Category Archives: best_festivals

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in practice: a morning’s reflection with students from HKU SPACE. #edfringe

Centre Of The ActionTomorrow morning, 20 August, I’ll be with twenty students from Hong Kong University SPACE for three hours. They have been in Edinburgh and Scotland over the past couple of weeks, and our task tomorrow is to discuss their experiences, particularly in relation to the Festival Fringe. Rather that producing a few dozen slides to keep us ‘entertained’, I’ll be armed with marker pens, boundless enthusiasm and some useful links. Where better to host those links than on this here blog, which I’m also going to put up on the screen during the session… hello HKU!

All suggestions gratefully received! The focus will be on practical and operational considerations, with some historical context to help show how and why things developed the way they have. We’ll go through a year in the life of the Fringe and some of its key stakeholders.

There’ll also be time for some group discussion, around questions like…

  1. Which have been your favourite festival shows and venues? What did you like about them and what made them special?
  2. Which shows had the best marketing and why did they stand out to you?
  3. What makes Edinburgh a ‘festival city’?
  4. What will you take back to Hong Kong: what have you seen happening in Edinburgh that could be done in Hong Kong? What would be the challenges in making it work?

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Photo credit (CC): ‘Centre Of The Action’ / flickr.com/photos/dfluff/3889328855/

2014: how was it for me?

davidjarman.infoLet’s not use the word ‘resolution’ for my plans for 2014, but a review of what I hoped to achieve returns a mixed scorecard. It won’t take long to run through a bullet point or two…

 

 

 

  • Blogging:
    • My WordPress review of 2014 tells me I posted 25 times to this blog. Once a fortnight doesn’t sound too much, but of course the distribution wasn’t even. There were months with nothing, then a spurt in the middle of the year. I’m glad I put together the ‘10 weeks of summer‘ series, which got me writing again just at a time when there was plenty to say. The intention was to get in to the habit of posting more frequently, on a wider range of topics and perhaps through shorter posts. It’s not really happened that way, but the blog lives on and hope springs eternal.
    • Twitter has been good fun, as usual. 1,390 followers… who they all are I’ve little idea! As the years go by I make more connections with students past and present, which helps keep me in check with the words and pictures I post there!
    • Edinburgh Napier / Edinburgh International Book Festival: I helped lead a project through work where we covered a wide range of Book Festival events, all linked to World War I. The blog is here, with stuff from me, Napier colleagues and students.
    • Podcasts: on the subject of Edinburgh Napier, I’ve posted many podcasts for my students using Audioboo, which renamed itself Audioboom at some point. What’s more I now have a microphone and have started to investigate and use Garageband to record them. The files go up, I embed them in my online teaching spaces and that’s that.
    • Blipfoto: I had a plan to post a photo a day between 17:07 and 20:14. The inspiration for this? They be the dates between the Acts of Union between Scotland and England, and the independence referendum. I couldn’t keep it going, so the Blipfoto project fell by the wayside. It was good while on trips though, so I filled in some days while in New Zealand. Maybe that’s the best way to use that platform, as the basis of smaller projects, with the images then embedded on the blog.
  • Trips and travel:
    • Two trips to Hong Kong, with work. This was teaching based, with the second one unlike anything I’ll ever see again because of the protest camps. I’ve written some of that up here.
    • The first Hong Kong trip fell just before the Easter teaching break, so it seemed reasonable to take the next fortnight off to see friends in New Zealand. It all went very well indeed.
    • Berlin, Riga and the Positivus Festival in northern Latvia: this was a great trip, I loved all these places and would happily do the whole thing over again in 2015.
    • The Netherlands is becoming an annual excursion, where I head to NHTV Breda University and carry out some external examining. It’s a lovely town, they’re all lovely people and it would be a happy privilege to carry on with this in 2015.
    • Walking: there are two plans on the go, both of which could easily have been completed in 2014, but weren’t even attempted. A ‘missing’ day’s walk on the West Highland Way needs to be filled in, then I’ve ambitions to walk from Leith to Milngavie. These things can be rolled forward.
    • Airbnb: I used Airbnb in three capital cities – Wellington, Berlin and Riga. They were all good experiences, so will be doing this again. I haven’t yet organised to have anyone to stay at mine, but it seems silly not to give it a go before 2015 is over and done with.
  • Other:
    • Arthur’s Seat: I had a plan (again) to climb it once a month, every month. I achieved three out of 12 it seems. JFxxMxxxxxxx
    • Running: I wanted to get 52 half hour runs under my belt through the year, but managed ten it seems. That’s terrible.
    • Novels: I wanted to read two novels, but managed only about 100 pages of one of them. (Nick Cave’s ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’.) Again, a terrible performance.
    • Hamonica: having been gifted a blues harp for my 35th birthday (2013) I figured I should learn a new trick or two on it. Not really managed that either.
    • The RSA: I’m still an FRSA, still sitting on the RSA Scotland Team, still enjoying it.

So what went wrong? Did I waste my time? Probably, but hopefully it’ll be a while before I run out of the stuff and I can go again in 2015.

  • Blogging: more blog posts, more ‘journalling’ using Day One and more experimentation with other media that can be integrated with these platforms and Twitter.
  • Trips: more of this please! More Europe. Airbnb again, plus a bit of hosting to fund it.
  • Walking: I’ll get that bit done up north and I’ll make it along the canal to Glasgow.
  • Arthur’s Seat: yes, let’s achieve it this time.
  • Running: I’ll aim for 26 runs, trying out some fitness apps on the phone (maybe).
  • Novels: fine, I’ll try for the same target.
  • Harmonica: maybe I should plan to play a gig on 31 December 2015…

#UmbrellaMovement: December 2014 in Hong Kong

This Storify captures my tweets from a week spent in Hong Kong.

 

#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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