Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Maggie’s Culture Crawl – Edinburgh, 25th September, 2015

Maggie's Culture Crawl

Culture Crawls have been a part of Maggie’s cancer charity for a number of years, held very successfully in London and in other parts of the country.

Now the charity have brought this successful fundraiser to Scotland. They held their first Scottish Culture Crawl in the country’s capital through the organisation of Maggie’s Edinburgh, who have a centre at the Western General Hospital.

I’ve been a long-time admirer of the fantastic work this cancer charity does, and like so many people, I have friends whose lives have been affected by this cruel disease.

But I hesitated slightly when I realised the Culture Crawl involved walking 10 miles, my fitness levels aren’t what they used to be, or should be, but I signed up anyway and hoped for the best.

I liked the premise – enjoy some culture in Scotland’s capital city, get access to some of the city’s top arts venues and raise money for a worthwhile cause.

I was also assured there were lots of stops along the way and I wouldn’t even notice the mileage. I wasn’t convinced – but it was true.

The starting point was Edinburgh’s Fettes College, where we picked up t-shirts, snacks and a route map. We had a fun warm-up and a chat from author of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith, who was supporting the event by gifting a specially written story. Then we went on our merry way.

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Our first stop. was at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It proved warm and welcoming with free drams on offer, and for those driving, like myself, there were little tubs of whisky flavoured ice cream. 2015-09-25 19.45.48

Next up was the beautiful Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was time for snacks and a lovely look around an eye-catching exhibition called Head to Head.

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A little bit further on was Parliament Hall, where we had some more refuelling while we listened to a beautiful choir.

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Dovecot Studios was an interesting discovery and somewhere I’m already planning to revisit. We were met here with a welcoming delicious hot chocolate, yummy cake and a walk around this fascinating building. It used to be a swimming baths and it is now home to a tapestry studio. You can visit during the day, see the weavers at work and buy some of the lovely gifts on display, as well as spend some time in the cafe.2015-09-25 21.35.41

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A lovely touch at Dovecot Studios was the chance we got to be creative by making up Maggie’s hearts and saying what the charity means to us. It was a time for quiet reflection as well as a chat to some of the many Maggie’s volunteers who were in attendance all during the night, and who made sure we were well looked after. The heart-felt sentiments were collected and by the time we finished our walk, they were already on display at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh.

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The next stop at Summerhall gave us an interesting chat with Pickering’s Gin and some tasting sessions.

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There was even time for some disco dancing – for those lucky people who still had some energy left in their legs!

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By this point we were on the home run, and I was starting to flag a little. So the pit stop at the Clydesdale Bank Plaza was a welcome chilled out zone. We were served teas, coffees, soups, and Tunnock’s snacks, while we listened to the lovely Christie Quartet. A couple even took to the middle of the plaza for some ballroom dancing.

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Another wonderful discovery was the Gallery of Modern Art, where we were met with the message across the building which said “Everything is going to be alright”. This was also a particularly poignant part of the trail, as we saw Charles Jencks illuminated “Landform”, a dedication to his late wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks – who the Maggie’s Centres are named after.

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Then with the end in sight, we walked to our final destination – the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. All 330 people who took part in the walk, were all safely counted back in again. We had a celebratory drink, either prosecco, tea, coffee, soft drinks, and delicious pizzas supplied by La Favourita. And there was a chill out zone which consisted of huge bean bags.

This was a fantastic event, extremely well organised, and great fun. I loved exploring the city at night time and discovering new treasures, while also raising money for a great cause. Although I’d signed up to walk on my own, I chatted to lots of people all along the way. I met people from Aberdeen and Newcastle, as well as those closer to home. Some were walking for people dear to them, and they all knew how important it is to keep supporting the fantastic work of the Maggie’s Centres.

Thank you Maggie’s and well done. I’ll be signing up for next year.

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Filed under Charity, Edinburgh, Events, Scotland

Nina Conti, Festival Fringe, Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh – August 2015

Nina Conti

Nina Conti

You could go and see Nina Conti every night and be guaranteed of a different experience. It depends who’s in the crowd and Nina admits her audience are her show, but she is doing herself a disservice and she deserves credit for how clever she is.

Part of her act is dedicated to her alter ego – Monkey – a cheeky, naughty hand puppet, who has revived the forgotten act of ventriloquism. Who remembers the likes of Emu, Spit the Dog and Orville? They got the stuffing knocked out of them long ago and are now limply languishing in a puppet show in the sky. When ventriloquism is done well, it’s admirable and Nina has perfected the art. The test is when you actually start thinking Monkey is real – despite the fact you know he’s a furry sock with a squeezable face and a penchant for shouting the odd obscenity.

There’s one point during the show where Nina goes into a sleep and leaves the stage to Monkey to take over, rendering him speechless. It’s a strange and funny addition to the show, and the long protracted silence is eventually broken by the audience rousing Nina out of her slumber.

Nina Conti and Monkey

Nina Conti and Monkey

What about the audience? Her act depends largely on who turns up on the night, how willing they are to participate and how they behave on stage. It’s good to remember not to sit at the front, unless you have a bit of an exhibitionist streak and don’t mind the possibility of being dragged onto the stage and having a strange mask stuck on your face. What happens after that is anyone’s guess because Nina takes over the person’s persona by using the information she has gleaned from them. The results are hilarious. Some people become expressive in their movements when they are on the stage, while some others are more reserved.

Sometimes Nina has to control three audience members. She manages to keep a scenario going through conversation, by throwing the voices of three people, controlling their masks, while also using her own voice. It’s a tricky feat and requires a lot of quick thinking, dexterity and co-ordination. She makes it look seamless, but it’s totally unpredictable and you feel it could all go a bit wrong. She is however skilful in bringing the audience with her and her easy-going nature makes people relax.  There also seems to be anonymity behind the mask. Perhaps it allows people to hide and feel like they are someone else.

What about the real Nina Conti? She spends a lot of time occupying the minds, personalities  and voices of other people, so it’s interesting to try and figure out who she is.  Judging by her show, she’s a fine comedian who doesn’t take herself too seriously. At the end of the evening she pulled on a bright yellow skintight Morph suit which was back to front and poked fun at herself. She’s clever, quick-witted, fast-talking and someone you could hang out with at the bar. She’s probably never alone though and it’s likely she’ll pull a few friends out of her handbag to join you.

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Filed under Festivals, Scotland, Theatre reviews

Beltane Fire Festival, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, 30th April 2015

It was a perfect night to herald in the May Queen as a quiet calm descended over Edinburgh’s Calton Hill and an almost full moon lit up the way for the crowds that gathered.

Beltane Fire Festival, Calton Hill Edinburgh, 2015

 

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Beltane Fire Festival, Calton Hill Edinburgh, 2015

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Any martians visiting Earth that night dropping in on the grassy hillocks would have beat a hasty retreat back to the safety of their planet. They would have been met with nearly naked people painted red and dancing like demons, figures dressed as birds and animals, blowing on hooters, while others were covered in black paint and banging drums in a procession which announced the arrival of the May Queen.

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The night ended with the May Queen marrying the Green Man as a representation of spring and fertility.

Beltane Fire Festival, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, 2015

 

 

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May 31, 2015 · 10:45 pm

Horse, Wintersong Gig at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh, December 10th, 2013

Horse, Wintersong gig at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh

Horse, Wintersong gig at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh, December 2013

It’s a mystery why Horse isn’t more widely recognized. When you think of Scottish female vocalists, it’s difficult to think of anyone who could surpass her vocal talents, and when she’s tackling a cover version, she picks the most difficult songs to test her vocal range – and she always nails it.

It seems to be a permanent fixture on the Horse gig calendar for a “Wintersong” slot, which tends to be something special. This time it was held inside the Dirty Martini bar of Le Monde Hotel in Edinburgh. It proved a perfect venue. The intimate setting had small tables and chairs facing the stage while fairy lights created a magical atmosphere.

A stripped back gig, Horse was accompanied with only a piano played deftly by Michael Abubakar who occasionally added in some backing and harmonizing vocals.

Horse, Edinburgh

The set list was a mix of Horse’s own impressive back catalogue, some old and some new. She also chose some excellent cover versions, including fans’ favourite, Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.

I have seen Horse perform on a variety of occasions in different settings. I’ve also seen her backed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra which was truly spectacular, but standing at the other end of the spectrum, this pared back gig stood out. The smallness of the venue and sparseness meant her voice was truly forefront. Every little intonation and change in range was felt and heard. Some notes were held on to for so long that it seemed impossible had you not heard it with your own ears. Her cover version of the Dusty Springfield classic I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten was simply stunning and perfect for her.

Her cover of the Lady Antebellum song I Need You Now was also sublime and fitted the reflective mood of the set list.

Cover versions aside, she’s got plenty good songs of her own, some are over 20 years old and timeless. There was the seductiveness of Breathe Me and a pared back Careful.

A warm and engaging performer, Horse loves to chat, and in between songs there was plenty of easy banter. People relate to her honesty, sincerity and vulnerability. She’s experienced the sadness of losing her parents and she’s experienced the happiness of love and getting married. She wears her heart on her sleeve and people love her for it.

This was her final gig of 2013 and it was a fitting and reflective round up to a busy year.

Going into 2014, she’s already got a Spring tour lined up for February, she’s taking part in Celtic Connections in Glasgow on January 20th and she’s part of a women’s poetry reading night in Kirkcaldy on January 25th in celebration of Robert Burns’ night.

For more information see: Horse Website

For more information on Celtic Connections see : Celtic Connections 2014 Website

Horse Spring Tour 2014

Horse
Spring Tour 2014

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Filed under Gig Reviews, Music

Edinburgh Festival – Whatever Gets You Through The Night – August 2013

Whatever Gets You Through The Night - Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013It’s difficult to categorise Whatever Gets You Through The Night, it’s part-gig, part-theatre, but more simply, it’s an experience. 

The time is 4am, an hour considered too early to get up but too late to sleep. So what do people do at this awkward hour? It’s a void waiting to be filled with magical moments or a waking nightmare.

Scotland at night is imagined as a series of vignettes, depicting lovelorn insomniacs to hopeful romantics.

The show was created by Cora Bissett, Edinburgh band Swimmer One and David Greig. It also features contributions from writers such as Alan Bissett, Stef Smith and Kieran Hurley. Songs include Eugene Kelly’s Chips n’ Cheese and Emma Pollock’s Dark Skies.

Whatever Gets You Through The NightThe piano melody of Seafieldroad’s The Palace of Light was accompanied by Jen Paterson performing acrobatics with giant sheets suspended from the ceiling. The material eventually became a hammock as she disappeared to sleep inside a giant silk cocoon hanging in the air. The effect was stunning.

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A young woman, the brilliant Frances Thorburn, was drinking wine and waiting by her laptop for her internet date. This was funny, tender and heartbreaking as her hopes for love faded to disappointment.

Saturday night in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street was played out on film, a repetitive montage to a hazy hallucinatory tune written by Kieran Hurley. And we saw a young lad as he staggered and swaggered along the streets, amid drunken bodies and neon lights.

In another scene, a taxi driver picked up a drunk, young girl and later on there was an ode to Chips n’ Cheese, a song written by Eugene Kelly which celebrates the drink-influenced delicacy of a night out.

Meanwhile further north in Aberdeen, we imaged the sea and the pier, as a woman tried to sell roses to couples romancing in the dark, and case of mistaken identity led to the sweet promise of love.

Paradoxically the darkness can serve to illuminate and exaggerate. Loneliness is exacerbated and in the dark you can feel like you are the only person in the world. It’s a feeling encapsulated by Isabel Wright as she gives birth on her own, taking a solitary journey into an unknown world.

And is the dark a comfort or a curse? A widower travels to Loch Lomond, he’s saying goodbye to his late wife, he’s alone with only thoughts of her and her ghost dancing with him.

It’s difficult to pin Whatever Gets You Through The Night into a genre. It’s a mixed bag, it’s thought-provoking and emotion-stirring.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night

Co-producer/collaborator of the show Andrew Eaton-Lewis, also of Edinburgh band Swimmer One and Seafieldroad says:

“It’s a bit like a circus. A bit like a cabaret. A bit like a party. A bit like a lullaby”.  

It’s a good description.

There’s an album of beautifully crafted songs which includes the sublime The North Star by Ricky Ross and Rachel Sermanni’s Lonely Taxi, 2am.

Buy the album here: Whatever Gets You Through The Night – buy the album through Bandcamp

For more about the creation of the show read this interview with Andrew Eaton-Lewis.

Interview with Andrew Eaton-Lewis

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Filed under Music, Scotland, Theatre reviews