Edinburgh and all those shows…

I had great fun in Edinburgh on my annual trip to Scotland to enjoy the Festival Fringe- the world’s largest arts festival. It’s only four and half to five hours train ride to Edinburgh through some lovely scenery including views across Durham and the cathedral, Berwick and the coast. You have to go in August as that’s when Edinburgh goes mad with at least 4 festivals at once and well over 2000 shows to chose from. The big challenge is how many to fit into one visit without getting overload and the trick is to mix up comedy, theatre and musical shows during the day. There are shows on all day and late into the night and we managed to get to 8 in all (1 play, 2 music plays, 4 comedians and 1 singer) plus a book reading by Fatima Bhutto and a recording of a radio show – would have been 9 but one theatrical piece over ran badly which was annoying and hard to work out how it happened. The radio show was cut short due to a fire alarm but was good fun with Fred McCauley interviewing a range of comedians from new comers like Paul Sinha to pros like Ardal O’Hanlon, Adam Hills Paul Merton. The photos are of the famous purple Udderbelly tent, 2 views of the wonderful castle and skyline and one of a restaurant – they have a Restaurant in the Sky where a platform is hoisted up on a crane and meals and drinks served with a fabulous view. The view of the skyline was taken from Oloroso’s bar, set atop a building on George Street it is a great place to take a breather from the shows and enjoy great views and snacks. It’s a place we’d wanted to go to for years but the weather had not been quite good enough but this year there was sunshine almost all the time and Edinburgh looked gorgeous. Our other good eatery was the Dome, a converted bank with a magnificent domed ceiling where no expense was spared and which is now a great setting for Sunday lunch.

I didn’t spend much time in London this week but did have time for one cultural excursion to the Camille Silvry exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. He (despite the expectations set by the name) was a French photographer who set up a portrait studio in Bayswater, just near where I live, and developed techniques that we marvelled. The photo which forms part of the brochure in this photo, is a combination of 4 different shots, merged seamlessly to give the clear figures in the foreground against the murky fog behind. He had a great sense of the theatrical and he became well loved of the London theatre scene and photographed many stars of the time as well as working under the patronage of Queen Victoria which gave him access to the upper reaches of society. His 10 year burst of creativity sadly ended in an asylum but left an amazing legacy. We revived ourselves at the excellent National Cafe where a light snack a glass of wine was the perfect accompaniment.
One more restaurant moment to mention was another great lunch at the Electric Brasserie – steak frites and a glass of red makes me feel Parisien and happy with the world!
Bye for now,

Exhibitions and exhibitionists

Last week was full of exhibitions. It was the World Travel Market in London’s massive ExCel exhibition centre out east in the Docklands. It was sadly only for travel trade people, sadly because there must have been a stand from every country in the world and for a lover of travelling it was heaven. However, I was a there a couple of days for work and restrained myself from spending too much time looking at the wonders of South America and Africa.

It was a misty couple of days and the photo from the terrace captures that feel in contrast to the mad, busy, bright interior of the event.

I’ve been to a couple of great public exhibitions this week. One was a photographic delight – Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed. This traces the course of the 60s and its pop stars through brilliant photography and magazine and album covers. It’s great fun to see all these icons in their earlier seemingly innocent times when we know what is in store for them. Each caption mentioned a key song from that artist at that time so there was shameless singing along from many visitors, including us at one point I must admit!
The second was at the wonderful Victoria and Albert Museum who are hosting the Maharja: Splendour of India’s Royal Courts. It’s a tour through their world over a couple of centuries of colour and excess. We saw fabulous jewels and paintings and even their 20th century luxuries when their commissions kept Rolls Royce and Van Cleef & Arpels extremely busy. There’s a lot of information and it look nearly 2 hours to get around and a coffee afterwards in the extravagantly decorated V&A cafe was essential.
From a lost worlds of Indian princes and the 60s to a film about lost millions and the internet but all about living lives on the public stage. ‘We Live in Public’ won the documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival and traces the life of Josh Harries, a pioneer in the cyber world through his rise and crash including a section where he lives with his partner on camera 24/7 in a fore runner of films and TV to come. Josh himself was at the cinema for Q&A afterwards which was strange as the film portrays him as an interesting but very unsympathetic character, both of which were borne out in person. We squeezed in cocktails at the Criterion bar and a wonderful lunch in one of Soho’s authentic Italian restaurants – Il Porchetta – huge bowls of lovely pasta and very reasonably priced.
It feels like winter is nigh and the Christmas lights are coming on all over London – more on that next week and perhaps some photos.
Bye for now.
Sue Hillman