contract they sign when they get a new job or open a bank account, but commercial contracts are very different with a lot of pitfalls. You have to ensure the right things are in it and it's important for Fringe acts particularly to know exactly what they are getting into as they tend to be working to a limited budget.
"Getting everything nailed down at the start will prevent you having to deal with a lot of disruption and cost at the end. If you take it seriously, have everything dotted and crossed at the start, you can enjoy the experience and avoid pitfalls later.”
The agency’s ability to address all aspects of any legal work required will be unique in the Capital, Boyd’s believes.
"What I have, which other agencies don't, is a sister law firm that can carry out any formal legal work,” he explains, “Essentially, it will be done in house rather than outsourcing it, which could be more disruptive and expensive. Entertainment Edinburgh will be a one-shop stop for legal and practical advice for local groups and acts not just at Fringe time, but when staging shows in the Capital all year ‘round.”