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 One

We’ve had a marvellous summer. Yes, coping with the very hot weather was a bit of a challenge. But that in no way diminished our enjoyment of all the riches and treasures on offer in Edinburgh during the main festival month of August. There’s no better place to be.

The Festival Wheel, Scott Monument and Balmoral Hotel from Princes Street Gardens

 

Now that we are settling into the season of mellow fruitfulness (my favourite time of year), I have had a chance to reflect on some recent highlights.

Spending time with family and friends is always one of the best aspects of our summers. This year we kicked things off with a visit from my sister and her ‘kids’ – fast growing of course. In fact, we were engaged in belated 18th birthday celebrations with Mitchel. And who can resist a bit of girly madness….

Me, Mitchel and Steve at our favourite Indian Restaurant for an 18th birthday meal

Me, Rachel and Lucy in our traditional family headwear!

 

We also enjoyed catching up with London-based friends who are now hardened Fringe regulars, seeing plenty of shows and sharing some great meals together.

From the thousands of Fringe shows on offer, we always try to take in a wide range of offerings. My favourites this year included Giles Brandreth, whose meander through memories about meetings with bygone stars of stage and screen was touching, charming and very funny. And I adored the performance by Norwegian poet Fredrik Høyer, whose show ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ was a beautiful, funny story about life, marathon, ultra-runners and the rom-com film The Holiday. All whilst running for his life on a treadmill! It was the epitome of the spirit of the festival.

Interspersed with Fringe shows were regular trips to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I saw talks about art, the environment, the power of of the novel to heal and so much more. Added to this were the wonderful art exhibitions in town this year. What an incredible mix of inspiration, learning and entertainment. And what lovely memories to store in the archives.

I have some physical mementos too, in the form of this glorious pile of books. I try hard these day to avoid adding physical books to my already-too-large library. But in relation to these volumes, resistance was futile. I’ll talk more about why in part two of this mini-series. 🙂

Yum!