Edinburgh 2012

Scottish National Monument

Before I file away all my ephemera, I'll just list the shows I managed to see at this year's Edinburgh festival - you could hardly call it a review! It was just a week: Saturday 11 - Saturday 18 August, with a stop-off at Bury on the way back for my sister's birthday and a spot of trainspotting.

No shows Saturday and Sunday, just lazy days hanging out in various bars, including George Square Gardens and the new venue Summerhall, a former vet school and hospital - The Royal Dick - and it's huge (we came back on the Friday for a proper look round). They make their own beer there - Barney's - and I had a couple of pints of the Red Rye on Sunday in the courtyard.

Dieter Roth: Diaries

Monday 13 August: took in some art shows, including Dieter Roth: Diaries at the Fruitmarket, an underwhelming  collection of rubbish, flattened and put in folders for a year! Much more interesting were Harry Hill's paintings, upstairs at White Stuff, including some pop stars painted on coconuts. Saw the ever entertaining Robin Ince at The Jam House, a free gig, but I put a fiver in the bucket, and popped along to the book festival to meet up with Sam and his friends.

Harry Hill coconuts

 Tuesday 14 August: got a bus to the Mound (my bus pass doesn't work in Scotland so it was a £3.50 day ticket) to check out the Symbolist Landscape exhibition. It was better that expected; but the subtitle Van Gogh to Kandinsky let it down. There was so much more, including Whistler, GF Watts, Lord Leighton, James Ensor and Monet, plus lots of German and Scandanavian painters such as Franz von Stuck and Villhelm Hammershoi and Akseli Gallen-Kallela - and a couple of dreadfuls by Munch. What was fascinating was that so many of the conventional paintings were contemporary with the more avant-garde pictures, such as by Mondrian, collected together towards the end of the exhibition. Thanks to The Scotsman I got a half-price ticket to Formby, a play written and performed by Ewan Wardop, and smashing it was too - he can really play the banjolele, and we had a good old sing song at the end of the two songs audiences never let George leave the stage before he did - can you guess them? I met up with Sam to go see Paul Foot (not the politician) at the Underbelly and funny he was too, without ever finishing a joke - don't sit on the front row though! It was another late night as well, to see Humphrey Kerr as Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher. It was the sort of tall tale that your grandad might tell you about his role in the downfall of Hitler, and hugely entertaining. It was the last night of the run and the props dept had put some extra bang in the explosion, making the actor jump out of his skin (and the audience too).

Golden double for Chris Hoy

Wednesday 15 August: to the Stand for another Edinburgh stalwart, Simon Munnery, who conducted the whole show - Fylm Makker - from the middle of the audience as a video link. It was a virtuoso performance involving half-silvered mirrors, foot pedals and cardboard animations, and of course Venn diagrams. After a pint across the road we were in the other Stand for Gavin Webster, an old-skool geordie comic, who was nevertheless extremely likeable and shook everyone's hand on the way out. After a Yo! Sushi meal at the top of Harvey Nick's I baled out and let the youngsters go oot on the toon.

Scottish singers plaque

Thursday 16 August: I had a mission, to discover Sally Kennedy's singing ancestor's plaque at the bottom of Calton Hill steps. I was also looking for the Ingleby Gallery, so I got off the bus at the top of the High Street and walked down the Royal Mile through all the buskers and flyerers , checked out the golden pillar box on Hunter Square, looked in at the Collective gallery and made for the Trainspotting steps. Lo and behold! there was the gallery: two floors of lovely Ian Hamilton Finlay stuff, including a film of aircraft taking off from an ironing board and a set of wooden models of Japanese warship chimneys. Back up to Waterloo Place and across a bridge over where I'd just been (Edinburgh is like that) and it was onward to the steps. Found the plaque just past the steps and decided to do something I'd never done before: go up to the top of Calton Hill! It wasn't that bad and ate my sandwiches overlooking a stunning view of Leith. Walked down to the Mound and got the Art Bus (yes, it's back, as a luxury coach) to the modern art gallery for the Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition. Now I've never been too fond of Pablo, but the Wyndham Lewis paintings downstairs and the Hockney room upstairs were worth the admission price on their own. There is some local interest too, with photos by Lee Miller and collages by Roland Penrose. Didn't bother with the Munch at the former Dean gallery, now Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 2. Back to the old Assembly for Stewart Lee (who flyered me on the way in!) and his very-post-modern show Carpet Remnant World. Then another late-night show - John Shuttleworth at the Ace Dome. It was quite a rushed performance, with only an abbreviated I can't go back to savoury now as an encore. I look forward to a good two hours at the Theatre Royal in November.

Art bus

Friday 17 August: spent most of the day at Summerhall looking at the many art exhibitions on show. It's like a college degree show with so many rooms to explore and only a badly photocopied map to guide you. Liked the Demarco Foundation rooms, with more Ian Hamilton Finlay, and the Phenotype Genotype ephemera. Then it was a walk to the Pleasance Courtyard, thence to the Brewdog Bar in Cowgate, and a farewell meal at Absolute Thai.

Cages for art

On Saturday it was down the west coast on Virgin to Manchester and the tram to Bury, and on Sunday I made use of one of my free member's tickets on the East Lancs Railway, where steam locos 80080 (made in Brighton) and Jinty 47324 pulled me to Heywood and Rawtenstall and back. Stopped off at Ramsbottom for some black peas, but the stall had gone, its pitch taken over by a Tesco carpark!

80080 tank at Ramsbottom

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