Thursday, 10 September 2015

Post-Edinburgh diary: Some Holiday!

The season is changing. Edinburgh feels like yesterday, but I've been back nearly 2 weeks and feel I have little to show for it. But I've been plugging away, getting organised and ready for heading back to university.

Highlights!!

Looking at my diary, I realise I packed in a lot into a short week's visit - no wonder I felt exhausted afterwards! It was meant to be a kind of working holiday (see a couple shows, catch up with some fellow performers, perform a bit, sell a few books, get some new ideas, write...) but it became something more of a dizzying journey through a city exhausted by performers riddled with ambition, anxiety and alcohol (remember - it's just a video game!!)

I arrived, put my bags down and guested at Stand Up Tragedy on the Sunday, hosting it the following day, Monday 24th. The podcast is below. Big big love to the amazing guests: Rachel Mars, Nick Field, Fay Roberts, James McKay, Mr. Meredith.



I also performed at Jibba Jabba and saw The Boy with the Moomin Tattoo the following day - which was beautiful, and well suited to the karaoke booth beach backdrop - before guesting at James McKay's show on Tuesday 25th.

James McKay doing his Moomin thing


Paula Varjack just being herself in front of a camera
That Tuesday, I also saw Paula Varjack's How I Became Myself (By Becoming Someone Else) which is a dizzying exploration of identity-morphing name-change antics, full of all the playful multimedia and spoken word goodness that I come to expect from her. I caught up with poets and actors and singers I know. I was interviewed for an hour in a near-empty room. The podcast for that is below.



By Wednesday, I was in full rhythm; spending mornings in the park, pondering the finer details of the meaning of life before heading down to wherever. I saw Cult Friction and became terrified of my pre-packed lunch and my iPhone (thanks Sophia Walker!) and then performed for Stand Up and Slam! that evening. It's billed as a comedy gig but poetry won... not a minor victory at all! After going completely dry for the first two days, I went to Pollyanna cabaret and hit the sauce, catching up with more friends, only for one of them to be dragged out of the audience and 'rescued' Baywatch style.

Jack Cole being saved from drowning

My 3rd favourite graveyard, Calton Hill
Thursday, I woke up in a pensive mood. I saw Butt Kapinski which was the funniest immersive show I've been to in a long while. Then I spent some time in my 3rd favourite graveyard. And then it was time for my BBC Edinburgh Slam heat. The knockout structure was fair but unforgiving. Each of the 4 heats started with 6 slammers in the first round, reducing to 4 in the second and 2 battling out the third and last round to get to the finals. I was knocked out in the 3rd round by Scott Tyrell; I left the heats both disappointed that I didn't make it to the finals that Saturday - which were aired on the BBC (the programme is below) - and happy about the future of slam. It would have been lovely to show people back down south a link to a broadcast of the new poems that I wrote; I'm just glad to have enjoyed the experience.



(IF you can't see the video above, follow this link)

The poetry - in my round, at least - was hugely varied; so many styles of writing, delivery and subject matter, and hardly even a whiff of 'poet voice' or stereotype 'political poems' (actually, there was a strange absence of right-now/anti-Tory* politics throughout the whole Fringe and I, for one, feel I missed out on something).

I didn't know who to root for in Saturday finals though - Scott, whose comic timing and powers of storytelling alone immediately got my respect; Toby Campion, who has previously moved me to tears with a poem (for the right reasons); Paula Varjack, who I have mad love and respect for, who pulled no punches with race, sexuality, gender, drugs and the Dalston club scene in one rock 'n' roll of a poem; Dan Simpson, the poet I think who played the most with pauses and space, and also the only poet to attempt a live 'shape poem'. Scott cleaned up and deserved it, managing to explore a gamut of emotions in the three poems he performed.

Back to Thursday night and I found myself at the Anti-slam**, which I won that night, after a last-minute request from the organisers to step in due to cancellations. Putting heads together with James McKay and a few helpers, we decided the only way to go was over the top. And thus 'Vortex of Word' was birthed. You'll hear more about us soon; it's just the start of our journey into awful poetry. Anyway, by the end of the night, I was officially jointly-crowned worst poet in Edinburgh. I've since learned that Scott Tyrell is the current national Anti-Slam champ, so he's officially best and worst poet, simultaneously. I guess they're two sides of the same coin!

On to Friday, and I got to see Mansplaining Masculinity which I'd much anticipated. What Dave Pickering's achieved with his survey is phenomenal; if you fancy flicking through the responses of 1000 men (and 3 women) then check it out on the website. I found the show heavy-going and I'm still taking it in even now. I stayed behind at the venue to see Dominic Berry's show Up Your Game: The Downfall of a Noob, which was heart-warming and inventive.


He gave us balls to throw at him; he donned a cardboard games controller mask in rhymes about his games addiction; he made us choose words which he incorporated into a freestyle rap when we weren't expecting it. Afterwards, almost 85% exhausted, I went to yet another show, The Munch, which I'd seen an earlier version of before. It was so good 2 years ago that it was worth seeing again this time. I'm glad I went; it gave me the energy to prepare for my performance at the Magic Faraway Cabaret that evening.

By Saturday, I was totally worn out though. I had an easy morning, caught up with a couple of local friends and then headed to the Slam finals that evening. Sunday I was back home saying to myself: "What was all THAT about?" Phew!

*I have to justify this as "some of my (potential) best friends are tories"... This was when David Cameron was still referring to people attempting to reach the UK as "swarms of migrants", reflecting other dehumanising language of displaced people; this is also when cuts to the arts have seeing huge gaps in investment, education and support of artists and young people in general, causing some important projects to close (in addition to libraries, etc); we're also seeing an attack on affordable housing and those who live in it; many London artists I know - only one paycheque away from homelessness - are being forced out of the city. To not see any of the raw anger I feel back here reflected in the creative work up there was weird...

**If you don't know what an Anti-Slam is then where have you been? Let's just say it's the perfect comic riposte to a slam non-win. I think I've explained it before. 

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