I did a bit of the Art Festival today.
I went to Wind Pipes for Edinburgh, an installation in a former church (a wonderful space off the Royal Mile which I didn’t know existed!). An organ playable by visitors, made of bits of waste pipes. The deep notes had a very breathy sound, almost alive. It was driven by huge bellows, and I thought it was just wonderful.
I then went to Rose Street to see Kenny Watson’s The Days, a humorous installation of a year’s worth of Edinburgh Evening News hoardings. Taken out of context, the headlines take on a surreal meaning, illuminating the paper’s obsessions (crime, sex, perverts and dust bin collections).
What I hadn’t realised was that in an annex were videos of Complaints Choirs around the world. I had heard the Edinburgh Complaints Choir on the radio, but I hadn’t bothered to seek them out. (They were singing complaints on the Royal Mile.) Coming across these videos, I wish I had. I found them funny and illuminating. I watched four, I think: Tokyo, Birmingham, Helsinki and Hamburg. Those in foreign languages had more impact – particularly Tokyo – I think reading the words and contrasting the sounds to the complaints brings more poignancy. That said, I am completely ear-wormed by the Birmingham choir.
I loved these videos. They were so unexpected, surprising, challenging AND ordinary that they changed my perception – certainly about choirs!
Here are the videos.
Hamburg (not on YouTube!)
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival starts this weekend. Perhaps you’ve noticed the wall-to-wall media coverage. From now until early September, Edinburgh will be full of people visiting from London to watch other people visiting from London perform.
It has made me realise that I have never “done” the Fringe.
Which is not to say that I have never been to a Fringe show. Quite the opposite. When I first moved to Edinburgh in 1982, I spent the summer working with a student theatre company; the next four Fringes I either worked doing tech for a student company or front of house for a theatre club (it was a club in order to get around safety regulations, I think; membership was signing away various rights. Plus it allowed them to have a late licence the rest of the year, too. Either way, because it was a club meant that they had to employ students – like me – to ensure that people coming in were members) – some years, both.
When I returned to live and work in Edinburgh in the 1990s, I would go to many Fringe show each year, though my enthusiasm for the Fringe was quickly replaced by that for the Festival proper (generally much more interesting and reliable than the Fringe – and better value).
No, I have been to a great many Fringe performances; but I have never “done” the Fringe as the many, many tourists do. Cramming in five or six shows a day, queuing for tickets and returns, crowding into the Royal Mile, and spending the rest of the time in the pub.
And frankly, I never will!