Bleep and Grind – a theatre awakening.
I have a vivid and crystal-clear memory of the moment I knew I wanted theatre to be my job. In college we were bussed to Warwick Arts Centre to see ‘Hymns’ by Frantic Assembly. This wasn’t my first time at the theatre, we’d been taken to a few Shakespeare plays during our GCSEs and we had our annual Christmas play – but it was the first-time theatre made me feel different. ‘Hymns’ was an unflinching look at the impact of suicide on those who are left behind, who each feel responsible and each feel a powerful fury at the unnecessary loss of their friend. It told me that theatre can move you, transform you, make you furious but also somehow help you make sense of the world. I was hooked.
I was not a talented actor, I admit. In fact I was terrible. But I was very good at organising around talented actors and making their ideas a reality. But I had to get a job, I had to survive. So, the Fringe became our holy grail each summer; we came to Edinburgh and slept on the floor of friends who were performing, or three to a room in a flat we found on some dodgy website somewhere. We spent all our money on tickets, and spent a lot of time in free venues, drinking endless cups of tea and soaking up all the Fringe moments we could. I saw theatre in forms I never knew existed and in spaces I assume were magicked from the ground; and I had the best three summers of my life. It was a world of glamour to me, sitting in Assembly Square Gardens with the performers from the show we’d seen, talking about theatre the way other people talked about football. It was, and still is, my idea of heaven. Even when watching the strangest and oddest piece of theatre I have, still to this day, ever seen (shout out to Bleep and Grind, wherever you may be!) my loyalty didn’t falter.
Fast forward to 2018 and I work for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, and I can spend my working day making the life of thousands of artists easier, ensuring hundreds of thousands of people can watch amazing work that they didn’t even dream they wanted to see. I’ve produced theatre across the UK and met some incredible artists and creatives along the way. For me the Fringe represents everything good about the thing I love – it is at the Fringe that I find something new every year, something (usually more than one thing!) that reminds me that this art form is more than just dusty play scripts and hallowed Shakespeare text; it is alive, it is vibrant and it wants to be set free. Each year it bangs on my chest, demanding to be set free. It is the Fringe that offers a platform for all artists and arts lovers – kids like me – who have ideas and talented friends and the sheer determination to make it happen, just so they can live in this remarkable fantasy world a little longer. I still escape to the world of the Fringe and I’m forever indebted to the artists who make work that makes me feel this way… and I can’t wait for August!
Header image photo credit David Monteith-Hodge Photographise