London home away from home at Edinburgh Festival

This article is from 2008

Adam Fraser's festival blog

Having a gander round the Guardian's fine Edinburgh arts blog pages on their site, I noticed this one entitled Why Take London to Scotland? from G2 commissioning editor Laura Barnett. Why, it ponders, are so many shows at the Fringe so obsessed with London? Then, answering its own question just a bit, it points out that a sizeable chunk of The Capital's population are enjoying a fine busman's holiday amidst the downpours and the knuckleheaded road upgrading plans of The Other Capital's merciless council. Why, it must be just like home for them.

Barnett defends Edinburgh though, albeit in perhaps a bit too eager a fashion. For every Edinburgher concerned about "an invasion of their beautiful city", there are probably more who relish the chance to drink even later on a weeknight and not worry about what's happening in Glasgow for a month.

No, that's all right. Leave your practise common rooms and come up to Edinburgh for the month. Put on a play! Believe us, we really are glad of the change, although you'll forgive us if we go a bit Travis Bickle any time we walk or drive in the direction of the Mile. "Someday a real rain's gonna…". Oh, hold up a minute. That's the real rain off again, I'm putting this brolly down.

Two points of pedantry in relation to the above blog, though. One: people don't come "up from Fife" to get to Edinburgh, they come down, technically, although it's usually referred to as 'across' or 'over' (i.e. the Forth). Yes, and I know it was Andrew Maxwell's mistake in the first place.

Two: questioning a native of Calgary after the Gilded Balloon's Somewhere Over the Westway as to whether they knew anything about the uber-fashionable road in London which gives the production company its name and the play its setting might not be too representative a sample. Consider the main possible response to the question "what does Portobello mean to you?" or its variations when asked on an Edinburgh street, and it would be neither anything to do with the Market nor blank-eyed confusion.

Quite possibly, for a certain breed of insular Londoner, our quaint little waystation starts at Haymarket and stops at the Shore. Furthermore, note this comment on Simon Stephens' Pornography, a play at the Traverse about the short period between Live 8 and 7/7; "I'm not saying for a second that only Londoners can relate", but perhaps the play might have "the effect of alienating anyone who didn't actually live through (the events)".

Disregarding the fact that anyone in the small corner of Britain which isn't London caught up with events as quickly as around 98% of the capital's population via the internet and 24-hour news (my own guesswork there, as regards the figure), what were we all doing on 7/7 in Edinburgh?

Yes, that's right. Recovering after a weekend spent walking around the city centre dressed in white with almost a quarter of a million other souls – the largest public protest ever in Scotland – while cleaning up after days of anti-capitalist protest and riot-control operations in the city. Hearing rumours of buses being stopped and searched on Princes Street, while the summit went on at Gleneagles and we slept off our hangovers after the final Live 8 concert at Murrayfield.

Of course, this would all have been truly epochal stuff if it had happened in W11 rather than EH1.

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