Fringe benefits…

Last weekend I was in Edinburgh for the closing days of the festival. I had such a good time, but as is the spoonie way, it took me days to recover. I also had some exciting going ons keeping me busy this week, so it’s taken me a while to put a post together. Obviously the fringe is over, but you can catch my recommendations performing around the country all year.

I have been a Neil Holborn fan for a while, but this was my first opportunity to see him perform. He did not disappoint. His poetry is stunning; words have so much power when manipulated correctly. Much of his work packs a punch, but he can apply a light comedic touch too. Neil has been receiving some well deserved acclaim recently & I hope his star continues to ascend. 

The next two shows were the toyboy’s choices. I’m going to give him credit for content, but a big fat zero for the venues being so far apart. Lost Voice Guy tackles inspiration porn, tory welfare cuts & his own experience of disability all whilst being highly amusing. Chris Coltrane continued the political stand up with his Make Love and Smash Facism show. If like me, you’re a left wing, bleeding heart liberal who likes a lot of swearing, this is the show for you. If like me you also have a very dodgy knee & often faint in hot rooms, The Banshee may not be the venue for you. Edinburgh is possibly the least accessible city in existence, so when I say I had a good time, you know the shows were good. 


After drinks & dinner & more drinks we hit a late night comedy show at The Mash House (another contender for hottest spot outside hell). Two girls one cup of comedy was a show that guaranteed at least two female stand ups every night. We caught the very last show which, to my delight, was an all women line up. The stand out for me was definitely Samantha Baines. Her compèreing combined quality puns, hilarious audience interaction & a tiny bit of man mocking. Turns out I’ve been under a rock & Baines is already rather well known & loved. I am glad to have joined the party, even if I am very late. 

We saw some other bits & pieces and visited a few non fringe related spots, but these are my picks. I recommend you rush to them should they visit your vicinity. 

The end of festival fireworks were really beautiful too. 


*Photo credit, top right – Stephen Black.

Women of the Year 2015

At this time we’re usually all having a last glance at the old year before forging ahead into the new. We often see best of or most shocking lists and tonnes of folk write their own lists of resolutions. Well, bollocks to the new year, new me trope. I quite like me & so I am summing up 2015 by laying praise at the feet of women who helped me to see that. We can all be better people, but you don’t do it by joining a gym. To quote my dear Mother, all you have to do is keep trying your best. Try to be kind, stay open to learning, say sorry when you’re wrong, seize every opportunity you’re able to, use your talents & always show the people you love how much they mean to you. Those are my ideas on how to be my best self, but everyone is different, you do you. In the mean time, if you need any inspiration, check out these kick arse women.

 

Let’s start with my 2015 musical hero, Sia. I love every note & every word that escapes her mouth. Her consummate ability to express both strength and vulnerability blows me away. Her music is clearly amazing, but what really excites me is her total commitment to doing it her way. From her unique take on keeping a low profile to the, at times, controversial choreography of her videos, it is all marching to her beat.

There has been much discussion about rape culture in the last year. Violence against women has a rising profile thanks to the dedicated work of feminists & professionals in the field. The problem of how universities in America deal with reports of sexual violence has been a topic of outrage. The actions of one student struck me as more courageous than I could ever hope to be. Emma Sulcowizc was raped in her dorm room at Columbia university in 2012 by a fellow student. The university found her attacker not responsible after an enquiry in 2013. Sulcowizc conceived Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) as an act of endurance performance & conducted it as her thesis during her final year of a visual arts degree. Commencing in September 2014 the work involved carrying a 50lb mattress ( the kind used in uni dorms) everywhere she went on campus. Emma said she would cease the project if her attacker was expelled. That, however did not happen and she carried the mattress until they both graduated in May of last year. On her graduation several other female students helped her carry the mattress across the stage. To have survived not only the heinous crime of rape, but the further violation of her abuser going unpunished takes strength. However to continue with her degree knowing she may see her rapist at any time on campus shows true bravery. Moreover, to face that threat whilst carrying literally a huge weight in order to protest not only her own experience, but that of countless other young women, is beyond powerful. For Emma to open herself up to censure, attack & possible danger to make this statement humbles & emboldens me.

Mhairi Black is a testament to what a person can do when they believe in something passionately. At the age of 20 she became the youngest Member of Parliament since 1832. As if that wasn’t achievement enough her election victory for SNP ousted the Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander. At the time of her election she hadn’t even completed her degree, but went on to earn a First-Class honours degree in Politics from Glasgow University shortly afterwards. Black describes herself as an old fashioned socialist, which is perfectly aligned with my own politics. Her stance on welfare cuts & LBGTQ issues have proved her ethics & her maiden speech in the house was outstanding. As a Scot and an SNP supporter I couldn’t be prouder of this home grown talent. Having met her briefly at my brother’s wedding, I can also attest that she is very patient & lovely when accosted by drunkity fans.

 

My next marvelously outre woman is an all time favourite. Carrie Fisher is everything. Obviously she’s a cult actress, star wars & when harry met sally are in my watch a million times pile. Oh my, but she is so much more. Her writing is incredible. When I first I read one of her books I cried. I felt every emotion, I was awed. No one can write like Carrie Fisher because no one’s mind works like hers. Her words rush off the page is flow into parts of my brain that no other author can reach. Carrie is not only wonderfully eccentric, but also an outspoken advocate on mental illness, ageism & sexism. Her words are direct, but dripping in caustic humour. Last, but not least she made a hilarious appearance in one of my favourite shows, Catastrophe. Let’s face it this Hollywood royalty is the real deal, Carrie Fisher is genius.

Bree Newsome is an outstanding film maker & activist. He film Wake has won numerous awards and been screened at film festivals including Cannes & the Montreal International Black film festival. She has said that her experiences as a black woman working in the horror genre led her to activism. She saw that the space for Black women was so small that it wasn’t possible to advance without activism. In 2015 Newsome came to media attention when she removed the confederate flag flying in the grounds of the South Carolina State House. Removing the flag was no easy feat, she had to climb a 30 foot pole. She was arrested (along with a man police claimed helped her, James Ian Tyson) & charged with defacing monuments on capitol grounds. Within hours of bail being set, the $6000 for both parties was raised by crowd funding. Support for Bree’s actions was huge. The flag’s presence was of course repulsive and a talking point, but her bravery in taking action was inspirational. A lesson to us all that actions speak louder when words. The flag’s permanent removal did not take place until July after a vote that was no doubt forced by the media attention garnered by Bree Newsome’s activism.

My final wonder woman is fast becoming an idol. Luisa Omielan is a stand up comedian whose act is not only hilarious, but also massively uplifting. Her show, Am I right, ladies? is absolutely the best stand up I have ever seen. Her handling of body positivity, slut shaming, mental health & penis desire will not fail to have you screaming with laughter. From the moment I saw her grooving on the stage before the show to watching her grab her belly with delight I was enraptured. Omielan’s message is what I need. Her brand of feminism is what we all need. The joy of Luisa goes beyond her act. Her can do attitude towards everything is impressive; not only crowd funding her dvd, but also packing & posting them herself, acting as her own manager, creating the best social media presence and even funding amazing events. Luisa Omielan, if it’s not too creepy to say, I love you.