Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Memory Book

On Friday night we ran a little event at Central School of Speech Drama. The main purpose of it was to try and experiment with a new kind of space for artists to play in. A bustling little hub in which video installations, audio experiences, one on one encounters and other miniature events could co-exist. A space somewhere between a gallery and a theatre and a party.

You could have Brian Lobel buy a minute of your time, or Debbie Pearson tell you about the music that's been ruined for her by dating, or see a brilliantly disturbing video installation by Charlotte Jarvis, tell Jo Bannon about your claim to fame, have a five minute relationship with Mamoru Iriguchi. We had the first realisation of a travelling audio library that we are working on building. We had a beautiful night time balcony gig by Little Bulb. We had Greg McLaren hidden in a corner of the building. It was a lovely evening and it will hopefully become the basis for a series of exciting events we're hoping to make happen in the Spring across the country.

One of the little pieces we had there was a new collaborative piece by us at Forest Fringe.

We laid out a diary and asked people to contribute a memory for each day of the year. Here are a collection of those that we got.

March 1
This is the beginning of the month where I celebrate the year anniversary of my first love.

March 28
I woke up.

May 6
First kiss of many - in fact, the first kiss and the last time I kissed anyone else.

May 16
Today the first seed sprouted. That made me hopeful, even though I'd spilled the seed tray on the floor.

July 4
My first child was born on July 4. It was a hot night - all the windows were open. She was delivered by a U.S. student - his first delivery. He looked stunned and amazed.

August 1
A year ago today I watched the sun set + rise again over the mount ridges of New Mexico.

August 19
We had a party in a cave for the most delightful of ladies.

September 3
Today I was the recipient of fellatio on a public bus. Teenage wet dream? I was worried terribly that someone would turn around. What would I say? No one did.

September 9
I had an abortion.

November 10
My mother was born in 1947. She is a great woman. She deserves a lot more love than she gets but sometimes she shoots herself in the foot. What an interesting mind. I want so much to giver her the world but in so many ways she wouldn't take it.

November 13
I am thinking of you right now, and I wish I wasn't. I wish it wasn't like this and that it may of ended differently. Who knows what would of happened. But I feel that it shouldn't of happened this way.

November 28
CJ had a one night stand in Manor House.

December 10
After he'd forgotten my birthday for the 3rd time I tried to kill myself. I failed. He's gone. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :)


Hopefully we can continue to add to the Memory Book as we go and maybe have a full year of memories by Edinburgh to have on display for people during the festival. If you want to contribute something just email us via our website or put something in the comments.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Peter Brook Empty Space Award

Some delightful news for the beginning of maybe the year's most depressing month (it's cold, it's not Christmas and the only thing to celebrate is the ineptitude of some 400 year old Catholics) - today Forest Fringe became the 20th winners of the Peter Brook Empty Space Award.

It was genuinely a total surprise considering the inspiring companies shortlisted - BAC, Soho, The Arches, the Bush and the Minerva. I also got to shake Peter Brook's old man hand. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM A DAY?

At the ceremony, Dominic Cavendish of the Telegraph had some lovely things to say about us so I thought I'd post them here for you all to have a read:

Who knows how this decade will come to be written about in the years ahead? It may well be viewed as a wretched one but perhaps it might be seen as positively halcyon compared to what will follow. One thing's for sure - it started with anxiety about a tech-driven financial bust that proved unfounded and ended with the real deal, the kind of recession that carves itself into people's lives for a long time. In the end, the big theme wasn't war or the clash of civilisations but the one that's never really been out of currency - money.

Money was the making of theatre this decade - there was a lot more of it to prop up the subsidised sector, and even if you couldn't exactly point to a golden time in the West End in terms of art, it was certainly a gilded one. Yet now that the whole house of cards has fallen down, it's probably time for theatre-makers further down the chain, who are most exposed to the vagaries of the economic climate, to say that if they're being forced to beg, borrow or even steal to survive, then 'twas ever thus - because so-called boom years had their downside, too, in keeping costs high, and curtailing unprofitable experimentation.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Edinburgh Fringe where spiralling rental charges have conspired to restrict the affordability of a festival that is supposed to be the greatest artistic free-for-all on earth. I've seen at first hand how deranged the economics of bringing up just a relatively straightforward monologue are, even during a downturn; the risks of working on a more ambitious scale seem to grow by the year.

Which is where one has to salute with all the force of a Tattoo gun at midnight the efforts of the team behind Forest Fringe, which has in the space of a few years become an essential fixture at Edinburgh without actually joining itself to the Fringe as such. In its adopted church hall venue at Bristo Place, it operates not merely, prosaically, as a festival within a festival - but as a sort of other world, a boundary-pushing playground where, thanks to multiple volunteer efforts it's not the money that counts at all, but the stuff that happens between performers and their makeshift surroundings and between performers and curious visitors. If I could have wished away the hundreds of other chores that descend on a journalist while covering the festival, I'd have happily hung out at Forest Fringe for the entirety of its duration.

It seems to me that in its back-to-basics approach, it is totally forward-thinking - and potentially revolutionary in scope. Whatever the next decade holds, the seeds of the next wave of theatre - and probably even of our recover itself, lie in the expansive, inexpensive miracle that is Forest Fringe.

Thanks to everyone, artists, audiences, supporters in all their various guises, who have been a part of Forest Fringe. All of you have been totally integral to getting us to the point when such flattering things can be said about us and where we can win such long-standing and well-regarded awards.

The £2000 that is the prize for this award will go a long way to realising some of the plans we have for next year - audio libraries, microfestivals rearing up across the country and of course once again looking to re-imagine and remake our place within the Edinburgh Festival season. But more on all of that very soon...!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Late Night Notes

I don't have a desk in my room, only a too-low table in front of a sofa with a laptop on it. Around it is sprayed the following in a semi circle moving anti-clockwise:

A jacket given to me by a friend
A copy of Raw Notes by Claes Oldenburg
A series of installation CDs for the laptop which I had to reformat last week, losing everything on it
A note from a young theatre company in an old-fashioned air-mail envelope
The notes from a presentation I gave two weeks ago
A letter from O2
An empty bottle of red wine on its side
A digital alarm clock
My driving license
An empty can of coke
A handwritten to-do list for this week, 80% crossed out
A small blue pen of the kind I imagine they use in betting shops
An empty packet of wriggley's chewin gum
A CD of show that I have half-watched
A plate containing the crumbs of a peanut butter and banana sandwich
A copy of Arkive City, open at an article by Paul Clarke
An unopen copy of In Comes I by Mike Pearson
An old, yellowing copy of From Russia With Love, face down and splayed open at the page I last read
A padded envelope
A copy of Alex Kelly and Annie Lloyd's The Dust Archive
A copy of Art into Theatre
A programme from a show at BAC
An A4 notepad with nothing written on it
My laptop case

If you took the laptop out of the room these items would form a perfect splatter around it, marking where it once sat - like the silhouette formed in ice cream when someone is shot in the film Bugsy Malone.


The signature on my email at the moment is a lovely quotation from Lyn Gardner from over two years ago in which she said that Forest Fringe 'should revolutionise the fringe'

I just got an email from a friend of mine that simply said, in electric pink font:

So when are you going to stop fucking around and revolutionise the fringe then?

A good question.


I can't stop listening to Pictures of You by The Cure. It's addictively desolate, especially at ten past one in an otherwise silent house.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Drowning in a sea of very tiny light bulbs

Ok. So picture this.

It’s five in the morning. You’ve been up for about 42 of the last 48 hours. In that time you’ve seen three spectacularly beautiful shows, one that passed you by in the moment but when you attempt to explain it to someone in two weeks time it will have become your favourite of the entire festival, an inadvisable comedy show with the soul destroying title ‘LOLacaust: The Musical’, a miniature encounter that made you cry in a good way, four pieces of paint-by-numbers devised theatre all of which involved a movement sequence to a Sufjan Stevens song and an outdoor show that would have been euphoric if it hadn’t been raining. You’re sitting in the corner of an overcrowded bar trying to hear the music over the raised voices around you. Big, exhausted thoughts chug lazily through your head, floating around aimlessly for a while before disappearing again. You are the fuzzy silence at the end of an old cassette tape.

Suddenly though, smuggled in amidst all the floatsam, is something different. An idea. A really, really good one. Though initially tiny it quickly expands, filling the inside of your head, bleeding out into everything you see around you. Now you're no longer gazing vacantly off into space, you're frantic - scrambling to find a pen and a piece of paper and somehow anchor it down before it disappears.

So there it is. An a fragile, wonderful idea caught in a series of frantic scribbles on the back of somebody else's programme. Brilliant. And then what?

Well, traditionally not a lot in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a place for showing not for making. For all that it is crammed to the point of delirium with spaces for putting on shows, there’s virtually nowhere to actually create something, to try anything out – in public or in private.

To me that just feels like such a crushing waste. Here is a city overflowing with potential collaborators, with supportive, generous producers and critics and audiences, with unusual spaces. With brilliant people doing nothing all day other than handing out flyers and sitting in their flats watching episodes of the Wire to try and avoid spending any more money. This bizarre month of excitement and inertia could (should) be the perfect environment for not only having a good idea but for pinning it down, for allowing it to take its first steps.

When BAC first created the One o clock Scratch back in 2005 it was a revelation. An opportunity for artists at the festival to try out a new project in front of an audience. The TEAM, Third Angel, Rabbit and dozens more created work there that blossomed into a whole family of brilliantly diverse, successful pieces. When it returned to the festival last year at Forest Fringe you could again feel the giddy excitement of the artists given this space and the audience who would have the opportunity to see what came out of it.

For us at Forest Fringe, that model (and the collective excitement generated from it) continues to be an inspiration. We want to provide more space and more time than ever before for new ideas to prosper.

We’re devoting a whole day at the end of the August to things dreamt up in bars and on walks and in conversations over the course of the festival. But more than that, we’ve tried to encourage a whole host of diverse opportunities for artists at Forest Fringe to explore a new idea – whatever form that idea might take. And so we have platforms in which a new idea can become an interactive experience, or a brief one-on-one encounter or piece of new writing. Hopefully almost anything, no matter how strange, will find the right space in which to happen. Because its often not just about providing a space and a platform, but ensuring that its the right way for an idea to be realised.

We're hoping that some, many even, of these small sparks will end up growing into full projects that come back to Forest Fringe next year. Or maybe they will have found their perfect incarnation first time around. Either way I'm excited to be able to say that I have no idea what what's going to happen.


Places for new ideas at Fores Fringe this summer:

The Miniaturists
24 & 25 August

Stephen Sharkey and Glynn Cannon programme a series of brilliantly diverse pieces of new writing, all of which have to be less than 20 minutes long. A celebration of the fact that even the smallest piece of written can deserve realising with all the effort and creativity of a full play.

Hide&Seek Sandpit
26 August

The brilliant people behind the Hide&Seek festival will be bringing their unique brand of social games & playful experiences to Forest Fringe. Strange interactive experiences scattered across the building and disappearing out into the streets around it.

BAC One o Clock Scratch
22 & 29 August

BAC’s legendary fringe forum for new ideas. See up to five different artists trying out 10-minute skits of brand new ideas. The birthplace of work by The TEAM, Third Angel and Rabbit amongst many others.

Stoke Newington International Airport’s Live Art Speed Dating
26 August

The boys from STK International, East London’s newest and bestest venue, are going to be filling the building with brand new 4 minute one-on-one encounters by some of the most exciting artists at the festival. See as many as you can.

BAC Nuit Blanche
24 August (Scratch Sharing the next morning)

BAC will be offering artists a chance to take part in a unique all-night residency at Forest Fringe, hoping that the peace, quiet and delirious creativity of the middle of the night will mean that there will be something memorable to see by morning. Artists interested can send ideas and pitches to lauram[at], using the subject line Nuit Blanche and anyone can come for breakfast and a sunrise Scratch sharing, followed by a group walk up Arthur's Seat.

Forest Fringe’s Great Unknown
29 August

Following BAC’s One o Clock Scratch the rest of the day has been left totally empty – to be programmed according to whatever absurd and brilliant ideas people come up with over the course of the festival. Just drop into the Forest at any point and tell us your ideas.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Stepping over the threshold

Image via

I’m on the train, gently gliding past the back gardens of red brick houses somewhere on the outskirts of Leeds. The sun is smudge of white light in a pale evening sky. Everything outside feels very far away, an exact 1:1 scale model of the world bathed in perfect sinking sunlight.

My mistake, its York not Leeds.

We’re on our way back from the first trip to Edinburgh in preparation for the summer, now a little bit over two months away. This was a spectacularly brief 5 hour visit; a swift walk and a few sit downs in a very familiar city in unfamiliar sunshine, then back on the train again to head to Bristol. It’s left me feeling a strange mix of nostalgic and excited. Forest Fringe smells the same, it feels the same; if it had been raining it could have been last summer.

Yet it also feels pleasantly different. Not just the double-take acknowledgement of little tweaks and changes (a beautiful new bar nestled in the corner, a familiar face under a new haircut) but a different feeling. Just a little of the armour of almost defensive pluckiness seems to have dropped away. I walked into the hall and it seemed to have opened up its shoulders a bit, it was breathing a little deeper and a little slower.

I stood in the centre of the room, the light cascading in from the enormous uncurtained windows, and for possibly the first time Debbie and myself did our best to explain the full extent of the things we hope will happen in there in two months time. Epic pillow fights, furniture torn to pieces and remade as a house, audiences led singing down into the street, ketchup fuelled Westerns, all night performances, forty one-on-on shows squeezed into every corner of the room, a man dancing across the stage on his 75th birthday, funny things, achingly sad things and some things we don’t know yet and won’t know until the festival has already started. Shapes moved across the empty room, impossibly exciting, spectacularly intimidating. I imagined what I hoped to see, and wondered what I would see.

We actually are in Leeds now.

Forest Fringe will be different this year. Last year we were a dot, a single isolated point. A refuge maybe, from the rain or from the overpriced bars or the militia of purple-clad, Smirnoff-branded, flyerers or just from the unsustainably breathless busyness of, well, everything. And it was nice being a refuge; seeing familiar faces, standing at the door of the venue staring out at the damp street beyond like another country.

This year though we want to step over the threshold. To not simply ignore or avoid the rest of the city but ask how it might be different; how we might look at it differently, how we might remake the way the festival engulfs it. Because it no longer feels like we’re a dot; it feels like we’re part of something that’s growing; points connecting across the city; a new network or shared ideas and shared hopes based on something other than a joint marketing strategy.

Today we walked through the sunshine between Forest Fringe and St Stephen’s Church, the gentle stone giant of a building that until 2008 was occupied by the much-loved Aurora Nova. After a year where it sat sulky and unoccupied it is becoming the festival home of The Arches, Glasgow’s most consistently daring and exciting theatre. They have almost-impossible, stupidly brilliant plans for the festival, including staging the whole of Nic Green’s three-hour-long Trilogy every night; the festival hasn’t seen anything so daring, ambitious and genuinely radical for years.

On the meandering journey between our home and theirs we were also joined by a bunch of folk from BAC, who will once again be supporting and collaborating with Forest Fringe in a whole myriad of ways, without them there’s no way we would have been able to construct the kind of delirious, make-believe programme that we have. Together, we walked the space between these two places. We imagined what we might do in that space; the journeys, stories, adventures that might be constructed around it. We imagined other people walking it; artists, visitors, local people, together looking for something, or just collectively wandering. Already it felt like here was a fragile connection stretching across the city, one to be nurtured and enjoyed. One that can strengthen and grow with every person who walks that gap.

I felt like no one in that conversation was satisfied with a refuge. Everyone knew what they loved about the festival and what they found almost beyond parody; everyone had ideas for what else might happen there. It felt to me like this was the beginning of an attempt to try and make some of that happen, one which more and more people will hopefully become a part of.

With people like BAC and the Arches around in force, collaborating with us, sharing their thoughts and tips and ideas, I’m sure its going to be a good festival. And it’s going to be sunny. I’m sure of it. Gloriously sunny.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Nic Green

If you're around in London on Tuesday I'd recommend you get down to BAC to see Nic Green's complete Trilogy. She performed some sections of it at Forest Fringe last summer and it was one of the most delightful moments of the festival.

Recently Tim Etchell's rightly said on his blog that politics 'shouldn't be left to the realists'. And Nic Green's epic, three part show - historical re-enactment, direct address, singing, dancing, euphoric collective action - is an incredibly inspiring demonstration of what political performance work could and should be. Honest, engaged, funny, inspiring, heartfelt and beautifully realised.

Nic's taking over BAC's enormous Grand Hall for one night and I think it's going to be quite a special moment. I recommend you drop pretty much anything and get a ticket.

If you're not based out of South of England though there's going to be ample opportunity to see (and maybe even be involved) in the show in Edinburgh this summer as brilliantly, the Arches (normally to be found in Glasgow) are going to be presenting it all month out of St Stephen's church as part of their new festival programme. Forest Fringe has all kinds of love for the Arches and we're really excited to have them across town from us.

Oh, and apparently it's going to be a long hot summer. Everything's coming up roses.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Volunteer at Forest Fringe – Reduced prices! Secret shows! The Fame! The Glamour! The improved sense of self worth!

(photo via)

Forest Fringe is an award-winning new venue providing a home for experimentation and play in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival Season. Now in our third year, we’ve supported works-in-progress, one-on-one encounters, beguiling puppet shows, interactive adventures, installations and live art from our beautiful old church hall in the centre of Edinburgh. 

This year the work at Forest Fringe includes internationally renowned companies such as Curious, Third Angel, Rotozaza and Action Hero. We also have a number of other projects lined up, including epic journeys across the country, secret experiences in caves and on the streets of Edinburgh and a series of late night events like nothing else in the city. All still for free or pay what you can.  

We want you involved.  

Forest Fringe receives no public funding.  We exist and thrive on the creativity and passion of our volunteers. Volunteers work alongside the artists at the venue to man our box office, the front of house and to help make the shows happen.  We encourage a collaborative approach to staffing at Forest. As a volunteer, you will help create our venue.  You will often be one of the first points of call for audiences at Forest, or possibly a guide to a show in a hidden corner of the city, and we want you to think as creatively about that as you dare.
This year our perks for volunteers include:  
  • A special ticket discount on the Arches programme at St Stephen’s church 
  • A heads-up on all Forest Fringe’s secret events during the festival 
  • An invite to our free volunteer’s dinner for all those (including the artists) who have worked at the venue 
  • The love, admiration and respect of your peers. 
  • The chance to discuss theatre with an artist whose work you admire while you help each other do something unglamorous, like recycling.
You are free to do as many or as few shifts as you choose. 

If you’re interested in potentially being a volunteer with us at the Forest Fringe this year, please email ellie[at]* with your name and contact details. Emailing at this stage does not mean you have to volunteer, just an expression of interest.  You can decide you are too busy at any point.   We look forward to hearing from you!

[*replacing the [at] with the @ symbol]


A lot of stuff arrives in Edinburgh in August. A lot.

Thousands of performers, a rainforest of flyers, all the bad weather that Scotland has been holding back in reserve especially for this occasion.

Mainly though it’s just vanload after vanload of kit. Enough garishly painted wood and plastic to make you weep. Poorly-built low budget sets, workmanlike soon-to-be-going-on-tour sets, breathtakingly complex European theatre sets, tables and chairs (like they don’t have tables and chairs in Edinburgh…), doors, microwaves, bookshelves, books, toy guns, fake guns, real guns, small glow in the dark statues of the virgin Mary – EVERYTHING has made the journey to Edinburgh.

Now generally there are about 3 options for this awkward voyage:

1)    Try and fit everything in your car. Last year at Forest we had one company turn up with a metre square piece of turf wedged in the back of their tiny hatchback, along with four performers, as many umbrellas, a projector, a watering can, a colander and a Cyndi Lauper CD.


3)    Find someone else who has a van.

Unsurprisingly option 3 generally tends to be a favourite, but that really requires that you know enough people with the resources to have a van that you can be squeezed into.

So we were thinking. Surely there has to be another way?

All those disparate groups desperately trying haul as much as possible into the back of their dirty grey Vauxhall corsas. All those folk optimistically posting on gumtree and facebook for fellow travelers. Maybe we can help.

As part of Forest Fringe this year we’re planning on programming an entire weekend of Bristol based work. Part of the joy behind such a thing would be that hopefully all the companies coming up together for that weekend could figure out a way to share the load and hopefully save themselves some money.

So why not try and do that on some larger scale?

Here is our plan. If we can get as many people as possible to say where they are from, what they need to get to Edinburgh and when they need it there for – maybe we can all start to organise ourselves into car and van shares. Maybe we’ll even find some brilliantly benevolent people who have vans or trucks or ferries they don’t need for the summer. WE CAN BUT DREAM. And of course if there are considerably less half laden vans winding their way up the A1 towards Edinburgh then everyone benefits, really.

Forest Fringe will certainly be looking for some friends to share a van up to Edinburgh with and I’m sure many of our companies will be too. So don’t be shy – let us know.

This is just a beginning. If you think this sounds like a good idea we'll definitely find a better way of organising it.

Les Petites Ampoules

Exciting news fringe fans. Forest Fringe is massively proud to announce that our resident company for this year’s festival will be the delightful Little Bulb Theatre.

Based out of Canterbury, Little Bulb are a new company already doing some brilliant things. Their show Crocosmia was undoubtedly one of our highlights of the fringe last year (and one of it’s songs features in the Experimental Theatre Mixtape which by now of course you’ve all seen/admired/downloaded/playedtoyourfriendsandlovedones).

Although hidden somewhere in the soul-destroying greyness of an impressively bleak Radisson Hotel just off the Royal Mile, Crocosmia was able to generate more warmth and atmosphere than pretty much anything else I saw at the festival. And beneath it’s beautifully crafted aesthetic – all fragility and vinyl records and Battenberg cake – lay an unsettlingly dark exploration of storytelling; a world of uncertain fantasies that left you reeling. Basically we loved it and so we got them to come down and do some songs at our final goodbye party last year, which they did and were, once again, delightful.

Since then they have performed Crocosmia at the Arches in Glasgow, BAC in London. They’ve also created a new show, H.E.L.P/H.O.P.E which was at Mayfest in Bristol and can soon be seen scratching at BAC’s staggering BURST festival.

And if that wasn’t enough they have also been at various places with An Evening of Edible Mistakes, which in it’s weird way perfectly sums them up in its indescribability. It’s almost a cabaret. Or a music set. It’s funny. It’s surreal. It has good songs. Some might be made up on the spot. Some obviously aren’t. They are all brilliant musicians who work incredibly well together. Yet they have miniature fights, disagreements, they make mistakes. But the show is about mistakes, almost a celebration of them. How much of anything is to actually be believed. Layers of fiction are constantly rearranged like the pieces of a Lego set whilst the music and the jokes and the audience interaction wash through you with an almost overwhelming amount of charm.

At Forest Fringe this year they will be our resident company – taking the evening slot for the whole two weeks that the Paper Cinema were in last year. For it they will be creating a brand new show, Sporadical. The plan is that this show will collapse even further into each other the strange fictions of Crocosmia and the bizarre musical cabaret of Edible Mistakes. That’s pretty much all we can tell you at this stage. But we’re stupidly excited. As should you be.

Not only this but as Forest Fringe’s resident company Little Bulb will also be hosting a night of live music and other delights, performing some secret gigs in unusual spaces and potentially even doing a couple of very special performances of the award-winning Crocosmia over the month.

A lot to look forward to basically. So welcome to you Little Bulbers to Forest Fringe – we hope you enjoy yourselves.

Very soon we’ll be announcing more of the line-up for this year as it begins to fall into place terrifyingly quickly. Keep your eyes peeled here for more updates as they come or join our facebook group (no seriously please do, we’ve been stuck on very nearly 700 members for an achingly long time and it’s killing me.) or join our mailing list by emailing andy [at] (and replacing the [at] with @).

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Music to watch shows by

So there we were, crumpled contentedly on the sofa, itunes whirring down the alphabet. Through conversation and tiredness the music was simply washing over us. But suddenly with only the first five seconds of a song we didn't even know the name of, we were somewhere else entirely. The song was French duo Air's Don't Be Light but to us it wasn't really a song any more, it was a chunk of memory, a slither of Action Hero's Watch Me Fall torn from its context and sat here with us in the living room.

This was more than just a nod of familiarity. This was pop music equivalent of a tea-stained madeleine. This was transporting, like those songs that make you 14 or in love again. Because this song wasn't an accompaniment to a show, an accessory, a well-chosen aural flourish. This song was a vital part of the whole experience of being there; the power of its whirring, accelerating beats and its distorted vocals a necessary element of the show's unsettling, euphoria-baiting climax.

A song in a show is always an alien body. It is another work of art smuggled in. The power of a good show is in acknowledging that. In admitting that any work of art is a collage of borrowed thoughts and ideas, half-remembered quotations, conscious and unconscious allusions and echoes and pastiches and the memory of everything that might have happened in that space before you. The most thrilling, exciting, beautiful shows revel in that, in being a startling combination of the strange and the familiar, the borrowed and the new.

These shows understand what good pop music can do when it's given a proper part to play. When it is knitted into the fabric of the show, when the two are inseperable so that you hear that same song in a living room six months later and you the whole show is suddenly there in your head.

The more we thought about it, the more we realised that a lot of our favourite shows, those truly sublime experiences that live you fizzing with excitement, used music in this way. We found that many of our best show memories were formed when a brilliant song merged into, was an essential part of, an incredible theatrical moment. We started to tally them up in our heads and then as the list grew and grew we did what felt like the only appropriate thing - we decided to make them into a mix tape.

Which is exactly what we have done. Below are the results, by 'song (musical artists), theatre artist, show'. These were our rules (because a mixtape is NOTHING without rules).

1) You can only have songs you love
2) from shows you loved
3) The song has to be an integral part of the show, not just background or interval music
4) and when you hear it it must send you skidding back to the show itself

So, this is what we have. These are our selections. If you so wish, all the songs are available on itunes.

What was that song she played in the sad bit? [A Mix Tape]
1) How Fucking Romantic (The Magnetic Fields) - Rosie Dennis, Love Song Dedication
2) Billy 1 (Bob Dylan) - Little Bulb Theatre, Crocosmia
4) Gulag Orkestra (Beirut) - Gob Squad, Saving the World
5) Set Yourself on Fire (Stars) - Nic Green and BAC's Young People's Theatre, The Fire in the Woods
6) Sing, Sing, Sing (Benny Goodman and His Orchestra) - Punchdrunk, The Masque of the Red Death
7) Don't be Light (Air) - Action Hero, Watch Me Fall
8) Let's Dance (David Bowie) - Jerome Bel, The Show Must Go On
9) First Breath After Coma (Explosions in the Sky) - Ontroerend Goed, Once and For All We're Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen
11) The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) - Uninvited Guests, Love Letters Straight to your Heart
All of which we are very pleased with. Problem is however, as any mixtape lover will tell you, 11 is no kind of number for a mix tape. It has to be 12. So we want your suggestions. What have we missed? What are the songs that have you tingling with remembrance? Leave your favourites in the comments and hopefully we can build ourselves a whole library of music that can make up the soundtrack to Forest Fringe this summer.

[This mix tape was put together with the brilliant Laura McDermott, who has seen more music gigs and more theatre shows than is probably healthy.]

Monday, 30 March 2009

A favour

The road to Edinburgh is long and winding, an almost unending series of stomach-churning ups and downs.

This is quite literally true, if you’ve ever had the joy of travelling through the minefield of speed cameras, hillocks and sheep that make up the Scottish lowlands. If you can make it through on time, without three points on your licence or a woolly trophy skewered on the front of your car, you’re already three quarters of the way to success.

That road is also, rather less interestingly, long and winding and very uppy downy in the metaphorical sense.

Take for example this last week.

At BAC we skidded to an incredible high with our Forest Fringe weekend. Thanks to the support of Harun Morrison and the team at BAC we were able to put on two incredible nights that genuinely felt as if a small lump of the festival had worked its way loose and landed in South London. A thrilling number of people flitted round the building to see various exciting pieces, old and new. Both nights the generosity and enthusiasm of the audiences in the face of a bombardment of strange encounters and unfamiliar experiences was a joy to behold. I was genuinely warmed.

And yet at the same time as I was practically doing cartwheels across the red tiled roof of BAC, I was also discovering a fresh attack on our already fragile budget.

You see, the hall above the Forest CafĂ© (Forest Fringe’s home in Edinburgh) is a beautiful building. A high-ceilinged church hall full of aging wood and ramshackle charm. Nestled somewhere between grand and comfortable, it is just perfect. It is a space that has its own personality, inviting shows to spend time with it, rather than just in it. And that, for me, is wonderful – that brings a sense of presence and event and belonging to the shows at Forest Fringe which I love.

And yet with the old and the fragile there are always costs. Recently Forest discovered quite a monumental one, when it was deemed that the entire building had to be rewired, theatre lights and all. It turns out this costs a lot of money. A LOT.

We weren’t quite expecting that.

Now we’re a hardy operation. The very fact I’m typing this to you demonstrates that we haven’t collapsed in paralysing fear of our imminent demise. I’m saving my all my hyperventilating panic for the news that Batman isn’t real. Forest Fringe is still dead on course to hit Edinburgh in with all its might on the 17th August. So don’t go spreading any rumours.

However, we are going to have to raise a bit more money than we anticipated. Which is where you (hopefully) come in.

Forest Fringe has always relied on the generosity of its friends. We exist in order to demonstrate that incredible, exciting, slightly magical things can still happen in Edinburgh without the crushing financial burden that the festival normally brings with it. We survive because artists volunteer their time to help organise and run the venue, and because audiences give generously even when they don’t have to. We believe that by sharing out the costs of Edinburgh everyone can benefit.

So for that reason we’re appealing to you to help us raise enough money to rewire our theatre lights and ensure that Forest Fringe this summer is every bit as exciting as it should be with the incredible line-up of artists we already have confirmed.

All you need to do to donate is go to our
website and click on the paypal link on the front page. Anything you can afford to give is massively, massively appreciated.

What with the world apparently going to hell in a very big handcart, there have definitely been better times to be asking people for a little bit of their hard earned change, and undoubtedly there are worthier causes than us. But if you can afford to spare even a few pennies, you’ll be helping send a little beam of safely-wired light through Forest Fringe and hopefully out into the festival beyond it.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Forest Fringe at BAC

Forest Fringe is three this summer. Two and a half at the moment.

Two and half is a good age. You´re growing hair and can fit into good baby clothes. Your gurgles have more clarity. You´re truly realising how brilliant nappies are.

Most importantly though, you´re learning how to walk. Giddy with excitement at this newfound mobility you´re disappearing off all over the place, turning up in unexpected corners of the house, massively pleased with yourself.

And so it is that on 27th & 28th March Forest Fringe will find itself at BAC. Totally wrong season. Totally wrong city. But still, there we are. All of a sudden we have legs and BY GOD we want to use them.

We want to give some of the artists who were around last summer a chance to try out their ideas again. To remake and improve them. We also want to give some of those people who´ll be coming up to Edinburgh this year with us a first opportunity to have a think about what they´ll be doing there. And, maybe most importantly of all, we want people who didn´t get a chance to come up to the festival last year to find out about what it is we do.

SO with the spectacular support of BAC, we´re going to filling the building with shows, miniature encounters, installations and live music. A fiver gets you in and then you can see as much or as little as you like. We´ll also have more information about what we´ll be doing up in Edinburgh this year.

There´s more information on BAC´s website or on our preposterously well-friended Facebook group (get involved - ALL the kids are with us. All of them). Hopefully I´ll see you there!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Testing, testing... ummm... hello, is this thing on?

So, it's been a little while.

What's happened in our absence?

Bits and pieces, you know, like, THE WHOLE WORLD COLLAPSING INTO UTTER FINANCIAL DESPAIR. Probably whilst I'm writing it there's already bankers in the last tattered fragments of unwashed Armani suits forming ad-hoc gangs to scrap for tinned food on the streets of the City of London. Whole offices abandoned lying abandoned, strip lighting flickering on and off as the bulbs slowly die while a half-made pot of coffee congeals in an unwashed kitchenette. High streets of nothing but row upon row of the same closed shops, with the last Starbucks employees forming a sandbagged lookout to guard the remaining three paninis against marauding banker gangs, giddy on hunger and old tubes of Staples super glue.

It's a Brave New World, non?

I feel like I'm caught in that moment in a cartoon when Wylie E. Coyote has run straight of the edge of a cliff, his legs still cartwheeling suspended in midair, unaware still that any second now he's about to drop. People around me constantly reassure themselves that their general state of theatre-enforced pseudo-poverty mean things can't actually get that worse, I mean, surely everyone else will just come down to our level? Ha. I've read about Wiemar Germany - we'll see if things can get any worse or not.

And what of Theatre? Suddenly all that bickering over a more than generous pot of Arts Council money feels faintly flippant as I sit in a pub and watch the ebbing and flowing of amusement, camaraderie, shock and despair of a group of people who's turned up for work only to find the gates locked, with no time even to collect any important files left sitting on their computer desktops.

Of course we can tell people (rightly so) that theatre and the arts generate more money than they take in government funding, and that entertainment and enlightenment are never needed more than during the personal and social soul-searching of a recession. But that's not going to convince people who wander by a dust-collecting multi-million pound white elephant of a regional theatre on their way to try and find where the nearest Lidl is.

If anything this crisis has made me crushingly aware of how much our society is based on theatre. On a kind of glorious Munchausean dream that the performance of prosperity is enough to sustain it indefinitely. And so we instigate regeneration by building designer shops and expensive public monuments and cultural centres in old warehouses, and bankers take on ever larger loans and on top of it all Gordon Brown (as Chancellor, reaping what he would later sow without the charm of his grinning Cheshire Cat of a partner) assures us that the days of boom and bust are gone.

Whether this demonstrates that we can, like Claes Oldenburg, transform a landscape and a country with ideas alone, or whether this demonstrates that that is always doomed to failure, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe both.

Either way, it's a different Edinburgh that the festivals will land on this year and it will be interesting to see how we respond to that. Especially considering the official festival's major headline sponsor is currently setting records for the biggest ever corporate loss in UK financial history, with its former chief executive attempting to seemingly attempting to remodel himself in retirement as Scrooge McDuck, diving gleefully into a swimming pool full of gold.

The Fringe, like so much, has been carried in its ever more grotesque expansion on the shoulders of the banks that over-inflated our economy until their lungs collapsed. Like Formula 1 teams and High Street shops and Iceland, they too will suffer. It will be no surprise then if theatre turns round like a scorned lover and looks to slap these uber-banks, all the harder for trying to conceal their complicity in the excesses of the boom years.

Nothing represented the logic of the city like the Edinburgh Festival. Bigger is always better. More can always be sustained. All the while crowing about democracy for all (who can afford it).

Perhaps now that the root of that logic has imploded, sending jobs and savings splattering down glass walled offices from London's Docklands to Lothian Road, the Festival and it's new director will have to do a bit of soul searching.


As for us, well, everything's early days at the moment. But the most important thing is we're trying to figure out how to do things better, without the now potentially redundant assumption that that necessarily also means bigger. So any thoughts, ideas, glorious daydreams you have do please post them in the comments or email them to us via our website.

Potentially there's no better time to demonstrate how much meaning and importance can be found in small things and cheap things.