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?


Photo credit (CC): ‘Centre Of The Action’ /

Scotland tour part one: North Coast 500 and Cape Wrath. #NC500

For nine days, and eight nights, in August 2015 I drove, walked, ferried, ate and drank my way around Scotland with an old school friend, Bob Burgoyne. After nearly 18 years of living north of the border it was about time I got to some of the furthest corners of the country. With Bob and I having walked through many miles of Scottish countryside in recent years we set about seeing a bit more of the place at ground level.

Over this and two subsequent blog posts I’ve some notes and photos from our trip:

  • Part one (below): Edinburgh to Ullapool, including two distilleries, Dunrobin Castle, John o’ Groats, the north coast, Cape Wrath, and Sandwood Bay. (Rough route on Google Maps.)
  • Part two: Ullapool to Lewis by ferry, Uig sands, Callanish standing stones, Hushinish, and Stornoway for the return ferry trip. (Google Maps.)
  • Part three: Ullapool, Applecross, Bealach Na Bà (Applecross Pass), Skye, the ferry to Mallaig, the Road to the Isles, Ballachulish, the West Highland Way (Inverarnon to Bridge of Orchy), and home. (Google Maps.)
  • Part four: this final post has daily route information – distances covered, the campsites and accommodation we used, and some of the places we ate at.

This all comes at a time when the ‘North Coast 500’ is getting some attention. This is 500+ mile circuit, as described on the official website ( We covered much of the same ground, though without closing the loop from Applecross over to Inverness. As the site says this is ‘Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the new scenic route showcasing the fairy tale castles, beaches and ruins’. Hard to argue with that. Other blogs to cover large parts of the route include those by Miss Smidge and Julie’s This International Life. An online search will provide plenty of mainstream media coverage of the route, including Mark Beaumont’s successful attempt to cycle it all in one go (maybe we passed him en route).


The car hire place had to upgrade us, and despite protestations we were forced to do the journey in a BMW 330d automatic. You’ll see it from time to time in the photos, covering some of our 1,144 miles. The total fuel bill was £138, which could have been lower if we hadn’t been on single track roads for about half the time! The automatic gear box really came good on those roads, with a lot of stopping and starting, tight corners, oncoming traffic and the ups and downs of putting roads through the wilderness. North Coast 500

Our first night was at the Riverside Campsite in Contin. Handy for the Glen Ord Distillery, it was also a short stroll from the Coul House Hotel, where we had our first luxury meal of the trip (with many more of them to come). Such has been the way of things on our trips north from the central belt, that a sparsity of places to eat is broken by somewhere absolutely amazing, serving wonderful local food.

North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500The beach in the early photos is between Golspie and Brora: we drove to the former, took the bus to the latter, then walked back. Yes, there’s a #sealfie amongst the photos, with about 50 seals in that group. There were others around, singing away to each other. Also spotted, an ancient settlement, and the slightly more modern Dunrobin Castle. Despite some misgivings about handing over money to the wealthy for the privilege of seeing their house, we really enjoyed the Castle. Admittedly that had much to do with the gardens, with their croquet (Bob won 3-1) and falconry display (eagles, falcones and owls).

And then onwards, across the north coast. John o’ Groats was seen and a hearty breakfast enjoyed (before nipping back to take in the Old Pulteney Distillery, in Wick). Dunnet Head was visited (in a hurry, it being the most northerly point on the mainland). Orkney was viewed across the water (and its beer enjoyed later that evening). Strathy Point made for an excellent walk, out to one of several light houses that we came into contact with. The pictures really don’t do justice to the power and majesty of the waves around this part of the coast. Very remote, with steep, high cliffs that drop away to natural arches and caves. As you can see plenty of natural flora too, and sunshine. The sun gave way to rain as we reached Durness, our campsite for two nights. Before pitching the tents we gave way to beer and pool in the bar, then made out homes between showers. It all worked rather well.

Cape Wrath: this time the top left corner, having ticked off the top right the day before. Cape Wrath is remote and access is limited, requiring a short drive to the ferry, which turns out to be a small boat with an outboard, that gets you to a waiting minibus. The minibus crawls its way along roads that have suffered in recent really bad weather (where normal ‘bad’ is 140mph gusts), and passes through various military checkpoints. We’re informed that NATO come here twice a year, to practise with their helicopter gunships and whatever else they fancy using. We didn’t get a return trip though, oh no. From the light house we struck out south on foot, making our way across 20 miles of open country, peat bog, heather, sheep hills and the occasional river. Three times we had to search for a way to cross rivers that really couldn’t have cared less if we were there or not, tumbling as they did over rocks and waterfalls. The fourth and final river was down at the beach: a broad sweep of loch water flowing out to sea. But what a beach, for this was Sandwood Bay and an iconic sweep of sand across a mile of Atlantic coast. As you can see from the photo, tiredness and relief were evident on our faces. Getting back to Durness and the pub was no mean feat: we arrived at the nearest village Blairmore (4 miles away) just in time to catch the taxi that we had sort-of arranged. Another few minutes and he would have gone, leaving us to figure out how to make the 20-30 mile journey home along the circuitous road. (Click the images for a better view.)


Tiredness brought a decent night’s sleep, followed by a second excellent breakfast at Mackay’s guest house: we thoroughly recommend this place for food and shelter. Then a cruise down to Ullapool, via another bog-sodden walk, more flora and a light house or two. A near faultless start to the trip, with only my walking boots suffering lasting damage (more of that to come in part three).

North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500North Coast 500 Cape Wrath

Greece 2015: sailing the Ionian with dad.

Sailing the Ionian Sea, off Greece’s west coast. From Corfu to Preveza, via Fiskardho, Vathi, Lakka, Two Rock Bay, Sparakhori and a lot of other places. All aboard the yacht Margaret from 8 to 19 July 2015, with my dad.

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…

Writing to the future: #DearestScotland…

dearestscotland_logo_trans1It’s taken me a while, but I’ve just posted my letter to Dearest Scotland. You’ll find them here online at

Dearest Scotland is a postbox to the future of a country. In their own words: ‘Regardless of which way the referendum result went, we’ve been encouraging visions that focus down the line. What might Scotland look like in the future? What do we actually think about our nation? What might our landscape, education system and high streets look like in five, ten, twenty years’ time.’ Having known about the project for a while through a personal connection I knew I would eventually put something down, though it’s take a while for the moment to feel right. Please read on if you’d like to know what I had to say, but if you’ve not got time for that you can go straight to their submission page to write something yourself!


Dearest Scotland,

This letter is coming to you from the past, from December 2014, which might be many months or years before you read this. I’m writing it in my present though, reflecting on events that are ongoing and uncertain.

When I look out of the window I see that I’m flying at 36,000 feet. The place I departed several hours ago is Hong Kong, where the final few acts of an astonishing period of civil disobedience are playing themselves out. Civil in the civic sense, but also in the mostly calm manner in which they have been taking place in recent days. A movement of citizens, particularly students and academics, had established a sprawling, thriving camp that dominated an eight lane highway in the commercial heart of the city for over two months. When walking through the camp what you saw were the tents of protesters, a media platform from which to reach a much bigger audience, small print works, a study area powered by exercise bikes, a garden, micro kitchens, communal supplies and thousands of posters and signs. Signs demanding recognition and representation, rights and responsibilities, in the face of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. These were people who understood the democratic deficit of their situation and weren’t going to wait for someone else to do something about it on their behalf. By the time I left Hong Kong the main camp had gone, dismantled by bailiffs under a court order that riot police were helping to enforce. The protesters had, for the most part, obeyed the court and packed up; none resisted in a violent manner. The short term mission to force more open, more localised and more representative elements into the city’s governance had failed, yet the protesters remained defiant, undeterred and ultimately optimistic for the future.

Scotland, please allow me to ponder the parallels with your own recent history. It will be a stretch, but I hope you’ll indulge me. For those two months of street occupation, read your two years of debate ahead of September 2014’s independence referendum; for overbearing influence from Beijing think of a Westminster-Holyrood devolved relationship, that some have always seen as unsettled and in need of overhauling. Both campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful, yet the initial spark for greater representation spawned wider debates, about the kinds of societies that citizens wanted to live in. How should a distant centre of power relate to those on its periphery? What do the two campaigns foretell, of an inevitable move towards greater local autonomy, or the uneasy truce of a temporary status quo? What will be the impact of greater engagement and active involvement by a new, young generation who have felt politics reach out to them and taken it by the hand?

I remember walking to work on 19 September, the morning after the referendum. It seemed no one wanted to make eye contact, there was a distant expression in people’s eyes. To put it in words it was a look of… oh dear, what have we done?! A sense of having missed a unique opportunity? A vacuum of thought and discussion, for what else were we going to talk and tweet about now? Shock at the way the Prime Minister, on the tarmac of Downing Street, had already linked further Scottish devolution to constitutional reform across the United Kingdom? Maybe we were all just tired.

The parameters of Scotland’s national discussion had been replaced by a new context: oil, currency, the EU and other priorities had swiftly been replaced by tax, spend, voting rights and party politics in the House of Commons. It was a rude awakening and had the air of trap about it, seeking to catch Scotland out when its guard was down.

Only time will tell where we go from here, how many of these themes come to dominate the debate from time to time in the years ahead. There is cause for optimism though Scotland, for you have proved yourself again and again: able to engage in informed discourse, to involve the whole country in a national conversation, and to wake up the next day apparently without a damaging hangover or destructive resentment. There have been three referendum votes in recent memory: 1979, 1997 and 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have less time to wait until the next one, for this topic is alive and kicking. After all, we’re only pausing to draw breath before the next UK general election in a few short months.

Keep the spirit of debate alive, Scotland. Build upon it when you gather with your friends and families at Christmas, at the weekends, at birthdays, cafes, pubs and libraries, online and on each other’s doorsteps. Demands for greater representation may have looked different in Hong Kong compared with Hawick or Helensburgh (the ‘official opposition’ to change certainly did) but there was an energy to both these campaigns in 2014. An energy and an optimism, for whatever the future may hold citizens have found their voices and they won’t forget the impact they had.

To the future Scotland, to the future me, let’s see where we choose to go next.

David Jarman.


The Dearest Scotland image above has been plucked from their site. I hope this will be permitted.

#UmbrellaMovement: December 2014 in Hong Kong

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


Social network analysis and festival cities: an exploration of concepts, literature and methods: International Journal of Event and Festival Management: Vol 5, No 3

Word reached Edinburgh this week that a paper I’ve been working on with three Edinburgh Napier colleagues has now been published. This news is very welcome to us, and you can find further details here:

Social network analysis and festival cities: an exploration of concepts, literature and methods: International Journal of Event and Festival Management: Vol 5, No 3

The work started life as part of the literature review for my PhD. The early (and unfinished) resolution of the PhD work opened up the opportunity to make alternative use of the material. I was very fortunate to have three supervisors who were keen to continue working on these themes and we are all very happy to see the paper in print and pixels.

One of those authors, Prof Hazel Hall, has also blogged about the publication. As she says: ‘We conclude that although the importance of relationships sustained within networks has long been recognised within the industry, and that festival cities offer dynamic environments in which to investigate the workings of social networks, there is scant reflection of this in the event studies literature. A research method is proposed as suitable for application across a diverse range of festivals and events.’

I hope to continue working on that proposed research method, with more news to come as progress is made.

The full citation is:

Jarman, D., Theodoraki, E., Hall, H., Ali-Knight, J. (2014). Social network analysis and festival cities: an exploration of concepts, literature and methods. International Journal of Event and Festival Management 5(3), 311-322.