A wet wedding weekend in Edinburgh

Angels with Bagpipes Edinburgh

We were up in Edinburgh at the weekend. DorkySon and I have been back once since we left, and DorkyDad has been up a couple of times for work, but this was the first time we’d all been back together. It was only a quick visit for a family wedding, but we packed in as much as time and the weather would allow.
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My Edinburgh Guide: D – G

So yesterday I posted the first installment of my guide to Edinburgh, covering A-C, along with an explanation of why I’m doing it. Today I’m posting Part 2, letters D-G. Again, if you want to post any thoughts and suggestions, along with your own favourite things about the city, you’re very welcome to do that in the comments below.
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The end of the Edinburgh Festival (and I feel fine)

So it’s the final weekend of the Edinburgh Fringe! Thank goodness. Fun though it has been, it’s time for life to calm down again… or at least time to start drinking a little less and sleeping a little more.

I did a post halfway through the Fringe, about some of my highlights at that stage, and I’ve already done one over-emotional post about some of the lovely people I encountered throughout August, but here are some of my other festival moments I haven’t had a chance to ramble about yet.

Nom Nom

We might as well get the food chat out of the way. Lord knows you’ve probably worked out by now that the only think I enjoy more than eating is writing about eating. Next year I’m determined to spend an entire day wandering from food stall to food stall, trying everything that the Fringe has to offer. This year I only made it to one or two old favourites, but found time to taste the offerings at a couple of new stalls too.

The fabulous Passion 4 Juice bar had been moved from its usual spot outside the Gilded Balloon to a new, much quieter, location on the south side of George Square. They were rightfully indignant at being bumped down the culinary pecking order. From what I overheard, while I was subtly eavesdropping on the muttering punters outside Teviot, the indignation was twofold, and Passion 4 Juice’s presence was much missed in that part of town. Irrespective of Edinburgh’s geographical politics, though, their fresh, zingy smoothies with shots of ginseng and echinacea remain awesome… If you need to recover from over-indulging in their evening offerings (Hot Apple Cider) then I recommend the watermelon, pineapple and mint.

The strawberry and Nutella crepes at C Too provided some sweet and very welcome warmth for DorkySon and me as we queued for a show in the rain. We made almost daily visits to the Mackies Ice Cream bike, shared several hummus and carrot sandwiches in the Pleasance Courtyard, and thought we’d found our favourite festival food when we had the lamb burger from the lovely Outsider people in George Square. BUT… that was before we’d found the Laughing Stock stall tucked away in a corner under the purple head of the Udderbelly. Not just the tastiest burger and chips I can remember eating at the Festival, but the tastiest burger and chips I can remember eating anywhere in a long, long time. I really hope they’ll be back next year.

Earworms

“Sure!” I said. “I’ll do the kids shows! One a day for the entire Fringe.”

Little did I know that I was exposing myself to some of the most persistent earworms known to man. I owe a large and sincere apology to the numerous festivalgoers who have caught me wandering around the city, pushing DorkySon in his pram, belting out songs from whatever kiddy theatre performance I’ve just left.  My voice is not the best. In fact, it’s pretty horrendous. Normally I mime when singing Happy Birthday at family parties. But still…

“I am a mole… and I know… that it is none of my business.”

“Hairy Maclary…. from Donaldson’s Dairy.”

And my enduring favourite… “Stick Man” – pause – “lives in the family tree” – pause – “with his stick lady love, and stick children three.”

Cue jazzhands.

Perhaps by this time next year they’ll have stopped going round, and round, and round in my head. And I’ll be ready for Toddler Tunes Take Two. Bring your earplugs in 2012, people.

Loveliness

If the downside of reviewing kids shows is earworms, then the upside is meeting some of the nicest people at the Festival. I’ve already rumbled on about meeting John Hegley, and being taken aback by how lovely and normal he was. My second interview was science communicator and BBC presenter Marty Jopson. If he’d not had another interview and a performance to do, I would have happily sat under an umbrella in George Square and chatted to him all day. He was interesting! Self-deprecating! Smart, funny, and kind! Obviously he hadn’t received the memo instructing him to display all his performer lanyards prominently and act like a complete arse.

I thought encountering two nice performers was already pushing the boundaries of possibility… and then I found myself reviewing Kevin Cruise. I expected to hate it. I actually loved it. And because I was the only reviewer who bothered to show up to the Bosco Tent in the middle of the afternoon to see him, KC was terribly grateful. I woke up, the morning after my review was published, to a lovely email from him saying thank you.

It was all very civilised indeed. If I am lucky enough to be given the opportunity next year, I will definitely be sticking with the Kids section.

DorkySon upstages his Dad

So I’d made plans to meet a friend for coffee in the Forest Café, not realising that DorkyDad was doing a poetry reading in there the same day, as part of the 36 hour No Sleep In Bristo event. We showed up just as he was coming to the end of his set  – DorkySon couldn’t even see his Dad, as a decent-sized audience and a dividing wall blocked his view – but he sure as heck heard him.

“DADA!” he yelled!

“Shhh…” I whispered. “Daddy’s reading his poems.”

“LET ME OUT, MAMA!”

“Let’s just listen for a minute.”

“I WANT TO SEE DADA”

“In a minute…”

“WHERE IS DADA? DAAAADAAAAAA? WHERE ARE YOU?”

So I let DorkySon out of his pram; just as DorkyDad was starting to read a poem about him. He rushed up, snuggled into his Dad’s legs for a minute, did a couple of twirls for the audience, just to make sure he’d been noticed, and then scooted back over to me. He doesn’t like to be the centre of attention for too long, DorkySon, but he likes to know that you’ve noticed him.

My other highlights, in no particular order, are: The Incredible Book Eating Boy; meeting up with old university friends; Bubblewrap and Boxes; walking along Jawbone Walk and seeing lots of eggs hanging from the trees; a very temporary exhibition of canvases, hammered to the trees, also on Jawbone Walk; overhearing someone tell John Malkovich that their favourite film of his was Con Air; the colour John Malkovich’s face turned when he heard that; hearing my sweet DorkySon say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ everywhere we went; the Fest end-of-festival staff meal, even though I bailed out to go to bed at 9.30pm; getting squashed on the bus by an embarrassed looking man with a tuba; Fest’s Kid Critics; being very proud of DorkyDad for his show; seeing the outpouring of love for the Forest Café; being grown-up enough that I don’t feel the need to wear my press pass anymore; someone at the BBC saying to my husband “You’re married to DorkyMum? She’s a legend!”

The Fight for the Forest

Unless you’ve been wrapped up in your own wee world, (which is entirely possible for the numerous journalists, performers and visitors who are in Edinburgh during the Fringe), you’ve probably heard the news about the Forest Café.

In October last year Edinburgh University Settlement, who owned the Forest premises on Bristo Place, were declared bankrupt and forced into administration. The administrators (PWC) put the property on the market and as part of that process, terminated the Forest’s lease, giving notice of the date they had to leave the building – Wednesday 31 August. Last week, it was announced that the sale of the building has fallen through, but PWC are still going to boot the Forest out.

Despite their position as the sitting tenant, and despite being the only party willing to rent the premises, the Forest have been told by PWC that they’re “more hassle than they’re worth”. (Yes, they really did say that.)

As Ryan van Winkle, Forest Volunteer and reader-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library says, “I was shocked to hear a PWC representative say they were unwilling to enter negotiations about the Forest remaining in Bristo Place, especially as we have been responsible tenants for almost eight years. I would have thought receiving rent from a sitting tenant would serve the creditors interests more than having no income from a vacant building and inheriting all the maintenance costs.”

I can’t pretend to be a daily, or even a weekly visitor to the Forest. But like hundreds, nay thousands, of Edinburgh folk, I have enjoyed some great times there, and realise what a crucial part of the city’s arts and culture scene it is.

It’s the only place I can think of where, over the years, I have felt equally comfortable sitting alone with a book; sitting with groups of fellow students planning a campaign or preparing for a tutorial; meeting up with other mothers for a cup of tea and a blether; and attending lively music and spoken word nights.

Walking past the Forest, I have often been drawn in by the sight of some new artwork in their exhibition space, or the sound of a slightly offbeat but funky band jamming, or the smell of something spicy on the stove. The posters in their windows always have amazing illustrations, to accompany the details of an awesome sounding event. There is usually a gathering of folk outside, having a fag and a chat.

“Smelly hippies,” said some of my less tolerant acquaintances at uni. Well no, not really; just some good people, volunteering their time, for a collectively run arts and events space. It’s hard to see how that could be a bad thing.

This August, the Forest has been buzzing. There has been the Inky Fingers Mini Fest, a ninja gig from Amanda Palmer, and a Psychegaelic Ceilidh. There has been art, literature, music, spoken word, dancing, debate, and a hell of a lot of tasty hummus served.

It is hard to imagine Edinburgh with no Forest. If PWC’s decision stands, it will mean the loss of a unique space, which serves a passionate local community. It will mean less innovation, less collaboration, and an enormous barrier pushed up against access to the arts in the city.

I suppose this isn’t quite as important, in the grand scheme of things, but it will also mean that I’ll never have the chance to take advantage of the Forest’s Sip and Snip service (a haircut with vodka!). Please don’t deny me that.

There are many ways you can help the Forest. Publicise their cause, write a letter, sign the petition, donate cash, attend an event… just tell them that you love them. The best place to keep up to date with it all is on their blog, which you can find here.

Spoken Word at the Edinburgh Festival

I know you’re all getting a bit sick of me banging on about DorkyDad’s show at the Edinburgh Festival, so I thought I’d balance things out a little by highlighting some of the other spoken word events that I’m looking forward to. I use the phrase ‘spoken word’ intentionally, in an attempt to avoid stoking the ongoing debate about whether performance poetry is really any different to other kinds of poetry… because really, there are plenty other places on teh interwebs for discussing that.

Spoken word is always a challenge because it doesn’t quite fit into any of the neat categories that reviewers like to use – it’s not really theatre (although if it’s good there’s usually a touch of drama), it’s not really comedy (although if it’s good it can often be pretty funny), and it’s not really music (although it is often lyrical and sometimes involves musical accompaniment).

That said, spoken word performances can be some of the most inventive, innovative and rewarding shows of the Festival; props to the PBH Free Fringe for having a dedicated spoken word section in their programme.

Some of the ones I’m most looking forward to are:

Blind Poetics – Weekly Cabaret: Hosted by Edinburgh favourite Texture (of Chemical Poets fame), this is the August expansion of the monthly Blind Poetics night that takes place throughout the rest of the year. Expect short stories, poetry, monologues, music, and lots and lots of beer.

Catherine Brogan’s Poetry Hitch: I haven’t yet seen her perform, but Catherine Brogan is one of those names I’ve kept hearing since last year’s festival, so I’m hoping to make it along this time. The Northern Irish squatter poet (yes, really) will be hitchhiking her way to Edinburgh, and is offering guest spots to poets she meets along the way.

Inky Fingers MiniFest: InkyFingers is another regular Edinburgh night, run by the ever-interesting Harry Giles. The MiniFest is taking place as part of the FringeWords series of events at the Forest Café this summer. There will be an international flavour to the festival, with poets including Daan Doeesborgh and Sergio Garau making the trip across to Edinburgh.

Hydronomicon: Featuring another of the Chemical Poets, slam champ Harlequinade, along with producer Asthmatic Astronaut, this is where to come for your hip-hop fix. Audience members at last month’s Blind Poetics got a brilliant teaser performance of this, and a show that’s described as a rap apocalypse can’t possibly be bad.

UrBanter: Hurrah! Anita Govan has been kinda quiet recently (by quiet I mean she’s been working on a new collection and doing workshops in schools and communities, rather than tearing up the stages of Edinburgh like she was a year or two back…) but she’s back for a week of performances at the PBH Free Fringe. There will be top notch poetry and music, it takes place in a pub, and it’s free to get in. All good.

Utter: Utter is only at the Fringe for three nights this year, rather than the epic 22 show run that they managed last year – but quality over quantity and all that, right? Two of the shows are solo spoken word performances from Utter host Richard Tyrone Jones, and one is the grand finale of spoken word at the PBH Free Fringe, featuring all the festival favourites.

There are a load of other great looking spoken word shows taking place – The Hardly Boys and John Hegley to name just two – so if it’s your thing then do check out the programmes on the Fringe and PBH Free Fringe sites.

(Psssst. I know I said I wouldn’t, but I just can’t help myself… Young Dawkins -What I Know About Women So Far is also taking place as part of the PBH Free Fringe. As well as new poems from the Scottish Slam Poetry Champion 2011, there will be guest spots featuring some well kent faces from the Scottish poetry scene (and possibly even further afield…), along with music from Salsa Celtica’s Steve Kettley, and the Click Clack Club’s Dave Conway. It’s all very exciting indeed!)