When the News Editor asked me to write a column about the Fringe, I punched him. A week later, he asked again, assuring me that there would be no editorial influence and that I could tell ******* ****** exactly what I thought of him, and that I could call all the ****** *****, who insist on invading, whatever I liked. Open season. (I can’t actually publish that. Ed)
I have lived in Edinburgh for twelve years, and for the first three, the festival was a wonderful novelty. After that, it started to become a real pain in the backside. For eleven months of the year, Edinburgh is pleasantly self-contained and titillating, but not overwhelming, in its busy-ness. In August, everyone who has dropped out of a degree this side of Vladivostock decides that the world needs to sample their unique brand of comedy and drama, and descends on the city to regale us with their own take on Macbeth.
There is no entrance exam or quality control at the Fringe, which is the largest arm of the festival. The city limits don’t have immigration control, questioning visitors’ validity or purpose of travel. They let any old idiot in, and let them behave as they wish while they here. You are guests in my city; here are some rules to follow, and some rules and regulations that we will be petitioning the council to enforce.
“Festival Lanes” – In order to allow local residents to pursue a normal life during August, lanes on busy pedestrian streets will be put in place. These lanes may only be accessed by those with a Residents’ Permit, and a minimum walking speed of 4 mph must be maintained at all times. There will also be no flyering, hawking, or street performers allowed in these lanes.
Map Testing – It is irresponsible to visit a city without having at least a cursory knowledge of the geography of the place. All visitors will be required to pass a test involving plotting routes from one key location to the other. Waterproof maps will be provided. Anyone found asking for directions to the Castle, the mountain, or “where the Queen lives” will be deported from the limits and refused re-entry. I’m not a Games Maker, either pay me to take you there, or don’t ask.
Dress Code – Outside of Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival, nowhere else in the world is it acceptable to wander around in a purple mankini, or dressed as a mermaid. Festival Police will be patrolling the streets and enforcing the minimum dress code. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t visit your grandmother in hospital wearing it, then turn around and get changed.
Blend In – Don’t make it obvious that you don’t live here. Standing out as a tourist (you’re all tourists, you’re not actors, or performers) will not endear you to the local contingent. Obeying the dress code will help with this, but here are some other helpful pointers. Drink only in temporary festival venues. It’s your fault that I have to pay £4 a pint, so you can stay out of my pub. When you have consumed all your takings in alcohol, don’t sit on the pavement and discuss the pros and cons of Simon Amstell’s latest pathetic effort to get over leaving Buzzcocks. Get an expensive kebab, start a fight, take home someone horrendously ugly, sing sectarian songs in the street. That way, at least we can be sure that you’re making an effort, and that you’re having just as rubbish a time as the rest of us.
No adaptations of great authors / poets / playwrights – If you do insist on putting on a show in the squalid backroom of a horrendously inauthentic theme pub, then don’t ruin The Bard. The Festival Police will be shutting down any show which involves any Burns, Shakespeare, or Irvine Welsh parodies. These people are sacred. “Macbeth: The Musical”, “Thirteenth Night”, and “A Woman’s A Man For A’ That” will not be tolerated, and writers, performers, and anyone attending these performances will be removed.
Market Your Show Politely – If I want a flyer for your improvised donkey-based interpretative dance, which is highly unlikely, I will take one from you, on the basis that the donkey outfit you are wearing has drawn me in. If I am pretending to be on the phone, or lighting a cigarette and staring at the ground while walking at double time, it means I have had to leave the Festival Lanes, but it does not mean that I want yet another cheap piece of crudely decorated paper to fill up my wastepaper basket.
If you follow these simple rules, then we can try to get through the month, and you can be just as miserable as I am.