A milestone trip for me, as it was my tenth trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. My first time was in 2003 when I won a place on a Workshop, but I only saw a bit of the Fringe.
My first proper trip wasn’t until 2009, and it sort of came about by fluke.
I was waiting for a bus and had a lot of time to kill. I was wondering through HMV and saw a programme for the event. Having read through it on that bus journey to Dublin, I decided to book a trip. The rest is history, and i’ve been back every year since, apart from 2016 when I went to the European Championship instead.
I have travelled over at all stages of the month long festival. There’s no bad time to visit, but if you had to choose, definitely go in the middle. At the start, things are warming up. At the end, they are winding down. In the middle, is just perfect.
My choice of dates were more influenced by convenience, as I had other plans in Belfast in August that meant the middle of the month was the only time I would be available for a sustained trip.
When I go to Edinburgh, I usually have a weekend as part of my time there, but this time was different, as I stayed from Monday to Friday.
One advantage of being in Edinburgh on a Monday or Tuesday is that a lot of the shows have discounted ticket prices on those days.
The one downside of arriving in the middle of the event is, that some performers usually have a day or two days off during the middle week, so people you might want to see aren’t actually performing.
It’s not essential, but it is helpful if you get a copy of the programme (They are usually free in Waterstones) and have a plan, even if it is provisional, of what you want to see.
I might sound like i’m very organised, but the truth is I only finalised my list less then twelve hours before I flew out.
Upon arrival, I headed straight to the main Ticket Office in the Royal Mile, and got everything I wanted bar one, unable to get a ticket for Dylan Moran on Wednesday, or any other day unfortunately. I still had two days to get something sorted.
If you did arrive undecided about what to see, there are plenty of people and listings guides that are more than willing to help you decide what to see.
When you arrive at Edinburgh Airport, they have complimentary newspapers at Arrivals, including the Scottish Edition of The Times, which has a free pull-out. Of the papers you have to buy, The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News also have listings guides.
If you buy a copy of The Scotsman at a venue, you get a free goodie bag.
When I got mine on the Monday, it had a poncho in it, which was useful, unlike the free Suncream I got last year. We are in Scotland for crying out loud.
Another newspaper worth getting is the Scottish Edition of Metro, which is also free and comes with a section dedicated to the Edinburgh Festival.
Metro is also worth picking up for Rush Hour Crush, to laugh at the absolute oddballs who submit to it. I really wish we had Metro in Northern Ireland.
Each venue also has their own listings guide as well. Basically, there is plenty of reading material if you still haven’t decided what to see.
Earlier, when I referred to getting ready, that meant practicing my apologetic “I’m fine, thanks” to Flyerers, as you will be offered a lot of flyers during your stay.
As I arrived in Edinburgh, the weather was what would be described by locals as pishing doon, that’s rain to you and me. It would be that way for most of the week.
Thankfully, I had paid for early check-in. It wasn’t the weather for killing time, so I chanced it by seeing if I could check-in earlier than my early check-in, and my room was ready.
So, I unloaded my baggage and had a quick change into drier clothes, and my Edinburgh 2018 was ready to go.
My accommodation was in Cowgate, a brilliant location. Royal Mile, Waverley Station, Pleasance and Edinburgh University are all within a ten minute walk. I would make the most of this during the week.
Being a regular visitor to Edinburgh, I know how to navigate my way around the city. My first port of call was to Edinburgh University, where Assembly and Guilded Balloon were based, having a walk around the venue. There wasn’t a lot of people about, not that unsurprising due to the weather.
Monday was never going to be a busy day, but in late afternoon, I went to my first show, Battle Of The Superheroes, where four Comedians put their point across as to why their favourite Superhero is the best.
There seemed to be crossed wires as a lot of children turned up for the show, only to be told that it wasn’t really appropriate for kids.
You don’t have to be massively into comic books to enjoy the show. I don’t know the difference between DC and DC Thomson, nevermind DC and Marvel, and I still enjoyed.
The winner of this one was Mr Freeze (yes, you read that right) where it was argued that a lot of trouble could be avoided if Bruce Wayne just employed him to do Medical Research.
My main show on the Monday was Reginald D Hunter at EICC, a venue which is a bit remote from the main Fringe venues. This was acknowledged by Hunter during his set, saying that he keeps getting further away with his venues, his Edinburgh show next year will be in Glasgow.
Hunter is a big fan of the MF Word and a lot of other words you can’t say on TV. He was very funny, talking about how living in the UK for twenty years has made him appreciate irony around some of the events that happen when he visits his family in America.
On Tuesday morning, I went for a walk around George Street and Rose Street. It is good to escape from the Fringe for a while and see as much of the city as possible.
I also visited the site of Edinburgh Book Festival at Charlotte Square. Unfortunately, the events I wanted to see at it were taking place before or after my stay in Edinburgh. I had wanted to see Archie MacPherson do a talk, but ironically, it clashed with a football match I wanted to see.
What amused me was that Brian May was doing a talk about the history of photography. He was joined by a Professor called Roger Taylor. Yes, actually.
Another event which takes place at the same time is Fringe By The Sea, in North Berwick, a seaside town half an hour away by train which hosts concerts and shows. Unfortunately, the event had finished by the time I arrived, but i’ll be keeping an eye out for listings in future years in case our paths cross.
After escaping from the rain, it was time for my first show of the day, Hello Georgie Goodbye Best, a play about George Best’s lost weekend with Sinead Cusack in 1971.
Appropriately, for a show about football, it started at 3pm, although this was on a Tuesday afternoon, it was a show that will have spent a lot of it’s budget replacing smashed cutlery and dead fish.
Football was very much the theme of Tuesday, as in the evening I headed to Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup.
Wednesday morning was spent in the University Area, hunting for bargains in the Charity Shops and Independent Shops in that area, as well as checking out some new murals that have appeared as part of a Community Project.
As it had just started raining, I decided to head to a free show, What Has The News Ever Done For Me?, where Comedian passionately argue why their favourite news story is the most important story in the world.
Problem was, I went to the venue it was held in last year, and it had moved.
I decided to cut my losses and go elsewhere, unaware that the venue it was in was across the street. Doh.
With a six hour gap in my schedule, I was looking for a show for late afternoon or early evening. I narrowed my choices down to Angela Barnes or Lucy Porter.
I decided to use the most foolproof model and let the people decide, and a Twitter Poll went in Lucy Porter’s favour.
Wednesday afternoon was spent at a recording of Matt Forde’s Political Party Podcast, the guest in this edition was John Swinney.
Going to see Lucy Porter represented my first visit to visit Pleasance, my favourite Fringe venue.
I’m trying to avoid sounding like a pompous wanker who uses words like “Vibe”, but there is a great vibe about Pleasance.
I’d seen Lucy Porter before, on my first proper visit in 2009, and she was once again very funny, focusing on the, um, joys and agony of middle age.
Wednesday night was spent seeing Tape Face, formerly known as The Boy With Tape On His Face, who I had seen before.
As with the times before, I was crying with laughter, and even dancing to The Twist, like the rest of the audience.
Thursday morning was spent having a stroll along Leith Walk, checking out some of the Independent Shops, before going to see What Has The News Ever Done For Me?, this time making it to the right venue.
Thursday afternoon was spent at Paul Merton’s Impro Chums.
As the title suggests, you don’t quite know what is going to happen, and I don’t think anyone was expecting to be, um, treated to Merton taking his top off for their, um, pleasure.
On Thursday night, I went to see Brendon Burns. I only knew of him due to a video clip of him taking the piss out of Scousers.
He entered the stage ridiculously happy, as he had to cancel his previous shows due to Tonsillitis. He came in carrying an energy drink, who he approached to sponsor his podcast, but they declined due to suggested jingles.
He was rude, sweary, obnoxious and offensive. I loved every minute of it.
Friday morning was spent chilling at the BBC Base, now at George Heriot’s School having moved from Potterow. As there is now a building where their Potterow base was, it looks like they will be at George Heriot’s from now on.
There are usually free events and recordings taking place there, if you are stuck for something to do.
Even though I was heading home that night, there was still time for one last show, Super Sonic 90s Kid, a 90s nostalgiafest hosted by Sooz Kempner.
It had it’s moments, but not a lot of them. I would have been better signing off with Brendon Burns.
It was another trip to Edinburgh for me where I didn’t visit Arthur’s Seat. I promise i’ll try to trek up it in 2019.
Unless you go for the full month, you will always miss something you want to see. The night I left, Paloma Faith did a concert in Princes Street Gardens, which I would have loved to have gone to.
It wasn’t all perfect as the city suffered from overcrowding. In recent years it has been suggested to extend the dates of it, or to spread it around the city.
All the venues being so close to each other is why the event is so convenient. If it was spread out around the city, the problem is, Edinburgh doesn’t really have the public transport infrastructure to accommodate.
It doesn’t really help matters that people are thick as shit.
Remember when you started school? What was the first thing you learnt? Walk on the left, it’s surprisingly effective.
People seemed to be genuinely horrified that I was not prepared to walk on the road when cars were driving past just to accommodate them.
The problem was even worse during Commuter O’Clock when people were coming home from work.
Of the acts I didn’t see, it felt sacrilegious to go to Edinburgh and not see David O’Doherty. I had Kieran Hodgson on my To See List, but didn’t get a ticket. Judging by the reviews and the buzz around him, I really regretted it.
Despite his poster being plastered all over Edinburgh, it wasn’t until I read an interview with him in Metro that I realised he is Gordon from Two Doors Down.
If you haven’t seen Two Doors Down, you should get into it.
My return to Belfast didn’t see the end of the comedy, as I headed to The Odyssey to see The League Of Gentlemen. Every bit as good as the TV show, I was crying laughing at times.
So, that was Edinburgh over for me for another year. All being well, i’ll be back in 2019.