Festival time again

Yep, it’s August, Edinburgh is bursting at the seams like some arts festival Mr Creosote, the International Festival, Fringe, Free Fringe and the Book Festival are all on the go, the largest arts festival on planet Earth. Fun if you are off and can enjoy it, bit of a nightmare for the day to day folks living and working here as just trying to get around is an exercise in frustration, pavements packed by slow-moving gaggles of tourists and Fringe luvvies, even the bus to and from work takes longer because of the busy road and the amount of clueless tourists holding them up. Still, on the other hand as usual it gives me plenty of subjects for my roving camera lens, especially on the Royal Mile where the Fringe performers promote their shows, doing little bits of their acts and appearing in costumes to try and entice audiences…

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I came across these two Japanese performers warming up, just behind Saint Giles, a few feet away from the massively busy hurly-burly of the Royal Mile where the performers strut their stuff, looked like they were rehearsing and getting ready to go out and do their thing. They didn’t see me at first, walking around behind the cathedral and I started snapping away, then when they did notice me they kindly posed while I kept shooting away. If I’d gone down the Mile as usual I would have missed them, but on a whim I waled around the back to escape the crowds for a moment and found them rehearsing.

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Who was that masked man???

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This chap was on the Mile last year too, he plays some wonderful classical guitar

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Tooting her own horn!

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Few close up portrait shots of Fringe performers – do like the manual zoom on the current camera, gives me much more response and control to get closer up like this:

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Comics fun at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Over the last week or so of August I was busy enjoying the Edinburgh International Book Festival, both as an audience member and as a participant again (I was asked to chair a couple of the Stripped events in the festival’s comics strand). There was more on than I could fit in, especially as I was busy preparing for the two talks I was involved in (reading away and trying to think up some different questions and knowing full well chances of asking an author something they’ve not been asked many times already are slim, but still we persevere…).

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 - busy Charlotte Square Gardens 02As chance would have it most of the comics-related events I was at all fell within a few days of each other, starting with chairing and event with Karrie Fransman and Rob Davis. This was a very satisfying one for me to be asked to chair, I have to say, since I’ve followed Rob and Karrie’s work for some time. Both authors introduced their latest works, Karrie with the fascinating, multi-voiced approach of Death of the Artist, and Rob with the wonderful mixture of grounded realism and the fantastical in the Motherless Oven. Rob explained a bit more about the level of metaphor and symbolism in The Motherless Oven, and the way the comics medium allowed him to also make some of these metaphors visual, something prose couldn’t do (which isn’t to say there hasn’t been some very effective use of metaphor in prose and verse, of course, but comics does have that added extra trick of the visual). Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 - Karrie Fransman and Rob Davis

I thought Motherless Oven worked as it was, but also felt with the elaborate world-building for this alternative world that Rob had put into it, that it was open to other tales in this setting, and he confirmed this was the case, that he had actually planned more with SelfMadeHero, although with the fairly sensible proviso that they would see how the first book was received (fortunately it was very well received), so we should be seeing more, I’m glad to say. Karrie explained about the multi-author approach to Death of the Artist, as five former college chums now in their thirties try to recapture a bit of their energetic youth and art. I was already familiar with the concept – look away if you don’t want to know something major about this book! – that in fact all five authors here, telling the same story from different angles, in different styles, are all actually Karrie, the author essentially being her own choir as well as conductor. I didn’t know, however, that the “friends” in the photo-comic chapter are actually all actors, with a clever bit of Photoshop used to de-age them all for their supposed college-time snaps. It turned into a three-way conversation and we could easily have carried on longer.

The following day I was again on chairing duties, this time with a writer and artist I hadn’t met before, Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner. Joe is an illustrator, model-maker and sculptor, now adding comics artist to his quiver, and he talked about how the whole approach o the art came about slowly, some ideas started then junked to be begun once more as he learned effectively on the job – being an artist is one thing, but there’s a lot more to comics artwork than simply drawing the art. He and Evie had known each other for years and they worked on this project between their own main jobs – something many comickers can empathise with, I am sure – and in fact this process took place over several years, so they had time for writer and artist, both fairly new to the comics game, to refine what they wanted to do, the shape of the story and the art changing significantly over the period of their collaboration until it took the form it does in the finished book, Everything is Teeth. We discussed Joe’s different art styles – the cartoony style for young Evie and her family, a very realistic approach for the sharks themselves, and the fantasy/fairy tale aspects of the work as the sharks become not just real-world scary creatures but take on a symbolic role similar to that of monsters in fairy tales.

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 - Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner 03Evie also noted that in writing for comics as opposed to her prose work she really had to boil down the words – something she and many other writers will do in prose anyway, of course, starting with a rough work and then editing and pruning, but with comics requiring far less text there was much more work in distilling the choice of what words she would permit herself to use and where (I think they both did a remarkable job, the prose and art works beautifully for both story and a strong sense of place). It was an engrossing talk with two creators already with a solid creative track record in others fields (Joe’s aforementioned arts work and Evie who has a number of literary awards for her fascinating prose novels and made the influential Granta Best Young British Novelist list) as they collaborated on their first comics work project (and yes, they did enjoy it and they are considering another collaboration, quite possibly something tilted towards horror, preferably the creepy, chilling kind of horror, which I like the sound of). It was terrific to meet them and I look forward to them producing more comics work in the future – my recent review of Everything is Teeth is here, and I highly recommend this fascinating book (and also recommend picking up Evie’s two prose novels, which are very immersive).

Another day, another comics event, and another double-header, this time a shared theme of comics and politics as Teddy Jamieson talked with Martin Rowson – surely one of our best political cartoon satirists? -and Jean-Pierre Filiu, former French diplomat, historian and academic, who worked with acclaimed European creator Davide B (Epileptic) on the first two volumes of Best of Enemies (a third is planned), a look at American interaction and intervention in the Middle East, going right back to the 1800s and some history many will never have heard of (and you have to love the cleverness of a book which mixes the oldest written tale, appropriately from the Middle East, Gilgamesh, with actual words used by George Bush to justify his ill-conceived foreign adventures). Filiu also talked with much admiration about the work of Joe Sacco (an author Rowson also professed much respect for), and I was rather satisfied when he mentioned that he not only admires Sacco’s works, especially Footnotes in Gaza, that he uses it in his lectures and classes. He also spoke of the quality of research Sacco carried out – not only with multiple first person interviews but then trying to source documentation to validate what the eyewitness testimony claimed. Filiu’s insights into the region are remarkable and one of his simplest recommendations was also one of the most effective, that world leaders should know something of the history of the region before getting involved. He was ultimately optimistic that eventually – who knows when, though – the region would solve its problems, with or without the West (or these days perhaps the East). Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 - Jean-Pierre Filiu & Martin Rowson 02

Rowson, making another return visit to the festival, was on exceptionally fine form, discussing his latest book, The Coalition, covering what he refers to as the worst government in his lifetime. Well, he was after he dealt with a phone call – his phone rang just as the event was starting, and turned out to be his daughter calling to remind him to switch off his phone before the event! His loathing for some of these politicians was evident in both his talk and in the artwork he was showing, as he explained how he visualised the previous administration, such as the luckless Nick Clegg (as Pinocchio, the boy who wanted to be a real politician, and being made of wood he could use him for all sorts of other visual metaphors – broken up as a wheel, sawdust, used as a broomhandle), or shiny-faced PM Cameron as Little Lord Fauntelroy.

The language turned bluer than a a conservative’s rosette on several occasions – those of you who have heard Rowson talk about his craft and the politicians he covers will not be surprised to hear he flayed them, and indeed he sees that as his task, to scour these public figures and hold them to account. His satire was also turned on those who report on the politicians, notably controversial BBC former head politics reporter Nick Robinson, who had by coincidence had been at the festival days earlier and used it and a newspaper article to attack politicians he felt had a go at him for perceived bias in his supposedly neutral coverage (a major talking point here in Scotland during the Independence Referendum) – interestingly Rowson had created a cartoon about this possible bias in his reporting work and showed us the cartoon (which got a fair cheer from the mostly Scottish audience, I noticed). And even more interestingly he noted that Robinson reacted to this cartoon by telling him he had been “unfair”. Unfair?! Rowson exclaimed. He’s had many subjects of his satire contact him to swear at him, threaten him or tell him he is talentless, but, he added, Robinson is the only one ever to say he had been “unfair” to him, and left us to make of that what we would.

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On the last day of the festival I finally got to meet one of my favourite of the current crop of new British comics talent, and indeed a creator who, several years ago, used to be our very own cartoonist in virtual residence here on the blog for some time, Darryl Cunningham (no, I’m not sure how it had gone this long without me actually meeting him in person either). Darryl had been invited to join Swedish writer Katrine Marçal (author of the deliciously titled Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner), Darryl discussing some of what he discovered in his huge amount of research for the brilliant Supercrash, a comics investigation into the causes and effects of the shattering 2008 global financial meltdown, while Katrine’s work took a more gendered view, economics with a female perspective, very interesting.

I was also delighted when asked about terms like graphic novelist or journalist, Darryl explained he is a cartoonist and he makes comics – albeit ones which regularly require quite massive amounts of research, and he discussed how he set around distilling this research into something he could work with for the book, and which would allow him to get over some frequently complex concepts to readers in an accessible and understandable manner. And given some of what was going on in the financial world, that was no mean feat, but he certainly managed it. It was a very well-attended event and, despite the complexity of some of the subjects both authors, as they had in their books, did a very good job of keeping the conversation on a tack the audience could follow and indeed engage in during the audience Q&A at the end. A very nice ending to my 2015 Book Festival outings, and naturally several more signed editions for my collection…

Fringe time

It’s August and it’s festival time here in Edinburgh, the city bursting at the seams as the Fringe and the International Festival kicked off over the weekend, the world’s largest arts festival now in full swing, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the world’s biggest literary fest, starts next weekend (and I will be chairing a couple of events there again this year). Part of the Royal Mile is given over to the Fringe performers – with hundreds of shows it’s no easy task to get audiences, they have to fight for bums on seats, so they strut their stuff on the Mile, many in costume, some doing excerpts from their shows on the mini stages to entice audiences. It’s madly busy – almost literally wall to wall with people across the breadth of that historic thoroughfare – but it’s also a happy hunting ground for me to snap some more photos, and I tend to take a ridiculous amount this month (and the views on my Flickr tend to go mad as well as folks all over look for pics of the festival).

Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 01The first pic I shot at this year’s Fringe, actually a couple of days before it officially started, but it was on my way home from work and I thought some performers may be out already (some preview show were running by then), and my first shot was this group of Asian performers posting up their flyers for their show. Just as I lined it up the lovely lady turned around, saw me and gave me a nice big smile and wave, which was a nice way to start my festival season of photos. Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 02

Sushi Tap 2, with their rather eye-catching neon pink costumes, hard to miss, even once the Mile filled up with more people over the weekend!

Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 03Korean troupe Maro have brought Leodo: the Paradise to the Fringe Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 06

“Living” statue performer as a cyclist

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Cabaret Farce

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John Robertson’s The Dark Room

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Charming performers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Of course all the hurly-burly of the crowds and performers and the summer sunshine can be too much for some – this chap just settled right down on the busy steps of Saint Giles Cathedral and nodded off

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Waking Beauty, a look at fairy tales from a feminine perspective

Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 030This musician was singing arias, which rang out beautifully clear even across the din of the busy festival street Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 034

With their black garb and white masks the performers from Baggage were just perfect for a monochrome shot

Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 040Taiwanese dancers from Gaze of the Kavaluan Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 036

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Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 051Pirate gals from According to Arthur – they very kindly offered me a balloon too! Edinburgh Fringe on the Mile 2015 055

Singers from The Sweet Nothings, an all-women a cappella singing group

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More pics (and larger formats) over on my Flickr page under this tag for the Fringe pics

More Festival pics

With being so busy and also doing some stuff with the book festival I clean forgot to post some more of my photos from Festival time in Edinburgh


(these performers were from a production of Oliver Twist – presumably an alternative Nazi bondage version of Dickens!)

And of course I shot some at the Book Festival


(Bryan Lee O’Malley signing in the Edinburgh Forbidden Planet a few hours before I talked to him on stage at the Edinburgh International Book Festival)


(from left to right, Kate Charlesworth, Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot at the Book Festival)


(Ken MacLeod and Mike Carey signing after their Book Festival talk – Ken I’ve known for many years, Mike I have known but only online so at last we got to meet in person and have a nice drink and natter after the event)


(Mike Carey again, this time talking comics at the Book Festival with Isabel Greenberg and, on the right, Stuart Kelly)


(Nick Hayes – left – and Reinhard Kleist – on the right – after the talk I chaired with them at the book fest, a very good evening)


(between events it’s nice to sit in Charlotte Square at the book fest in the literary-themed deckchairs)


(night-time at the Edinburgh Book Festival)


(and the traditional 45 minute classic fireworks concert launched from Edinburgh Castle which marks the end of the Edinburgh Festival season. Didn’t go all the way into Princes Street and the crowds, instead took these from bridge over the Union Canal near the regenerated area)

Festival time

Orange fish-headed people walking along Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile? Ah yes, it’s time for the Fringe…. And that means I end up taking even more photographs than I usually do! Here’s the batch from the first few days of this year’s Festival:

Isn’t this just one of the best smiles you’ve seen??

Zombies on the streets!

And there is sexy retro sci-fi space-babe action too!

And some folk have a different angle on things…

It’s Monty and the Funtastic Bucket Man!

Masks…

And then their masks came off…

Carnival

The Fringe – the world’s biggest arts festival – and the main Edinburgh Festival and Edinburgh Book Festival start in August, but we’re currently already in the Jazz and Blues Festival, which kicked off last weekend with with a carnival style parade along a packed Princes Street on a very hot day, then down into Princes Street Gardens afterwards where some performers put on shows in the Ross Theatre (open air theatre in the gardens, right below Castle Rock) and others did little bits on the parkland around the theatre too.

I loved this very colourful costume and the lettering round his tuba:

Of course, being Edinburgh as well as exotic musicians and dancers we had a pipe band:

This is how busy the Ross Theatre in the Gardens was after the parade:

Asian performers waiting to go on stage in the Gardens:

Performers relaxing on the grass after the parade

Celtic warrior woman putting on sword fighting display while band plays

Didn’t catch this foreign band’s name, but they were belting it out and really getting the crowd going

Festival time in Edinburgh

It’s August and in Edinburgh that means we go into Festival mode and a hugely visited city goes from busy with tourists to utter madness. Yes, many other cities have festivals, but none in the world have anything quite like Edinburgh, it’s on another scale, the world’s biggest arts festival (and the posh International Festival and the Book Festival have still to join the Fringe in another week or so!).

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(one of the many Fringe venues getting ready for this year’s Festival, cleaning off playbills and the blackboard signs with the schedules on them for last year’s shows)
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This young juggling lad may be youthful but he’s a veteran – I’ve taken pics of him each year for several years, usually in different costumes and hairstyles, but the same bloke, and I see he is back performing on the Royal Mile and drawing good crowds again. He’s good, if you watch his performance do slip him a few shekels:

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(lost in her music – ukulele action on the Mile)

Looking at these Fringe performers drumming up interest in their show I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how Eddie and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous look ten years on:

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Reminds me of some of the women who come on the seemingly endless and incredibly vulgar and drunken hen parties that plague the city through the year…

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Performer from A Shade of Dust on the Mile:

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Yes, it’s the Fringe so it isn’t unusual to see men in dresses walking through the historic Old Town:

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This ‘nurse’ was promoting the show Take Care:

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This chap has a show called Red Hanrahan, based on the works of the great W.B. Yeats, I asked him if ‘terrible beauty’ was included in the show:

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Friendly puppet and her lady friend:

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Yes, it’s that time when I go even more click-happy than usual taking photos around the Festival… My Flickr stream passed the 9000 images mark just a couple of weeks ago as it is and if it goes as usual in August there will be a good few more added before the month is out. In another week I’m lucky enough to be invited again to the opening night party of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and as well as going along to several shows I will actually be chairing a couple of the author events this summer too, a dubious pleasure for the audiences…

Festival time

Yes, it’s August and in Edinburgh that means festival time – the Fringe started last week, the world’s biggest arts festival is underway, and this weekend the world’s largest celebration of the written word, the Edinburgh International Book Festival started. The city is buzzing and packed. And naturally, as usual, I have been clicking away with the camera, especially on the Royal Mile where performers get a space to advertise their shows, some doing small segments of their act to crowds or out in costume handing out flyers to drum up interest in their shows, always a happy hunting ground for taking photos. My Flickr stream normally goes nuts in August, often doubling the normal average views, mostly people looking for Fringe pics, from this year but also looking through the several hundred I’ve built up from previous years.

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(above: this very lovely puppeteer is performing in a stage adaptation of the wonderful children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit; below: actress from Pool of Blood)
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Some performers take it all lying down…

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This lady was doing body art and henna tattoos on the Mile while the performers strutted their stuff, the sunlight hit her and the woman she was working on just right and I managed to get this close up of her plying her art on the lady’s hand, sometimes you get lucky:

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And I got very lucky with this one as the actress held still in a pose with the sunlight hitting her just right, had time to frame her for a profile portrait shot. Quite pleased with how this came out, makes me think of a shot from a 1930s/40s fashion magazine:

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She was part of this troupe, preparing the electric chair from the looks of it:

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Who else do I see on a very sunny (yes, we have had a couple of days of sun! Finally!) Royal Mile but Spider-Man!

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And her majesty Queen Elizabeth I:

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It can be very tiring, the non-stop hurly-burly of the Fringe, so a nap is a good way to recharge – why not just carry your own bed with your for a wee lie down when you feel your energy flagging?

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Some very colourful dancers and musicians from Mother Africa:

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Very exuberant!

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I even saw a man playing the musical saw (and numerous other items from his tool box too!)

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Quick video to capture his playing:

These performers were putting on what looked like a WWII themed Macbeth

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I’ve seen this young chap several times now at the Fringe (usually always with a different hair style), I think I have shots of him going back the last two or three years juggling firesticks and knives, he’s very good

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And this was the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s director Nick Barley at the opening night party on Saturday night

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had a very nice time at the opening party (have several book fest gigs to look forward to over next couple of weeks), plenty of drinks on offer to us, got to chat to some book chums – here’s top science fiction author Ken MacLeod talking with author and academic JF Derry:

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It was too warm inside the Spiegeltent at the Book Festival so once the speeches were over we went back outside. My friend Melanie was at an author event which came out during the party and the book fest folks were nice enough to let her come in and join me, so we sat out under a glowing summer night sky as the festival buzzed around the city chatting and drinking

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And while we were out there I got this great shot of Scottish poet Ron Butlin (left) with my friend JF:

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Already shot ridiculous amount of Fringe photos and been uploading them steadily to my Flickr – quite often shoot another few dozen walking home along the Mile after work, but the weather is supposed to be back to horrid rain again for the next few days so suspect I won’t be walking along taking photos then! Still have a large amount waiting to process and upload though, so that’s not a problem! More to follow…

Festival time

It’s August, it’s Festival time, the city is incredibly busy and the Fringe begins properly this weekend, although some performers have been doing preview shows for several days already. Came out of work yesterday a bit late, rainy day had gone and sun had put his hat back on, so I thought I’d de-stress by walking up the Royal Mile with the camera out and start bagging my first Fringe pics of 2011, got a bunch already, doubtless as usual I will take far too many over the next few weeks. First Fringe with the new camera, which technically is a better camera than my old, deceased on, but I got some great work out of that old one so the new one has a lot to live up to. Certainly worked nicely last night as I bagged my first couple of dozen Fringe pics with it, starting with this group from Diamond Dick, who were all dressed and made up in the style of 1920s silent movie folks:

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(I am such a sucker for that Louise Brooks style...)

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and this scene with the Fringe performers trying to bring a smile to an infant’s face was just to cute not to snap as it happened right in front of me:

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If it runs like previous years I’m sure I’ll have plenty more pics to follow through August on my Flickr, which has now reached to a ridiculous more than 6, 000 images level..

“Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so…”

I noticed a spike in one of my photos from this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe this week and wondered why:

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Turned out it was being linked to from several websites, including this Japanese one. I’ve seen my pics borrowed numerous times on other sites – including, rather pleasingly, the New Yorker book blog at one point – but I think this is the first time (that I know of anyway) that I’ve been used on a Japanese site. Truly I am a cosmopolitan chap.

Fringe time

The Edinburgh Festival moves into full swing with the International Festival and Book Festival joining the Fringe which has been going for a week already. The city centre is bursting at the seams between tourists (which we have all the year round, more in the summer, of course) and and Festival goers – the city’s population practically doubles during August. Just trying to walk home from work of an evening is a nightmare, the streets are jam packed and most of the folks are moving slowly so it can be quite frustrating when you are trying to get around your normal working day, it’s not so bad when you are off and can relax and enjoy the vibe. That said it does give ma some good opportunities for some street shots on the way home, walking up the Royal Mile where a section of kept for performers to big up their shows, from handing out flyers to actually performing segments of their shows on the street or on tiny stages, to attract audiences, and with thousands of shows running the month you have to work to get your show noticed and get those bums on seats.

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Performers range from unicyclers and jugglers to singers, musicians, comedy acts, plays, magic, dancing, it’s pretty much all there and you can get a great taster of it walking the Mile.

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These guys were walking in super slow motion up the Mile (still pic, so you will have to take my word for it!), which did mean for a change with street shots I had time to get in position and get off a few shots. I’ve mentally named the guy on the rear left here ‘Igor’. I think he looks like an Igor from some mad scientist lab.

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I passed the stilt-walking puppet master with his human marionette again last night, love their act – the girl is very expressive – and when I put some shekels in their collection box she blew me a kiss! I’m in there 🙂

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We even have saucy space vixens in fab retro futuristic silver space garb and sexy silver space boots!

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Sometimes wardrobe accidents happen – this poor woman’s braces have clearly become caught on something:

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We even have Batman, presumably over on a Scottish motorbiking holiday:

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You’re never too old to bike!

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Electra Glide in (Saltire) Blue?

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We even saw a greener alternative to the hideously expensive, over budget, over time and disruptive tram system they are (failing) to build in Edinburgh – we shall all commute in giant hamster wheels! Although one friend suggested actually this made the guy looked like he was a character on a tarot card.

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We even have zombies!
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and very sexy Little Mermaids with the Princesses show:

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Preparing for the Tattoo

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Some of the grandstand seating and control tower erected on the Castle Esplanade for the annual Royal Military Tattoo which takes place during the Festival in August and these days also gets used for some concerts before and after the Tattoo. Duran Duran and Florence and the Machine were on there on Thursday night – amazing spot for a gig, the Castle gates and battlements to one side, Edinburgh at night to the other sides below your view from the top of the vast volcanic Castle Rock. Alas, also very exposed to the elements and that evening we had thunder, lightning and torrential rain, which is the drawback to that sort of venue… I have been just once to the Tattoo, not really my cup of tea, although it is quite dramatic to see a massed pipe band at night come marching out the Castle gates, which are flanked by statues of the Bruce and Wallace, fire blazing in metal braziers on the battlements above. And at the end all the lights out, even the ones which floodlight the Castle, save for one spotlight and the haunting image and sound of a single, lone piper on the wall of this ancient fortress high above the city.