I’ve done that thing where I’ve teetered on the edge of Fringe Fatigue, which is the problem with having so many amazing events at the best cultural extravaganza in the world. I’d personally like to thank Berocca for getting me through the past few days of scooting around Charlotte Square.
Edwyn Collins and Grace Maxwell: The Sheer Joy Of Being Alive
I was only a young ‘un when Edwyn fronted Orange Juice, but I saw him perform at Latitude a few years back, with his son on backing vocals. It was superb. Since his double stroke, Grace has seen him through the long recovery, and it’s resulted in both a film and a memoir. I honestly could have listened to them both chat all day. While some of it wasn’t exactly cheering- such as the discussion of the inadequate NHS treatment Edwyn received in London- there were plenty of anecdotes about life on the road, their Highland hideaway, how he failed to get into Glasgow School of Art (‘don’t tell them that, Grace!… I’m an artist.’) and Edwyn’s spiky attitude towards music industry suits. This prompted one of his many hilarious utterings:
Grace: And then he said ‘You’re a talentless… expletive deleted’.
Edwyn: *after a short pause* CUNT.
Ian Rankin: *dies of laughter*
Afterwards, they stayed for a whopping two hours to sign books, during which time I made a queue buddy, talked to an American philosopher and nattered away to Grace, who was describing the two of them as ‘music’s answer to Morecambe and Wise’, to which Edwyn replied ‘But Grace, they’re dead.’ Top stuff. Oh, and I loved the cheeky wee songs at the end. The audience loved ‘A Girl Like You’. His voice is still on top form ❤
We knew we were in for a treat when things kicked off with a hilarious mini-standup routine. I’ve been a fan of Helen’s since I was allowed to stay up for Naked Video- as she noted at the signing, I was a bit young but I have the best parents with excellent taste. Her debut novel, Losing It, is described as ‘mid-lit’ as the protagonist is going through a midlife crisis. A lot of it stems from her own experiences with relationships, weight loss and anger issues. ‘Anger’s great for writing,’ she insisted, and I have to agree. Being weird helps too- ‘If you make people feel awkward… keep on doing it!’ She also shared a horrific rejection letter which- no word of a lie- started with ‘Oh dear!’. I do hope this book is adapted for the big screen, though. It’s most chucklesome so far. Helen was just as lovely, ditzy and funny as she is on TV. It was fab to briefly meet her.
Roy Gill and Paul Magrs
Roy and I have been Twitter pals for a while, and Daemon Parallel is a fab bit of YA urban fantasy. More of those should be set in Edinburgh, y’know. *rustles manuscript* It was great to see this session so busy- they had to find extra chairs to squeeze into the tent! We had readings from Werewolf Parallel and Paul’s latest, Lost on Mars, described as a space opera cross between Ray Bradbury and Little House On The Prairie. There was also a discussion of how protagonist age is important, the way older children are aspirational figures for younger readers, how even trashy films and TV shows can inspire stories and why we need more female characters that aren’t pretty princesses. Oh, and there’s no original ideas anymore- but each person will tell a story in a different way. I hope a few younger audience members wander off and write some cracking novels now. I bet they will.
As an added bonus, the signing was only the third time I’ve ever walked up and said ‘Hi, I’m from the internet!’, which prompted a ‘yessss!’ from Roy and a ‘what the…?’ from Paul. Look, it’s even written in the book now.
Former Communard-turned-celebrity-vicar in conversation with former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway. A nicely balanced chat about the perils of being in a pop group sworn to ‘bring down Thatcher with music’, the arrival of AIDS blighting the gay community and finding his higher calling. At times it suffered from sound problems- we were next to an AC unit, music leaked in from the next tent and some workmen started hammering outside, which didn’t combine well with Richard occasionally talking too quietly. But he spoke very eloquently on moving from Catholicism to Anglicanism, defending his occupation against the less tolerant bits of the church, and why Anglicans get the best hymns. Just don’t play him All Things Bright And Beautiful, though.
Best of the Brits: Celebrating our Young Adult Fiction
Daniel Hahn discussed all things YA in the magnificent Spiegeltent with Elizabeth Laird, David Almond, James Dawson and Tanya Landman, along with Carnegie Medal judge Agnes Guyon. An awful lot of brilliant debate was crammed into this hour and a bit, and I have to say I chose wisely for my last Festival session. In fact, there’s enough for a whole other blog post. But the main points I took from it is that the YA book section- if indeed you think YA is a ‘thing’, which Elizabeth wasn’t sure of- is in rude health and should be for quite some time, though there’s still a struggle to get diverse titles into major bookshops, and there’s still a stigma around reading what’s seen as books only children should read. Ridiculous, no? I took away a whole lot more book recommendations too, so I won’t need to worry for the next, ooh, year at least.
That’s the last of the Festivals for me until the big firework display on Monday, and then I’m off for most of September on a bit of an adventure. More on that next week…