Culture Stuff Stuff I Do

Stuff I do: I’m not in Edinburgh this August, but I’m still TW:TALKing

Published on Sunday 6 August 2017

So, the Edinburgh Festival is upon us once again, the world’s biggest cultural extravaganza, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Which means seven decades of prep has gone into the three weeks of festivities that are now unfolding. And if you want to know what is worth checking out during those three weeks, I’d obviously recommend ThreeWeeks.

For the first time in a very long-time, I’m not going to be in Edinburgh for the festival month. The tricky (aka impossible) economics of cultural journalism means that ThreeWeeks can no longer afford a pop-up office within the festival city. And the crazy (aka brilliant) busy-ness of the consultancy and education sides of 3CM UnLimited mean a month away from the London office was looking even less sensible than usual. Plus I felt I probably needed a year off from all the Edinburgh Fringe madness (aka madness).

ThreeWeeks, however, is back at the Fringe once again, covering the festival for the 22nd consecutive year. And so yesterday I headed to Edinburgh for the Fringe’s Meet The Media event, where performers get to pitch their shows to reps from most of the festival press.

This annual bash grew out of our old ThreeWeeks Meet The Reviewers event and – while for performers it’s one part pitching, nine parts queuing – for those of us on the media side of the fence it’s a tiring put inspirational afternoon where we get to hear about hundreds of great shows appearing at the Fringe this year, many without any formal PR representation.

In the old days, when we ran the ThreeWeeks student programme and the young people we trained – between them – saw well over 1500 shows, we had quite a random approach to scheduling what productions we’d see when, knowing that at that scale there was a good chance of us just randomly stumbling on that brilliant new show that no one has heard of yet.

But now that we have a somewhat smaller reviewing operation, events like Meet The Media are more important as we continue to seek out the new and the alternative that are occurring off the PR map – ie exactly the kinds of shows ThreeWeeks was set up to discover and champion.

Obviously I’m not personally reviewing – that would be kinda tricky from London E11. But I was there to find the kinds of shows ThreeWeeks should be checking out, so to feedback to my fellow Editor Caro – who commissions all the reviews and interviews you see in ThreeWeeks – so that she can schedule reviewers to go and see the shows we liked the sound of yesterday. And there were plenty.

Actually, my location isn’t the only reason I’m not reviewing. I have never prolifically reviewed at the Edinburgh Festival. I did a little reviewing in the very early days of ThreeWeeks and again in 2014, mainly because I had found out about a marvellous magician called Chris Cook and decided I wanted to review him and as many other people called Chris as I could find. But even so, we’ve had reviewers review more shows in one festival than I’ve done in two decades.

Most people assume that the two reasons you set up a magazine covering the Edinburgh Festival are [a] a steady stream of free tickets and [b] the opportunity to force your opinions on the world. But I’ve always been more interested in talking to the performers who my review team tell me are brilliant, rather than being the person who actually declares that brilliance in a mark out of five.

So – while I am not at the Edinburgh Festival in person this year – I am still interviewing some of the great people who are performing there, both via Q&As in the TW magazine and on the ThreeWeeks website, and via the return of the TW:TALKS podcast, my favourite of all the things we do around the Fringe.

There will be five Edinburgh Fringe-themed editions of TW:TALKS this year. I have done four new interviews with four great comedians, plus we’ll be revisting some of the highlights of the interviews I did with former ThreeWeeks cover stars at theSpace @ Symposium Hall during last year’s Fringe.

The new interviews are with the brilliant Phil Wang; a long-time TW favourite Rosie Wilby; and two former ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award winners, Yianni Agisilaou and John Robertson.

The interviews with Phil and Rosie are already online, and the chats with Yianni and John will follow over the next two weeks. They were all great interviewees, with lots of fantastic stories about their Edinburgh Fringe experiences to date. It would be great if you could check them out – and do sign up to get all future editions of TW:TALKS.

If you are in Edinburgh this year – for a day or for the whole month – have a brilliant one.

Old-timers who eventually choose not to return to the festival any more will usually tell you that the Fringe isn’t what it used to be, and that Edinburgh has “lost it”, and there’s no point going any more.

Well, the Fringe isn’t what it used to be, but that’s why it remains such an important cultural event 70 years on. The festival morphs and evolves and changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, but that’s what keeps it so damn interesting.

So, make sure you morph and evolve and change things in my absence. Keep an eye on all things ThreeWeeks to find out what our team on the ground are recommending. And I’ll see you in your podcast feed where I promise to keep on TW:TALKing.