Fairy Lights and Burrito Stands

Edinburgh Fringe 2023: Diary Entry Three

Apart from shredding my voice on a daily basis, I am thoroughly enjoying the creative experience of the Fringe.

I am brimful of lemons and Manuka honey. Many of us are mourning the loss of Sanderson’s Throat Specific, a magical potion that would let your larynx glow for 5

3 minutes before your show would go into the fade. 

On the down side, there are many acts, some fringe regulars of many years, who are getting the smallest audiences they have ever had. While their outgoings have never been higher, their income has never been lower. I have never known the streets so lacking in fringe-goers. 

The fringe has also become very centralised, whereas once it was on both sides of the railway tracks, now it is predominantly around `George Square Gardens, a place of fairy lights and burrito stands. It seems time for an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Fringe. 

My main grouch is the usual one – performers whose social media accounts suggest that they have no idea that anyone else is putting on a show at the Fringe. There are accounts that are rich with “Look at me, I’m on the sold out board” and “Look at my brilliant review” and “Come see me me me” but never mention a single other show. I find this a pity as one of the things that I have always enjoyed about the fringe is a sense of camaraderie. There are friendships I made during a particularly bleak August that led to me creating The Book Club and to knowing people who I knew I could trust to be there for others, ready to catch them when they fell or knowing that there would be people to catch them, too.

My wife and son came to see my Weapons of Empathy show on Saturday which added a little frisson of nerves, not wanting to let then down. I have had so many lovely conversations with people after that show. 

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Some favourite conversations have included –

  • The twelve year old who asked me to sign a copy of Bunty and explained that after watching the show she knew she DEFINITELY wanted to be a writer .
  • The person who told me how he had come from an impoverished background but managed to get to University to study English literature. During the first week, everyone was asked – “so what have you read?” Titles such as Jude the Obscure and Mansfield Park echoed around the room and when it got to him he said, James Herbert’s The Rats. There was snickering that was hastily stopped by the lecturer who explained that what he saw in him was clearly a desire to love books but, unlike the others, he had not had the opportunities. The person explained that this tutor set him own a path of a lifelong love of literature.
  • The person who wanted me to write a message of encouragement to their sister who is struggling with her identity.

There have been so many more short conversations of love and delight and a tremendous number of recommendations of weapons of empathy, all of which I will start collecting together as I cross the Tweed at the end of August.

Show recommendations include Nicky Doody’s Difficult Twelfth Album a show which comes to a delightful conclusion (I will give away nothing).

Paul Zenon’s Monkey Business which is must for any comics fans who used to drool over the adverts for novelty nonsense – from joy buzzers to sea monkeys. That said, my wife is not a comics fan and she loved it too.

I haven’t seen The Winchester Mystery House, but my family loved that too and found it utterly fascinating.

Now, does anyone know what the secret recipe of Sanderson’s Throat Specific was?

Robin’s shows: Weapons of Empathy is on daily at 1pm at Gilded Balloon at the Museum and MELONS: A Love Letter to Stand Up Comedy at 8:35pm at The Stand at New Town Theatre. Tickets for both shows are here.

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Prof Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest books are The Importance of Being Interested and Bibliomaniac.

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