Art on the Fringes

fringe logoFor the past few months I’ve been volunteering for the Stirling Fringe Festival: a small multi-arts festival now in its third year. The festival begins this Friday 18 September and runs until Saturday 26 September. It will host a variety of musicians, comedians, singers, actors, poets and writers, across a range of venues throughout the city. That it runs at all is nothing short of remarkable.

Stirling, as a city, both benefits and suffers from its proximity to Glasgow and Edinburgh – particularly in relation to the arts. In less than an hour by train, you could be right there, in the heart of one of the biggest arts festivals in the world, or discovering some of the best venues, museums and galleries in Europe. How can Stirling compete with that? How can any smaller town compete?

The simple answer is it can’t. But it can offer something innovative, fun, funky and inspiring on your doorstep, which is exactly what the Stirling Fringe set out to do: with a bucket-load of enthusiasm, very little money, a skeleton volunteer staff, the goodwill and support of other venues throughout the city and some funding from EventScotland and Stirling Council.

And it works.

imagesThis year, in partnership with the Tolbooth, Scottish hip-hop artists and political agitators, Stanley Odd kick off the festival. Throughout the week, you can have your spirits raised by a range of artists: enjoy a relaxing night at the Guildhall Music Club, catch up with local music scene, laugh along with an array of comedians at various venues, and celebrate the spoken word with local writers and poets.

There’s theatre, a family day with children’s entertainers, craft stalls and games, storytelling for schools, dance and opera.

And to round it off on a high, there’s a night of salsa (tequila optional) – preceded by an hour’s dance lesson, so you really have no excuse!

All of this is possible thanks to a team of volunteers whose motivation is not monetary but is the promotion and celebration of the arts in Stirling, Scotland and further afield. Who give their time freely and devotedly. Why? Because they believe in the ability of the arts to make our hearts sing; to add colour and flavour and depth to the world. And in today’s world, that’s something of which to be proud.

I for one, can’t wait for the Stirling Fringe to begin. See you there.

For tickets visit: http://www.macrobertartscentre.org

Time to Speak Out

Last night Mr D and I, along with a couple of friends, had a night out in the Big McSmoke (or Edinburgh as it’s more commonly referred), to listen to a selection of poets, actors, comedians and musicians take part in the Speakeasy event at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Unsure what to expect, we grabbed a drink and headed downstairs to the theatre: what a fantastic night! At £7 a ticket, the event far exceeded the more than reasonable price. Compered by comedian Jo Caulfield, there were six acts, all different and all equally as fun, entertaining and interesting as each other.

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At the interval Mr D and I were invited to take part in the next event on the 10th of March, a thought which both excites and terrifies me in equal measure. Add to that one of the other acts being Dave Hook of Stanley Odd and my fear begins to outweigh my excitement. Don’t worry, I’m not doing some kind of pseudo Sonny & Cher duet with Mr D, nor are we acting out our own mini-drama – I’m telling the story of my recent health-related experience through an extract from my Longer Piece of Work (LPoW), and Mr D intends to combine his writing and musical talents in a ‘life on tour’ mash-up (apologies if I’m bastardising the terminology).

Aside from a practice run at university, I’ve never read any of my writing in public, nor have I told my story to strangers. I’ve listened to other writers and storytellers and been in awe of their ability to stand up and put themselves out there. More recently, one of the other members of our MLitt Write-n-Rant Collective, Helen MacKinven, took the plunge, followed by another of my fellow ex-students. Our MLitt tutor, author Paula Morris, often talks at festivals and other events, one of my closest friends is a stand-up comedian, and Mr D and several of his friends perform music in various venues. All these people inspire me. And yet, the thought of doing it myself, seemed beyond my capabilities.

There are various reasons people take to the stage: to promote; to share; for fun (!); for the love of it. I think it’s great that they do so. Nothing beats watching someone talk about the thing they love, nor is anything more moving than someone sharing their life experience. To do it well is a talent not to be under-rated; a joy to behold. To do it badly – yikes!

No-one last night did it badly and that’s what really scares me. What if I go up there and I freeze or worse, I’m boring and no-one is interested? What if I bomb? Wouldn’t that be horrible? Well, no not really. I mean, yes it would be horrible but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I know this because last night I realised that even if someone had forgotten what they were going to say, or been less than inspiring, I would’ve rooted for them anyway just by virtue of them getting up there. The audience at the Speakeasy event weren’t out to get anyone, they weren’t rowdy, they didn’t heckle or boo. For each and every person that spoke, the audience were on their side. What better place to have my performance debut? If I do bomb, Mr D and my amazing friends will be there to pick up the pieces. And hey, there’s always red wine.

For those interested in going to one of the monthly Speakeasy nights, and I strongly recommend it, you can find out more by visiting the Scottish Storytelling Centre website.