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.