Monthly Archives: August 2014

#10wos 10: Journey’s end and Edinburgh festival shows, part four (25-31 August 2014)

Usher Hall10 weeks of summer would appear to be drawing to a close. If I were in Edinburgh just now I’d be looking ahead to the end of festival fireworks, which from a distance of a few hundred miles and a disputed border I shall have to enjoy vicariously. All the posts from 10 weeks of summer are linked through this #10wos tag. Before a few reflections here’s what happened in Week 3 of the International Festival, which took in the final hours of the Fringe and the Book Festival.

So there they are, just two events. The photo on this post is carefully chosen though, showing the end of the concert from my organ gallery vantage point. The end of the event, the closed music books, the covers back on the timpani and the audience filing out. They were superb: tremendous musicians who played so well together. (Even I could tell this, though others confirmed it to me.)

Totalling up my 2014 festival events then… four gala launches for @LoveEdinburgh; four regular festival events in Fringe Week 0 and nine the week after in the same blog post; ten after that; eleven more; then the two above. That’s 40. Add in the exhibitions I’m very glad I saw at Summerhall and the Edinburgh College of Art and you reach 42. Which is the ultimate answer to the question of whether this has been a good festival year for me. This could be a record.

This is of no consequence to anyone or anything but me. I really shouldn’t be counting, let alone putting the numbers in bold like that. Really, what have I become? A target hunting cultural magpie, taking little in and giving little in return beyond mere statistics? Then to put this online through a self-indulgent blog post? No wonder my readership stats are so small.

Same again next year, then?

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Way back when, the #10wos project was a way to get me back into blogging. A structure within which to record a few thoughts and avoid memories slipping away forever. Since Week 01 started (on 23 June) I’ve been to Edinburgh, England, the Netherlands, Paisley, Berlin, Riga, Positivus in northern Latvia, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; I’ve had a Twitter audience of 10,000 followers through @LoveEdinburgh, been in the audience for dozens of Edinburgh festival shows and events; swung through the trees at Go Ape; presented my thoughts through a festival panel and a conference presentation; congratulated scores of students on their graduation and, right about now, started preparing for the next intake. The next ten weeks may not be quite so eventful, which could be a good thing as there’s work to be done. Speaking of which, I’ve also been contributing to Edinburgh Napier’s blog on World War I events at the Book Festival.

I am very lucky and very happy to have shared many of these experiences with Amy. They have been all the more important and memorable because of her.

The sun is still shining on this Sunday afternoon in England. Many miles away a few tons of explosives are being lined up and checked before they punctuate the Edinburgh night sky and bring the 2014 summer festival season to a close. Tomorrow the city will wake up and smell the cordite in the air, hopefully smiling at the memory. Then the working week will begin… except it will be September by then. September 2014 in Scotland has a special ring to it. The count down to the #indyref Independence Referendum will no longer be counted in years or months, we’ll be talking in days. Me and my vote? I’m still swithering, because although I know what the sensible, correct, right and proper answer is, the occasional shot of adrenaline makes me wonder ‘what if?’, ‘why not?’ and ‘what are we waiting for?’. Well, Scotland?

#10wos 09: Edinburgh festival shows, part three (18-24 August 2014)

EIF James PlaysOnwards to another list of shows and events, this time Week 3 of the Fringe, which is Week 2 of the Book Festival and the International. After a quick flourish of stand-up at the beginning of the week, followed up with a lovely work night out to a party, complimentary barbecue and 90 minutes of music, there was little Fringe action this week. The International Festival took centre stage, adding some theatre and discussion to the concerts of the previous week. Back to the Fringe for one final time though, in the sweat box of the Underbelly: definitely expressing an end of festival vibe through its pores and the looks on the faces of the battle weary staff. They’ve done well.

The James Plays have been held up as a triumph of this year’s International Festival and I really enjoyed seeing them. I appreciate that some have felt some of the characters to be stereotypes, the plots drawing out limited pictures of Scotland. Still, they contained some very strong performances, taught me a lot about 16th century Scotland and have a real pace to them when required. Maybe I was only in it for the entertainment value, or was too knocked back by seeing all three on the same day to process it all in enough depth. (That’s seven and a half hours of stage time, give or take.)

Special mention must be made to Cecil Baldwin, part of the cast of ‘Too Much Light’. Cecil is the narrator and mainstay of Welcome to Night Vale. I urge you to spend a little time immersing yourself in Night Vale and its small town idiosyncrasies.IMG_3408

The next edition of #10wos (10 weeks of summer) will be the last one. That might mean that it’s nearly the end of summer. Let’s hope winter doesn’t last for all 42 weeks until I can do this again.

#10wos 08: Edinburgh festival shows, part two (11-17 August 2014)

IMG_3383Another week, another list of Edinburgh shows to take the place of a proper review of the week. The first such lists came in the previous ’10 weeks of summer’ post, just here. Week two of the Fringe means the first full week of the International Festival (although from 2015 they will be realigned, with the EIF moving forward a week). I also went to Charlotte Square to see a Book Festival event – more on that below. So, this is what I went to see and do…

Fringe Week 2, and Week 1 of the International Festival and Book Festival

My attendance at the Book Festival event was part of a project we’re running at Edinburgh Napier. Because of our links to World War I through the Craiglockhart campus we have set up a blog where we can cover some of the events they are running to mark the centenary of the Great War. The blog is here: http://blogs.napier.ac.uk/world-war-one/, with my write of David Reynolds here.

I was also in a Fringe show! The first time in years. My friend Xela ran the ‘arts admin’ session at Fringe Central and asked me to be on the panel. There were four panel members and around a dozen in the audience, but I think we did a pretty good job of covering the subject in the time available. Xela heads up the Fringe University, among other things.

Of the other shows, Nick Helm was raucous and went on late into the night. Alex Horne has since been nominated for the Comedy Award. Phill Jupitus was very open, very honest and very engaging in his poetry hour, which was a Free Fringe event. It’s less easy to be enthusiastic about the EIF show ‘I AM’ I’m afraid, which was long, slow and not particularly uplifting – social media wasn’t kind to them, though The Guardian tried to make sense of what they were seeking to achieve.

Here’s Nick and flag wavers, trying to hold the UK together:

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#10wos 07: Edinburgh festival shows, part one (4-10 August 2014)

IMG_3370Being a slacker, it has taken me until the closing days of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to start writing up my 2014 shows and events. To save everyone some time it’s probably best if I just list them and keep the comments to a minimum. I’ve left out the venue preview shows that I attended, which are covered elsewhere.

 

 

Fringe Week 0 (which was #10wos 06):

Fringe Week 1

No duds in there and plenty of highlights. The Planets was excellent and a full house – as you can see I had a good spot from which to see pretty much everyone in the room. Holly Walsh and David Trent were both very good: relaxed, engaging, funny and seemed to be having a good time themselves. Daniel Kitson… normally a banker, though it made me think that I’ve mostly seen his theatre pieces in recent years and this was more of a mix; still excellent in many places, somewhere between midnight and 2am. Spoiling at the Traverse Theatre had an explicit link to the independence referendum and was one of the few shows which has done that; many stand-ups are steering clear, it seems to me. Wonders of the Universe was the most uplifting and joyous thing I’ve seen, really good fun and very well performed. The Object Lesson had lots going on as a guy sorted through a lifetime of memories, with some excellent touches and moments of very innovative creativity. And Foodies in the sunshine was ace!

Sunday of this week was a little different: up to Aberfoyle in Stirlingshire for some Go Ape! fun. Some slight rain, but not enough to dampen the spirits.

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‘The Great War’s Grand Legacy’ – David Reynolds, 13 August 2014 | World War I

During the 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival I’m taking part in a project being run by the EIBF and the Festival and Event Management team at Craiglockhart. With the Festival’s help we’ve highlighted a dozen or so of their events that have a particular focus on World War I.

The first event that I attended took place a couple of days ago and you can read my blog post here:

‘The Great War’s Grand Legacy’ – David Reynolds, 13 August 2014 | World War I

Over time there will be others on the site, contributed by a mix of staff, students and graduates.

#10wos 06: I @LoveEdinburgh and not just for one week (28 July to 3 August 2014)

IMG_3329For a few short days I held in my hand the power to reach thousands of people through the @LoveEdinburgh account on Twitter. I wrote up my hopes and plans for the week just as I was taking up the reins, you can read them on the blog here. I am happy to report that the follower numbers went up during my week, though not quite to the 10,000 that remained tantalisingly close yet out of reach. Here are some thoughts from the week.

  • I stuck to the theme of Edinburgh’s August festivals for almost all of my tweets. I wanted to have a distinct identity while running the account and focusing on the festivals seemed a timely way to do so. I had, after all, chosen this particular week months ago with the Fringe’s previews in mind, so it would have been a missed opportunity not to talk about them.
  • In the lead up to the week I lined up a few special events as well – invites to some of the venue media launches, that sort of thing. That gave me some set piece events to cover, hopefully adding some value by giving an insider view from time to time. It was good to see that the official venue accounts retweeted my posts from time to time – Assembly Theatre was most active in this regard; Pleasance much less so.
  • There were some topics that I avoided: the #indyref for example. The previous incumbent said that he had found it problematic when he mentioned the referendum, so the nearest I got was to retweet a message about making sure people were registered to vote.
  • On the subject of retweeting, I avoided doing it as a rule. There were a few occasions when I was asked to RT something by someone I knew, or for a cause I supported, and I was happy to do so. My general feeling though was that followers of @LoveEdinburgh are interested in the voice of the curator, rather than receiving a relatively large number of second hand tweets from other sources.
  • With the same thought in mind, I didn’t spend much time looking through the feed of tweets that previous curators had signed up to. I decided early on that I would send my own tweets, that I would respond if people replied to them, but that I wouldn’t do much in the way of dropping in on others’ posts. That might be seen as antisocial, but I kept my regular account going for that sort of thing.
  • Along the way I posted a few photos – during the venue launches, for example. I could have done more of this as images tended to get a reasonable response. This had been a regular approach of the previous curator and I know that he enjoyed the positive reaction he received from doing it.
  • In the first few days I was picking up 20-30 followers a day, so it seemed perfectly feasible that the account would get to 10,000 while I was looking after it. My bright idea was to set up a competition to mark the occasion if it happened and to ‘reward’ the 10,000th follower. The prize was sourced with a local business and all was going well. However, there were a couple of commenters that questioned the wisdom of this approach as it wasn’t inclusive for the existing followership. An interesting perspective and perhaps a valid one, though that hadn’t been my intention of course. There are apparently ways to pick a random person from among your existing followers, which would have been good to know. Lesson learned therefore. I can report that the growth in followers seemed to stall around the time I announced the competition though, so maybe it was a tad counter productive!
  • With the festival kicking off, work to do, places to be and people to see I didn’t always have time to put much into @LoveEdinburgh. That meant quite a slow start, which was a good thing I think as it helped me work out what to do with the account, gave me some breathing space before the Fringe kicked off and helped separate my week from the previous curator. Things picked up though and I really enjoyed it when friends commented that they recognised the face in the account’s profile picture! (A picture carefully chosen for its inclusion of the lovely Union Canal in the background.)

As the week drew to a close I didn’t have much of a final flourish planned. What I had taken over from, at the start of my week, was quite a crescendo of activity. That reflected the higher level of interaction that my predecessor had had with the followers; I was very happy to wait for those late-weekend conversations to die down before posting much myself.

My closing hours were perhaps the opposite: they were somewhat taken away from me. During the mid-evening on Sunday I opened up my Twitter app to check for any mentions, to see that the picture had already been changed and the next host was sending out messages! This wasn’t exactly what I had expected nor planned for, so there wasn’t much chance to say goodbye.

Hopefully I did my bit to bring a little of the Edinburgh festivals online. The weather was excellent for the most part, the shows I saw all good and there was a lively vibe in the city. Not every city has residents who are proud of where they live, but Edinburgh has a special place in the hearts of just about everyone I know. Some were born nearby, others have travelled far to be here. It’s not just the castle atop a volcano that happens to sit in the middle of the city. It isn’t only the festivals and the universities and the history and the architecture. This is a place where new ideas are given a chance, where those of all backgrounds can have a voice, as can those who are here to reinvent themselves. This makes it hard to leave – just ask the people who love Edinburgh so much they come back every August, who I’m sure wish they could just move here.
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Here’s a Storify of some tweets I sent while running @LoveEdinburgh. Please remember that the picture associated with the account changes on a weekly basis!