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3,000 masochists descend on Edinburgh

9 August 2014

11:30 AM

9 August 2014

11:30 AM

And they’re off. The mighty caravan of romantic desperadoes, radical egoists, stadium wannabes, struggling superstars and vanity crackheads is on its way to Edinburgh. This year’s Fringe sponsor is Virgin Money, which must be some kind of in-joke because most performers spend August watching their life savings being ritually despoiled by landlords, press agents and venue owners. Five years back the Fringe was ready for a gastric band when it grew to more than 2,000 productions. This year it glides past the 3,000 mark and it seems determined to maintain its place as the most cluttered congregation of twits and pipe-dreamers on the planet.

It’s also, of course, the world’s greatest arts festival and because there are no barriers to entry there’s no quality control. Every year fresh loons arrive who give themselves zero chance of finding a crowd because they think the crowd is desperate to find them. Some hope.

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Performers have barely half a dozen words to grab our attention. Opening the brochure, I stumble at random on page 318, which offers a choice between The Trial of Jane Fonda starring Anne Archer and In the Surface of a Bubble, which reveals ‘how our dreams got locked inside our heads with capoeira, kung fu, masks, puppetry and live music’. Which would you pay to see?

I hope the Bubble performers turn into the biggest sleeper hit in Fringe history. More likely they’ll trudge home sad, outraged and skint. Which is perfectly OK. The festival isn’t about inflating your ego. It’s about thrashing it till it bleeds.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 9 August 2014


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Show comments
  • sepide
  • swatnan

    The Festival is wasted in Edinburgh and should move down to Birmingham.

  • Baron

    One of the best blogs Baron has come across this year, Lloyd, you should be awarded the top prize by the festival organisers for the most charmingly sarcastic, and spot on, take on the thing.

  • trace9

    Well he certainly didn’t waste much time typing that tiddler though perhaps I did clicking on it thinking there would be a Little More Depth to such an apparent survey. Basics true enough though; on Radio Scotland they’re referring to ‘The Festivals’ now.

  • Magnolia

    My kids are going.
    One has written some stuff that will be performed.
    It’s a bit of fun for them and I think far better for our youngsters to try to write or perform comedy than to loaf about getting bored, pis**d, taking drugs or racing around in cars etc. The jury’s out on forn***tion and gardening.
    I would say the same about 3000 painters descending on anywhere at say, an art exhibition.
    What on earth is wrong with having a go?
    The truly gifted will probably rise no matter what but only if they start to practise their art somewhere. It’s the not starting that we need to fear. That will hold us back as individuals, communities and as a country.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fa4HUiFJ6c Shenandoah

      I would never call my children ‘kids’ and I’m amazed that so many Brits now do (Americans always did, but they’re Americans, so that’s to be expected). It sounds like a skin disease or some other thing to make your flesh creep. Certainly not something close to the heart.

      • Magnolia

        At home they are ‘the children’ or ‘the offspring’ or personal pet names that are sweet and private.
        Out here in comment world they are merely ‘kids’ to differentiate between my public and private personas.
        I am a very intensive parent having suffered from ‘fond parenting’ myself as a child.

  • David Booth.

    Standing in the queue for a ticket to catch Bob Kingdom “doing” Dylan Thomas (excellent by the way) I overheard a group of tourist comparing how many event their mutual friend had “caught” each day, her record was eight. A positive whirlwind of culture.

  • grimm

    The trouble with artists (in any medium) and art lovers is that they drastically overestimate the importance of art. Yet even Orson Wells, in moment of self doubt, said that he was not sure if art had a value at all.

    • Kaine

      We live on a small rock hurtling through space, attached to a dying star, in a galaxy that will one day collide with Andromeda, in a universe that will eventually fall to entropy.

      Assigning value to any human action is an act of supreme overestimation on any objective basis.

      • David Booth.

        I’ll get my coat then!

        • post_x_it

          Why? It’s worthless.

      • grimm

        Grandiose, pseudo-philosophical twaddle! This is just as I suspected: arts festivals (especially those that are “open”) draw all the worst wannabe intellectuals out of the woodwork. Your ridiculous “God’s eye” view of human endeavour sounds to me like the all-knowing voice of the pimply faced undergraduate.

        • Kaine

          Nothing philosophical about it, it’s simply the latest scientific data. What you do with it is up to you. You’re the one trying to assign ‘meaning’ and ‘value’, which are philosophical concepts.

          Sadly I haven’t been an undergraduate for quite some time. I do however know that “pimply-faced” has a hyphen, and that if one is attacking another’s intellectual heft it behooves oneself to ensure that one’s grammar is correct.

          • grimm

            Your comment about the assignment of value to any human action being ‘an act of supreme overestimation’ IS an attempt to sound philosophical. Assigning ‘meaninglessness” to life is a philosophical notion (I would not call it a concept) with a distinctly adolescent flavour. The ‘latest scientific data’ reveal a world which is much more complex than your ‘small rock hurtling through space’. In fact the small rock image is a favourite of bar room bores waxing philosophical after the alcohol has taken hold (makes you think dunnit).

            Incidentally, pulling me up over the failure to use a hyphen is the lamest sort of debating society ‘wit’.

            • Kaine

              No, I just used your own words back at you. If they sound pretentious to your ear, then you have only yourself to blame.

              And you’re the one that resorted to insults, though you’ll now pretend you didn’t because you lack the integrity to at least stand by your ad hominem.

              • grimm

                I have not had a chance to reply until now – work eats into my free time. Well, here goes: I originally criticised your “small rock hurtling through space…” comment because it sounded like a piece of shallow trivia passed off as grand insight. I repeat: it is the kind of comment I would expect to come from the mouth of a bar room bore (or an undergraduate) – the kind of people who tend to overestimate their intellectual ability. I suspect that for you this was actually just an idle comment made as a kind of “me too” contribution.

                None of your subsequent comments (mostly silly displays of debating society cleverness) lead me to change my view on the general superficiality of your observations.

                As for the ad hominem issue – why is this such a taboo? Is it really necessary to pretend that the connection between argument and the character of the one who expresses it has no significance?

                Anyway, I think this exchange, if continued, will probably descend into a pointless struggle to have the last word so I will make this my final comment on the matter.

                • pedestrianblogger

                  One question, O cliche-mongerer. Does a “bar-room bore” cease to be a bore when he leaves the bar-room or does he become, perhaps a “lavatory bore” or a “front-garden bore”? I tell a lie, I have another. Do you keep all your “Wanker of the Week” trophies on the mantle-piece and did you have to have it extended for the purpose?

                • grimm

                  So, pedestrianblogger, you have chosen to express yourself in the style of the belligerent bar-room bore complete with a couple of examples of the hopelessly lame ‘wit’ which seems to be the most common currency on these pages.

                  Your two ‘questions’ are gormless and unfunny but I suspect this kind of comment is the way you normally express yourself. Perhaps if you spent less time gathering source material for your ‘funny’ comments from popular comedians your brain might have time to generate something original and worth saying.

                • pedestrianblogger

                  Look, Lady Bracknell (or whoever you imagine you are), I would like to say that it has been a great pleasure making your acquaintance and that I look forward to hearing again from you soon and often but it hasn’t and I don’t so I will bid you “goodbye”. Keep smiling, chum.

      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fa4HUiFJ6c Shenandoah

        Enjoy it while you can, baby:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0FlTjvQLgw

        • grimm

          “baby”?

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty_TFmL05s0 Shenandoah

            What do you want? ‘Lover’? ‘Old man’?

            • grimm

              What I would like is an end to all this wearying flippancy. Too many people imagine they are naturally witty and amusing and cannot resist using social media to express these imagined gifts to a wider world.

              The comment pages of the spectator are filled with irritating little bits of feeble wit and wisdom. Getting drawn into this world is like finding oneself stuck in a pub listening to a bunch of over-talkative bar room bores (of the middle-class twerp variety).

              • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F92PBS8pYvc Shenandoah

                Well I won’t weary you further with a reply then. Or even a smiley face.

                • pedestrianblogger

                  Very wise. The old booby seems terribly prone to weariness and irritation but not, oddly, because of the banality of his own thinking or the plodding dullness of the prose with which he expresses it. Oh dear! It is making ME weary even thinking about it.

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty_TFmL05s0 Shenandoah

            That’s right, baby.

    • pearlsandoysters

      Modern art is most certainly overestimated, which can not be said about art per se. The civilization will be no where without art or philosophy. Yet modern attempts to make it all important are lost in meanengless stream of identikit productions, no one really cares about. I guess it’s a downside of mass society.

    • Magnolia

      The world would be a much poorer place ‘spiritually’ without the film Casablanca, the paintings of Gainsborough, the architecture of St Paul’s or the music of Motown.
      Like a good meal, a beautiful sky or even just a new shirt or new bit of techy stuff they all take our mind away from the grim reality of daily life.
      For those of us who view socialising as a chore, the arts give us a view in to another lovely world.

      • grimm

        There are always different and legitimate views on what art is spiritually uplifting. With respect I must say that none of the examples you list particularly inspire me. St Paul’s has always seemed to me to be an interesting but strangely Godless structure.

        Even ‘unquestionable’ masterworks can in fact be called into question. The Sistine Chapel for example – El Greco famously said that there is too much meat in Michelangelo’s heaven and seeing the acres of flesh depicted on the ceiling there I must agree.

        • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fa4HUiFJ6c Shenandoah

          Westminster Abbey, then? As for Michelangelo: a genius that had no idea how to sculpt a female nude but was far too much enamoured of flesh in general (the Sistine Chapel is virtually a gay bathhouse).

          • Kaine

            Modern civilisation is the creation of two groups, Jews and homosexuals.

            Bloody good job we did too.

            • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guKoNCQFAFk Shenandoah

              ! Though I could have done without Karl Marx’s ‘contribution’.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fa4HUiFJ6c Shenandoah

      Of course it has value! We couldn’t live without it. The only catch is that you can’t usually make a dinner with it or ride it anywhere.

  • global city

    For a moment I thought that the headline read ‘3,000 moustachios descend on Edinburgh’

    • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

      Glasgow Gay Pride finished last week so you could be right.

      • global city

        Brilliant!

  • Roderick

    Is that picture really Edinburgh Castle and not, say, Stirling Castle?

    • Colonel Mustard

      It’s Edinburgh castle. The gatehouse at Stirling has round towers either side.

      • TrulyDisqusted

        And it’s in Stirling.

  • Kitty MLB

    Oh and will you be there dearest Allymax with your poetry.
    We’ll miss you here and I’ll miss your wit, Scottish warrior with
    the soul of king James.

  • Kitty MLB

    Maybe we can have little wager.Whose the best Edinburgh or
    Glastonbury. Admittedly to will have more variety in Edinburgh which is also very beautiful and they have a castle too ( but not the
    mystical Glastonbury Tor) where you find students climbing after
    a heavy night, they’re trying to find King Arthur.
    I would pay to see In The Surface of a Bubble.. how dreams are locked within a head sounds intriguing..I also think being able read the minds of others intriguing.But I find puppetry somewhat
    sinister.
    The Trial of Jane Fonda..so what trials have dear Jane had to endure..might give it a miss.

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