BBC Poetry Slam at the Fringe 2012

BBC Poetry Slam Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Whoop whoop! It’s almost Edinburgh Fringe time, and I am hugely excited that DorkyDad has been asked to compere the BBC Poetry Slam again.

The Slam took place for the first time last year, and it was an absolutely brilliant line-up of poets, but this year it’s EVEN BETTER! (It’s actually a bit ridiculous how good it is.) This year it will feature the 2011 BBC Slam Champion, Catherine Brogan; Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead in her first ever Slam competition; and a special guest appearance from the 2012 Paris World Champion, Harry Baker.
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My Guide to Edinburgh: O – R

So after a quick break for some Thanksgiving turkey and spot of armchair activism for Save the Children, I’m back to writing my Edinburgh Guide. Don’t get too excited! Today you get the entries from O-R (a mere 1200 words…), and I’m hoping to do the last two entries later this week. Thanks for sticking with me through this…
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Last Chants…

Leaving parties tend to be pretty awful affairs. People feel obliged to bring gifts and cards, which is really the last thing you need when you’re trying to cut the size of your life in half and pack it into boxes. You never get as long to speak to people for as you’d like because you’re too busy topping up wine glasses, and someone (usually me) overdoes it on both the alcoholic and the emotional fronts, and ends up sobbing into a plate of sausage rolls.

So we’re not having one. Partly because it would be awful, and partly because we’re not really leaving Scotland, we’re just living somewhere else for a bit.

What we’re doing instead is inviting folk along to this awesome poetry and jazz gig – Last Chants – where you can see Young perform with Dave Conway and Steve Kettley from the Click Clack Club. There will also be poetic awesomeness from Robin Cairns, Jenny Lindsay, Kevin Cadwallender, Sophia, not to mention the briefly reunited Chemical Poets. All in the excellent surroundings of the Jazz Bar (where Young and I ‘own’ one of the keys on the grand piano…).

It would be lovely to see some friends there (and indeed some new faces too!). There will be no sausage rolls, but there will be wine, and I promise I’ll try very hard not to cry.

You can note your attendance and keep up to date with new additions to the line-up on the Facebook event page here. While you’re at it, why not Like my DorkyMum page too…

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!”

Postcard from Potterrow

Dear Dorky Mum,

Greetings from the Festival.  It has been wet. A lot of rain. And this year nothing is located where it used to be.  No Speigeltent pissing off the neighbors in the middle of Old Town Univille.  And not much happening in the New Town at all, really, though the Book Festival is gallantly holding up what little is left of a Fringe on that side of the tram.

The weather has not been helpful.

The real news is the BBC.  They are here, in style, and they are working hard at doing it well. For the very first time, they have their own venue. We can only imagine what they whispered to the University of Edinburgh to gain access to a central site that was, until a few weeks ago, entirely a place where something will be built between two buildings.

The subcontractors arrived early one morning a few weeks ago and snapped together sturdy grids of basic floor, then raised upon it an elegant wee village. The Big Bubble houses a stage that any artist here would love to occupy. The three pods nearby hold a bar, a stage, and a 15-second video booth. The toilets are excellent.

Somebody thought a lot about this.

I was asked to help organise a poetry slam as part of their programming, four nights featuring six writers, with one winner each evening, then the four best on the final night. Calum Barnes – the President of Edinburgh University’s Literature Society – and I got in touch with people we know and came up with 24 warriors.

It was cool, as cool as I have ever seen the Embra spoken word thing go down in my six years talking here. Every one of those four nights was good.  Every night there were people who had never seen this thing before, and were inspired and amazed.  Every night there were joys and gasps and silence, as poets cut up the roof of that white tent with their words.

Every night it rained.

Cat Brogan won.  Go look at the Beeb site for the footage, for the winning poem. She was crisp and delicious.

This is what I think.  The BBC took a chance, which I appreciate and applaud. They built a big stage for spoken word in Edinburgh and Scotland. The poets, to a person, danced on it. The audience, to a person, liked it. Some of them even fell in love with it.

See you again, same place, same time, next year. The BBC will be welcome back.

Love,

DorkyDad