Edinbugh during the Festival and Fringe. Surely the best place on the planet. (Maybe even compared to Glastonbury, dare I say it.)


So far 22 people have stopped me in the street to admire my T shirt.  That's The Festival for ya.

So far 22 people have stopped me in the street to admire my T shirt. That’s The Festival for ya.

Yesterday Jeana and I had the perfect festival day.

We started at 12 with Avenue Q by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA students.  So, not a professional production, but as near as damn it because these guys are the cream of the student crop in Scotland, and beyond, and they’re in their final year.

It was devastatingly funny, extremely well sung and technically appeared flawless.  I had no previous benchmark to compare the show unlike many of the audience (the guy sitting next to me had seen it seven times in the West End and on Broadway – he loved it).  If you don’t know the show try to see it this week.  In a nutshell it’s Sesame Street gone bad.  Featuring a cast of human operated puppets it’s set at the seedy end of NYC (on avenue Q) where a melting pot of nationalities, sexual orientations and monsters live in a run down street.  We hear in musical form how everyone is a little bit racist, what to do if you find out you’re gay, How it ‘sucks’ be me, what to do with a BA in English and the pleasure of schadenfreude.

The numbers are universally good, the script cracking, the puppetry mostly really good but what makes the show sparkle is the interaction between the actors and their puppets.  You can’t decide which to focus on as the performance behind the brightly coloured characters by an all black dressed ensemble is electrifying.

An absolutely stand out show in a terrific venue (Assembly on the mound).  The future of Scotland’s (musical) theatre is assured on the basis of this.

After a light lunch and a pint of the highly superior Caesar Augustus (by Williams Brothers of Alloa) we returned to Assembly for the much lauded, multi-award winning Nirbhaya.  (The Indian word for fearless).

This was a stark contrast to our earlier entertainment.  If indeed it could be branded “entertainment”.

It was inspired by the brutal rape and murder on a Delhi bus of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2012 and brings us six cameo stories of Indian sexual abuse survivors.  These women all went through the stories they tell, for real, and one in particular by Sneha Jawale tells us how she was attacked by her husband with acid.  The result is there as plain as day to be seen,; her face and body mutilated and scarred, her story told through a flood of tears.

The show is book-ended by Pandey’s story and is dimly lit throughout with snatches of Indian and Western music that add atmosphere.

The stories are harrowing and half of the audience were openly sobbing their eyes out.  A young man we met in the Queue on the way in told us this was a life changing event.

I’m sad to say that for me (and Jeana) it was far from that.

You can’t take away the honesty and integrity of the piece or the clever staging, or the excellent performances but something failed to grip us.

Both of us.

Perhaps it’s too voyeuristic.  There was no programme and no notes about it so we weren’t aware if we were listening to stories of others or biographies.

For me I think the flaw lay in the direction which made it feel too staged, almost contrived in a strange sort of way, which is a shame because it is anything but.  As Lyn Gardner says in the Guardian “it veers dangerously close to well-meaning theatrical misery memoir”, and I agree.

Despite my reservations I have to recommend it though because you cannot ignore the importance of the message or the response (including a standing ovation) of many of the audience.

Afterwards the cast stood waiting to talk to anybody who felt the need.  That, for me, was the most moving moment.

After the show we had a beer with my Pals Mark and Fiona and my pal Vince’s daughter Louise which was great

Last stop of the day was a few relaxed drinks at Summerhall (the Dick Vet Bar) with David Reid and his lady Nicola Dunn.  I love Summerhall, it somehow recalls a bygone age of Fringe scuzziness.  It feels real, fresh and amateur despite its arms length awards list.  And they sell Barney’s Beer.

I also met the star of HeLa, Adura Onashile, a new one woman show who had been the case worker in Cora Bissett’s much lauded Roadkill.  And lovely she was too.

 

That was 2008, that was. (the year of Barack Obama)


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As I head off to enjoy the Hogmanay celebrations it’s time to bring the 2008 blog to an end.

Looking back on the year it was a good one overall. No-one got hurt. Nobody died. We had several achievements as a family. I continued to pay the bills. Barrack Obama got into power.

My blog has hit 340,000 views in the year. Considering I only had 31,000 in 2007 that represents reasonable progress. I hope you enjoy it. And those of you who read but never comment, come on, open up a bit in 2009.

The Hibees were a joke in 2008. Very dissapointing in many ways, in fact Scottish football, full stop, came crashing back to earth after the heady highs of season 2007/8. Our clubs in Europe were pitiful and they became unrequired viewing the more the season progressed. Celtic are unbelievably bad and yet they are easily the best team in this country. God help us.

As The Hibees set off in pusuit of the Scottish cup for the 106th time since we last succeeded we face Hearts in Round 3. That could be a momentous occassion and who’s to say we won’t do it, after all we only EVER play good football when we are up against it. Last week against Kilmarnock totally summed Hibs’ season up… 2 – 2 at half time at home against only 10 men and we lose 4 – 2. That’s unprofessional.

Work was very rewarding and I enjoyed helping out Pete and Iain at 60 Watt in particular, in tough times it has to be said. I also won fabulous projects from PoppyScotland and The Black Watch. My work with the SMA was challenging but I’m pleased with the way it has developed. I suppose the event I led at Parliament in March has to be a professional highlight, but working on behalf on the industry can be soul destroying when people back off. I also did a lot of work with Golley Slater for which I am very grateful and ended the year with a hatrick of new commissions for stv, Ampersand (a stable of Advocates – yes indeed) and Whitespace. During the year I also enjoyed projects with Corporation Pop, as a mentoring programme for nmp, and have been asked to do more work with them in 2009. Story, Spider Online and Graphic Partners also gave me work in 2008 for which I am extremely grateful

I was delighted to be made a board director of The Lyceum in September and have taken on a fundraising role for FCT as well as taking part in the FAT Christmas show and rehearsing the 2009 Easter Show which is a ‘Best of FCT’ over their first 30 years. It promises to be simply stunning. I’m also chair of the Ferry Fringe but it is proving difficult to really get this rolling for 2009 despite the commitment of a small core of volunteers. Watch this space.

However, on a sad note, the demise of 1576, the company I co-founded, in February was a real shock and a truly sad moment. I’m glad to report that all who sailed in her appear to be in gainful employment and moving on; including both David and Adrian.

I’ve already crowed about my golf in 2008 which was my best ever and I really enjoyed it. I threw far fewer clubs about but still had my moments.

Amy’s Highers Grade results were very good and she was unlucky to miss out on her English which is focussing her mind as we go into 2009. We’re all desperately hoping she’ll get into Duncan of Jordanstone to study Art and she’s taking a Portfolio Course at Telford to help in that ambition. Here’s hoping.

Tom’s golf continued to improve and his handicap overtook mine during the year as he went from 21 to 15. He also got a hole in one in August, something I’ve never done, and won quite a few medals – but none of Ratho’s ‘majors’. I’m hoping that when he gets to 14, as he surely will, he will play against me in the men’s medals at Dundas Park. That’ll be really exciting

If he is not an Olympic Champion at X Box 360 by now he ought to be as he has put in unstinting effort. Shame we can’t say the same about his homework.

Ria continued to improve in her gymnastics but the elusive merit continued to evade her, still, she did master the bridge kick over at last and she was brilliant in Perth in November when her first vault was amazing (we’ll overlook the second one shall we?) She works really hard does Ria and that is showing up in really great results and a huge bunch of really nice friends. She deserves them because she is such a genuine young person.

Jeana won yet another award for South Queensferry in the Summer’s Britain in bloom competition with a Highly Recommended award. The village continues to progress under the Greenferry team’s amazing dedication. She also started her own blog which you can find here and whooped with joy about two weeks ago when she got her first ever comment. She’s not far short of her 1,000th view so get reading.

I had a sloppy evening at Cath’s 80th that constituted the Bad Hair Day of the year.

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In books Cormac McCarthy’s The Road simply blew me away and was my favourite read.

In music it had to be Dig Lazarus Dig by Nick Cave but I am growing increasingly interested in African Music and Amadou and Mariam’s new album, Welcome to Mali, is lovely. But check out Je Pense a Toi and Dimanche A Bamacko too (the latter is stunning and their best to date).

And my movie of the year? Not my busiest ever year at the movies so it’s hard to choose a best but I guess it was going to be No Country For Old Men (also based on a Cormac McCarthy book) until Hunger (by Steve McQueen) came along. A really outstanding and breathtaking movie.

TV show of the year? I loved Gavin and Stacey, but my most anticipated show each week was Later with Jools Holland which seemed to find a much more interesting mix this year than of late.

Best theatrical experience, amongst many, was my cousin Susan’s show at The Traverse; Nobody Will ever Forgive Us, which was a stunner.

My gadget of the year was unquestionably the sublime Canon G9, what a wonderful wee camera this is. I also got myself a much more muscular beast – a Canon EOS 400D which is fab too and this has been reflected in my continued devotion to Flickr. I love Flickr. Undoubtedly my find of the year on Flickr was Snailbooty. I mean, look what he just posted today. How good is that?

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My man of 2008, was unquestionably Barrack Obama.

Best day out was Alton Towers in the pissing rain in July. It rocked.

Result of the year? Terry got the all clear from his cancer and joined me at the School BBQ in June.

Wife of the year? Jeana Gorman. Again.

Put it this way. I couldn’t live with me. Still.

And so to 2009.

My hopes?

Hibees win the Scottish Cup. (LOL. That is so stupid.)

Tom gets down to a 10 handicap.

Tiger Woods comes back and kicks ass. It wasn’t the same without him.

I win something, anything, at Dundas Park

Amy gets into D of J. (And enjoys it.)

I am healthy throughout.

The FCT 30th Anniversary show is as good as I hope it will be.

The credit crunch doesn’t ruin everything for everyone.

1576 Advertising RIP


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On the 1st of September 1994 David Reid, Adrian Jeffery and myself put the last touch of paint onto the basement wall of our basement home in Tweeddale Court on Edinburgh’s prestigious Royal Mile (we always used Royal Mile in our address because it sounded better than High Street, which was the official postal address). I stood there, resplendent in green and white Y Fronts (I always painted in my Y fronts because it was easier to clean your skin than your trousers) and took a deep breath. This was it. It wasnt a dream or an adventure anymore. It was our livelihood.

At 9.23 the phone rang. Our only client, Spectacles, who one day become 20 20 Opticians.

“Oh Hi John ” I said ” I expect you’re phoning to set up a meeting…”

“No, I’m phoning to fire you.”

I’d never even met him. He was a complete twat as this, and future history (if there is such a thing) went on to prove.

We’d now gone from a prospective income of £12,000 pa to zip; nada; fuck all.

Eight days later Jeana gave birth to our second and third child (the third conception and pregnancy was not some form of record – we had twins).

We were right in the shit then.

Better get some business.

As luck, some would say talent, would have it though we did get some business (Holywood Bowl) and some more (The Blood Transfusion Service) and some more (Smiths Menswear) and some more (Sinclairs Criminal Lawyers) so that by Christmas we had our first six commercials on air. We made a handsome profit in year one and paid off our personal debts. We never drew down the start up capital and things just went from good to better.

One year, I can’t remember exactly when, we had nine nominations at the Scottish Ad Awards and every single one of them won a Gold, meaning that we tied with The Lieth Agency as the top award winners. They were lucky to escape with a tie because we were better.

At times we were cocky bastards. At times we weren’t. (I can’t remember when though.)

But gradually we got bigger and bigger. We won multi-million pound accounts that sucked the energy and, to be honest, the creativity out of us. We became like the establishment that we felt so superior about.

I got bored.

I left in 2003.

But, you know what, those times were, on the whole, the best. I made my bravest, and most foolish, clientesque decisions.

Picture the scene. David and Adrian, having been briefed by me to write a series of commercial virals selling 1576, present me with five scripts with a man dressed up as a six foot penis trying to perform office and day-to-day functions in the guise of a rubbish marketing director (most obscene of all was the penis going for a piss) and I said

“Fabulous, hilarious, it will really stand out!”

It did.

Not for good reasons.

Ruth’s Bar, the Friday night swalley, was a hoot – because it was a “free” night out with your mates – and believe me, 1576 were my mates. Every last bloody one of them.

I loved, really loved, the people I worked with. We all cried when I left. Many of us cried last night too (I’m sure) when we learned that cocky, creative, amazing, get it up ya, 1576 was no more.

A very sad day and my heart goes out to David and all the team that were there at the end.

In an ironic, but wonderful, postscript one of the undoubted heroes of 1576, Mimi, gave birth to a baby girl, her first, yesterday afternoon, almost to the second that 1576 shut its doors for the last time.

Life’s an odd thing is it not?

1576

1/9/94 – 7/2/08