from Edinburgh


Fuck, where were we? I feel like I've fallen off the radar, off the edge of the world. Or just off the internet, perhaps that is more accurate.

This is going to be a long update: you don't have to read it all (or, indeed, any of it). I will try to include some of the bits of writing written in transit, in coffee shops, on trains, that never made it this far.

Lets start from now and go backwards; that seems logical somehow. The Edinburgh festival fringe has done what it does best and eaten me for a month. Programming the Underbelly's Cow Cafe was all of these things: hectic/hard/easy/rewarding/frustrating/humiliating/predictable/unpredictable/boozy/soul-destroying/eye-glisteningly exciting/lonely, which I guess is a pretty good cross section of emotions for a job to have. For me, the idea of working for a company like Underbelly, who are certainly one of the 'big-bad's of the fringe, sits uneasily. At the same time, the amount of freedom I was given in my job was quite amazing and it's hard to ignore the fact that unlike many other fringe establishments, they actually pay their staff. My overdraft is now... less. In a sense, the fact that I was running a free venue within something that makes so much money meant that – because I wasn't making or losing them much of that money, I was really left to my own devices. And yes, I hope I did it well, and that they are happy, because I worked for some lovely people, doing something that I enjoy, and hope I'm good at.

I am knackered though.

The wonderful Tess Waters and Kai Smythe of Sexytime! demonstrating a new sexual position at the CowCafe

I won't bore you [dear reader!] with screeds of long reviews – you can scroll further down this blog for last year's – but a couple of highlights:

Kieran Hurley's Beats at the Traverse reminded me that theatre can tell a story without being a play, and that there's not a lot that is greater than being told a good story. This is important.

Hunt & Darton's pop-up cafe was a haven for all things good and was where I ended up doing my only little performance of the festival, aside compering at the Cow Cafe, in Rachael Clerke's Debating Society, a little 5 minute one-on-one debate with an audience member (as part of Glasgow Buzzcut's 5 Minutes to Move Me) and a scratch for further research.

On the International Festival I managed to get a last minute ticket for Theatre du Soliel's Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir (Aurores), which was totally epic and wonderful – 4 hours long in the Lowland Hall out by Ingliston – with the most wonderful ensemble cast. Ariane Mnouchkine, their director... well, she's on the list with Joan Littlewood, Amy Johnson, Nelly Bly*

It's been a year for seeing big budget masterpieces it seems, rather than the norm of having my life changed by small out-of-the-way stuff. In March, Theatre du Complicite's The Master and Margarita, in June Peter Brook's The Suit. July was Elevator Repair Service's 8 hour long Gatz. Here is what I wrote about Gatz and the week in which I saw it:

(12th July)

This week I have watched Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz, The TEAM’s work in progress of RooseElvis. I am going to run away to New York. Last week I went to the lovely live-art-in-a-forest event that was In Between Time’s Up to Nature festival. I am going to run away to the woods. The week before that I went to Brighton and took part in ERS’s workshop at the Basement, where Jojo and I will do a residency in September (I am running away to Brighton, fo’ real) and visited my pals Massive Owl in Bristol, who are part of the wonderful Interval collective, and have a space! Hello Bristol.

Can you guess I’m homeless?

Gatz, last night, last all-day – at 8 hours long, was something so different from both reading a book and seeing a play, that I couldn’t quite have imagined it at all. There was something so infinitely tender about the characters, which I expect is something I often miss when reading, being a bit of a ‘skimmer’. Likewise, the feeling of outside, of narration is safe and wonderful, and so different from a play where we just hear what people have to say, aside from their thoughts and small actions, which when articulated can often take the form of clunky soliloquy or ‘asides’.


During that week I cycled around London a lot, staying with lots of different friends. One day 50 miles by bike – Homerton > Wood Green > Balham > Brixton > Covent Garden > Angel > Clapton > Shacklewell > Manor House > Homerton. Phew. It's a real big city, but my map of it is becoming more coherent. I find it quite a difficult place, and oddly more so the more time I spend there. Here's a map of some journeys I took, it wraps around the page and comes from my mind rather than any kind of accurate measure. It's nice though.

I'll end on an antidote to thoughts of places that are too big, too much, too mad, too wide.

The Model Village

Today an old man had a stroke
and crushed the signal box.
You cant ignore that kind of thing.

But on the whole
I try to see the visitors
as clouds or hills.

I am an old man
and I have learnt my lesson.
Only small things matter.

But the young are different.
They hear the talk of Birmingham
and Weston-super-mare

and listen to songs
of love and loss
on picnic radios

and dream of slipping
through the ticket office
after dark

in search of telephones
and discotheques
and Chinese restaurants,

a world where games of football
can be won
and lost,

where roads run to the ocean
and the ocean runs

They will understand in time.
Sit still for long enough
and everything will come to you.

We got a helicopter last year,
strung on fishing line
above the plastic lake.

This year we got our first
black residents.
(The Pattersons were overpainted.)

But the cows still graze,
the brass band still plays
Hearts of Oak,

the town clock
still reads
ten to two.

And when the night comes down
I sit beneath the awning
of the hardware store

and watch the universe contract
to thirty homes, a loop of railway
and fifty billion stars.

(Mark Haddon)

Read Mark Haddon's poetry book The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea. It's well worth your time.

These are enough words for now, actually. From my shed**, on a slow Wednesday morning, tea and toast and a warm bed, radio 4, lots of words. More very soon.

*I am, of course, referring to the list of women I'd like to be when I grow up.
**As a recent graduate, I am living in the shed in my mum's garden. It's great.