My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 1

Edinburgh styles itself ‘the festival city’. We have all kinds of festivals, about all kinds of subjects, all year round. But it is in the summer where the party really gets started.  Over the course of a few weeks, we have the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  It is an incredible period of vibrant creativity, excellence and fun.

My Mum and I kicked things off this year with art-immersion over a couple of days.  We saw the City Art Centre’s stunning exhibition of Victoria Crowe’s work.  I wrote about my love of this artist here and here. It was wonderful to see some familiar paintings again, and plenty of new-to-me ones too.  Here is a screen-shot montage of some of the photos I took as we went around.  I love this collage display of colour and texture, which is the epitome of Crowe’s style:

 

Talking of collage, we also went to see Cut and Paste at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. Among my favourite works were this pair of c1830 pictures by George Smart, depicting a goose woman and a postman.

 

And we managed to fit in a whizz round the National Gallery of Scotland’s Bridget Riley exhibition.  It is always fascinating to see her ground-breaking geometric work, but I particularly enjoyed the room of sketches and preparatory pieces which, in true maths good practice tradition, showed her workings:

 

Next came a few comedy shows with Hub and our nephew, Mitchel.  Perhaps the most compelling was the stand-up routine by New Zealander Liam Malone, who is a gold medal winning paralympian.  Mitch has his own paralympic ambitions, so Liam’s show was hugely motivating and inspiring for him (as well as being very funny).  He was also very kind and generous with his time, talking to Mitch before the show, giving him a shout-out during the routine, and posing for a photo afterwards.  Thank you Liam!

Mitch (L) and Liam (R)

 

Finally, I kicked off my book festival programme with a couple of memorable events.  Tim Winton spoke about his new book, The Shepherd’s Hut. I could have listened to him for ever.  He reflected powerfully on the importance of landscape in his work; the creative process (or lack of process in his case); and how he sees optimism and hope as disciplines and obligations which have the capacity to break and re-make things.

“Surfing and writing both involve a lot of waiting. A surfer is waiting for a swell, the residue of an event that happened in the past. When you get one, you ride their energy to the shore. That’s what I do as a writer. Stories and ideas are just ripples from old events.” ~Tim Winton

 

After a couple of hours relaxing in the festival’s garden, seated under this lovely old tree…..

…I saw Damian Barr and Kit de Whaal talk about the recently published Common People: an anthology of working class writers. I am a huge fan of both authors and this was a wonderfully entertaining session, with an important point about the need for us all to make space for perspectives and experiences which are different from our own.

Of course, a festival would not be a proper festival without the addition of a bit of weather.  This is Hub and Mitch in the queue waiting to see Irish comedian Jason Byrne:

Never let it be said that we allow a bit of rain to dampen our festival enjoyment! 🙂

Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about the fun and frolics of this year’s summer, with a promise of further reflections about my souvenir stack of books.

Yum!

As I mentioned previously, I try not to bring physical books into our apartment these days. We have just about enough space for the books currently in our library, and not too much more. I mostly try to read e-books for convenience these days. But it is hard to resist such delicious treats sometimes.

All of the books in the stack are for reading. Some are also for looking at. They all, just by chance, have marvellously tactile qualities, enhancing the physical experience of reading all the more.

I bought Felix CulpaDrawing Water and Dull Margaret after attending author events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Jeremy Gavron’s novel is about the search for a troubled boy recently released from prison. The text has been woven like a rich tapestry with lines from 100 other books. As a result, it reads like a beautiful prose poem, full of wonder and depth. Gavron gave a fascinating and very personal talk about how he came to publish such a work, including several readings. I urged him to create an audio version when he signed my copy – fingers crossed.

Tania Kovats hosted a thought-provoking event in which she talked to Maria Popova (of BrainPickings fame) about the pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson and her seminal work The Sea Around Us. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues such as climate change, women being taken seriously (or not), and the power of art and poetry to illuminate complex issues. In Drawing Water, Kovats has curated a wonderful collection of art and writings from all kinds of people who are searching for something via the medium of water: map-makers, whalers, engineers etc. It is the most gorgeous collection and one which I will be dipping in to forever.

Before attending the event with actor Jim Broadbent and illustrator Dix, I was not sure about their book Dull Margaret, with its rather brutal graphic depiction of the title character’s bleak existence. Having heard them talk about generously about the development process, with Jim Broadbent at his lyrical best, expanding eloquently about his love for the beleaguered Margaret, I just had to buy a copy. I am only slowly becoming more acquainted with graphic novels and it is a fascinating journey.

 

Further visual feasts were in store, with Roger Billcliffe’s talk about ‘The Art of the Four’, namely Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald and James Herbert McNair. His recent book about the work of these four friends and their relationship with the rest of the art world is a sumptuous read as well as being utterly absorbing visually. I love Margaret’s work in particular and it was such a pleasure to hear more about these important artists.

And more visual stimulation arrived via Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon, who spoke entertainingly about their work on the relationship between Scottish history and the landscape around us. I am fascinated by the geology of Scotland, as well as being totally in love with this gorgeous part of the world. I am looking forward to spending many hours pouring over the amazing pictures and brilliant insights in their book.

 

Kate Davies’ book Handywoman is a must-read for anyone interested in the life- and health-enhancing features of creativity. It is no secret that I am passionate about the importance of creativity in our lives, whatever form it may take. I therefore also love the ethos behind the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook, which celebrate the ordinary and everyday through stranded knitting. I know both these books will provide much inspiration.

 

I picked up these two books in the Book Festival shop while kidding myself that I was just having a browse and did not intend to buy anything.  Matthew Herbert’s novel takes place over the course of just an hour. I think its reading experience may be similar to Jeremy Gavron’s novel in that it is a non-traditional, poetic treatment of words as experiences and emotions. Ziyad Marar’s book takes a look at that endlessly fascinating topic of how we judge, and are judged. Once I had picked it up, I could not put it down again because the cover feels so gorgeous. But more seriously, it chimes directly with the themes I am currently exploring with my sister on our Bald as Brass Blog.

 

As for these Victoria Crowe books, well that deserves a whole post to itself – the third and final part of this mini-series, coming soon….

 

In the meantime, let me close this post with the book on the top of my pile – Dear Heart, by Jenny Davis. This is one of those books which feels like a sacred and rare jewel in the hand. It was recommended by my dear friend Gallivanta, who wrote:

‘In 1988 Jenny Davis stumbled upon dozens of letters her aunt, Wynne, had written to her young soldier husband Mickey during World War II. Many of the letters remained unopened, still bearing the mark of their tragedy, a war office stamp, “No Trace”. This book is the story of an exceptional love as told by those letters written over a four year period from 1941 – first daily, then weekly. Wynne received only two replies and yet she poured out her hopes and reassurances and titbits of news from the home front. In 1945, at the end of the war, Wynne received both the unopened letters, and the news that Mickey had died in 1943 in Malaya, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.’

I just had to get my own copy and how glad I am that I did. I am of course looking forward to delving into the story. It also acts as a mark of friendship across the miles. How I love this online community of ours! 🙂