I’ve stopped and started this update so many times simply because I have no idea how or where to begin describing my month working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was so much fun yet so intense!!

I’ll start at the beginning I guess… I remember my first day being somewhat overwhelming: arriving on The Pleasance and meeting almost everyone working at the venue in a park. Some people  had returned from previous years or had arrived a couple of days earlier, therefore appearing to be a lot more at ease than myself. I went through my usual meeting-large-groups-of-people process wherein my throat closes up and I squeak out words until I lose my voice. Great! I needn’t have worried though, because the staff of almost 60 people turned out to be possibly the coolest, nicest, friendliest, most awesome… just greatest bunch of dudes ever. It was decided amongst the bar staff that the guy who does all the recruiting must be a secret social profiler. After a short time I was feeling very comfortable and we spent a few days before the shows started doing ‘get in’ (setting up the venues), and ‘bonding’ (read: partying). I also found out that the accommodation I was provided with in return for volunteering was amazing, and unlike many other people, I had my own room!!

My employers had three performance venues, all within a couple of blocks of each other, and two of those venues had bars and a coffee/tea lounge that I rotated between. As the Bar and Events team, we were responsible for selling drinks as well as arranging events at the Cabaret Bar. The bar shifts were fun and were only 7 hours long at the most, therefore I always had enough time to see Festival shows, sleep in and generally mess around. It did take extra time on top of that to arrange the events (and then attend them!), and that was enjoyable at first, but lost its sheen towards the end (perhaps the last 10 days or so). I’m still trying to figure out what it was that turned my attitude (as well as the rest of the bar teams’), from ‘sure-can-do’ to ‘this isn’t overly important anymore’. I guess I have a rebellious streak that sees me pushing boundaries (real or imagined), set down by authority figures, which I thought I had safely left behind at highschool (or University… or if I’m honest with myself, in the first couple of years of my career). It raised its ugly head towards the end of Edinburgh though and it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable to think about it. On the one hand, it was really nice to take off my serious ‘Jill the Speechie’ hat and go a bit nuts… to be anarchic, care-free and selfish… but I know I let certain people down. Having spent the last few years trying to please everybody, it’s a bit hard to take. I still don’t know how to find a balance between trying to ingratiate myself to the point where it feels that I’m compromising/conforming, and launching pointless passive aggressive attacks against ‘flawed’ systems. Well I do in my Speech Pathology career, but apparently not in the whole rest of my life. Bit of guilt there.

On a more positive note, it was so good to meet lots of people involved in the performing arts and to gain an insight into that world. While I had attended my fair share of performances, I had not spoken to many (if any)people who had ‘teched’ shows, handled front-of-house or box-office dramas, written their own plays, flyered for hours in the rain, built then dismantled entire venues or of course, performed in front of Fringe audiences every day for an entire month. I now have appreciation for a whole new realm of talent. I saw some amazing performances. It would be too hard to name all of the excellent ones, but my favourite was the Scottish Dance Theatre’s show ‘Matters of the Heart’. I had some friends come up and visit from Durham and we spent a day seeing comedy, which was not included in the program at my venue so it was great to get into a completely different head space for a day. It was really nice to catch up with the bevy of people I knew who came through Edinburgh for the Fringe. Some of my closest, oldest friends (originally from Perth but now flung around the world), came together and were in the Burgh at the same time, so we had a reunion which was lovely.

It would be remiss of me to write about my Fringe experience without mentioning the ‘romantic’ side, but it’s also difficult to do that and be discrete! So I’ll say that I had fun being single (although it was a bit weird getting back into all that stuff after making a concerted effort to avoid it for so long)… and I was kind of seeing someone throughout the Fringe, but not really, but kind of. Edinburgh during August is such a particular snapshot, brief-moment-in-time bubble that creates a false sense of compatibility… so when we met up with each other in London during the week that I was there after Edinburgh and before Portugal, things just weren’t the same. It ended on somewhat tetchy terms and it’s still a bit fresh to have a truly realistic perspective on it… it wasn’t so much of a holiday fling as much as it was an intense, SMS-heavy, love/hate pseudo-relationship involving fucking, fights, friendship and polystyrene cups of tea. Perhaps to describe the sense of compatibility as false would to be unfair… maybe it’s better to say that the Festival creates an opportunity for everyone to leave their normal selves behind and be whomever they want to be; to form unlikely partnerships that may never have legs in reality but for a brief few weeks, they provide the participants with something special and unique. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a completely different playing field when two people are in holiday mode as opposed to one person being in their home, getting back into their routine, and the other person continuing to live each day as their whim fancies. Or maybe all of it just means I absolutely suck at relating to men. Either way… I know it’s best that I never see him again but damn, I’m spending my first day in Portugal missing him.
I made friends working at the Fringe who will be in my life for a long time – people that I clicked with ridiculously well. We did so much together during that month… we looked after each other, cried with laughter together, encouraged each other, gave each other the honest truth, colluded with each other, pulled each other’s heads in when they needed it… I actually love them. It’s been so long since I’ve made connections like that or felt that I could absolutely be myself without any fear of judgement. One night whilst drinking together in some bar, conversation turned to the months preceding the Fringe, when most of us were at home anticipating our travels. All of us expressed in different ways the same sentiment – that until about a week into the Fringe, we felt that our lives were stuck – that someone had hit the Pause button and none of us were acting in accordance with who we really were (even if being ourselves means being imperfect). One benefit of the Fringe is that we feel like we’re making things happen again rather than just coping with things that happen to us.


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