Thrilled as I am to be representing Dao at the Fringe this year, from even the briefest glance at the programme I can tell I'm going to be a whimpering, knackered mess by the end. There are so many performances and events by and for disabled artists this year that I'll need equal amounts of speed, spirulina and 'shut up, you have the coolest job going' to keep me going.
Unlimited and the British Council are in town, and shows touching on everything from mental health to mortality can be found across comedy, theatre, dance, music, events and cabaret. I'll also be getting jacked up on professional development at events at Zoo Southside, Summerhall, Forest Fringe and Fringe Central.
Colin Hambrook and I will be up reviewing and schmoozing from August 23rd-31st so if you see us do please say hello.
A few of my top tips and tantalising treats for your dance cards are as follows:
Dive Cabaret: Last year the lineup included some of the most riotously profane signed poetry imaginable, and as DIVE organisers Annabel and Annabel have started working with local disability social network Get2gether I'm hopeful of meeting some new pals AND expanding my pornographic BSL vocabulary.
Good for: queer cabaret, inclusive programming, dirty thrills.
iF Platform: A gorgeous collection of leading UK disabled artists covering heaps of styles and approaches curated by Stopgap. I'm particularly looking forward to Jo Bannon's Alba; her sensitive style and chic aesthetic make my heart sing. Touretteshero's Backstage In Biscuitland looks like an absolute scream, and our man Rowan James' Easy For You To Say looks like it'll ring my bell politically, despite my mild allergy to beat-boxing.
Good for: connecting the regional dots of the UK's rich scene, assured quality.
Black- Le Gateau Chocolat: The first solo show from international operatic drag star Le Gateau Chocolat promises a soulful look at what a picnic it is growing up black, gay and depressed in Nigeria. Having seen Gateau as a cabaret performer many times I am already in love with his voice and adorable stage presence, and Black is top of my list for confessional one-handers.
Good for: knee-tremblng vocal talent, testing the resilience of waterproof mascara.
Abnormally Funny People: Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Abnormally Funny People has a rotating all-star cast of stand-ups bringing you their best bits every night, including Gareth Berliner, Eshaan Akbar, Liz Carr and Tanyalee Davis. This is where mama keeps the juice; go at least twice.
Good for: variety, famous faces, songs and laughs.
Bryony Kimmings- Fake it Til You Make It: Bryony's previous work on sex, celebrity, feminism and drunkenness make her something of a performance pin-up of mine. Partnering with her fiancee Tim to present a work on severe clinical depression, masculinity and love with her trademark humour looks to be another in a long line of hits for her.
Good for: fantastic aesthetics, frank humour and live-art influences.
Guerilla Aspies- Paul Wady: I'm a sucker for a spoof lecture, and Paul's whip-smart daftery should do really well to promote his book 'Guerilla Aspies- A Neurotypical Society Infiltration Manual'. Aimed at preaching to the unconverted but with plenty of insider jokes for his fellow aspies, Paul is on a mission to help you 'see things our way'.
Best for: TED lovers and haters, slideshow junkies, fact-finders and newbies.
Euan's Guide: Not a show but a resource listing and reviewing venues for accessibility. You can also get helpful info from the EdFringe website.
Anything I simply MUST see? Stick your recommendations in the comments below please, and I'll get back to trawling the programme for even more goodies to check out.
Ahead of his first Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Easy For You To Say’, I met up with punk poet Rowan James to welcome him to my neck of the woods and find out his ambitions and motives behind the piece.
Rowan has been based in Ipswich for many years but has come to the warm, cidery bosom of Bristol to develop his first feature show in a new context and to gain a bit of perspective on all that he has achieved so far, an impulsive decision his producer Luke Emery regards as typical of Rowan’s style.
From supporting Scroobius Pip and Attila the Stockbroker on tour to teaching at special education schools Rowan has broad experience as a creative practitioner; I was most struck by his considered and open identity as an artist and activist, and his ability to bring his artwork to many different arenas.
“There’s no hard or fast rule about what an artist should do; some people aren’t up for changing anything socially. Personally that’s not art that interests me, I’m always into things that surprise me, turn my head and challenge me,” says Rowan, “I started out on the music scene being the poet on between bands, and that’s the audience I prefer. I haven't always enjoyed the sit-down poetry gigs as much. I like captivating the audience be a challenge. I like having to work the mic and my physicality to bring people in, having to be in people’s faces in a way that finds balance.”
I can relate; as an emcee I always love the freefall, the risk, in daring to make an audience love me for being provocative, maybe even making them uncomfortable yet always included. A few beers from now Rowan and I will have bonded over the social construction of gender, classic 80s trainers, the importance of outrageous flirting and the scandals and gossip we know from the performance poetry scene; a bender is brewing, one that will leave me with disco whiplash in the morning, but for now all is professional…
The first time any artist offers their heart on a plate to the Edinburgh Fringe is an important moment, and I wanted to know what Rowan’s intentions were for his ‘big push’, performing a continuous poem in a rave setting accompanied by beatboxer Marv Radio to explore labels, self identity, perception and about the aspiration and lack of understanding within society around learning difficulties and disabilities. Well, shit, there goes the neighbourhood.
“One of the themes of the show is looking at diversity, how in the same way as globalisation and immigration, it makes us stronger. I’m looking at medical advances since the 1970s, that I’ve dubbed myself a first-generation survivor of, from being the first generation of congenital heart conditions that babies have survived and the knock-on effects of that.
I’m fascinated by Socrates’ distrust of writing; he thought that our brains would change if we weren’t holding information in the same way; I’m someone who finds the journey from brain to page really difficult and I want to look at how that has been under-represented in an unfair way and why that is.
I want to talk about my frustration about how, for example, when people talk about the Holocaust how it’s never mentioned that disabled people were the first people to disappear.
I don’t know if I can do all that in one show. It’s hard, quite heart-breaking, to research the sense of apathy around how far we should go to change our systems to include more people. What is the ideal? What is fair? What is reasonable?”
Conversation of this scope obviously requires more space than one blog post can contain, so, in the interests of developed discourse Rowan and I hit the backstreets of Bristol to wreak havoc, dance like twats and inflict ourselves on the general public in the name of critical dialogue. Nice work if you can get it, folks, and I'll be bringing you more on this dynamic artist as we sober up.
You can get your tickets to 'Easy For You To Say' at the Edinburgh Fringe HERE
Rowan will be performing and Alice will be giving a presentation on crowdfunding at 'Shaping a Diverse Future' on July 10th at The Point in Eastleigh. Tickets HERE
And you can donate to our crowd-funding campaign to support Rowan's show HERE if you'd like to chip in a few quid towards the poking of the status quo and the development of a young artist on the verge of kicking up a stink as part of the iF Platform at the Edinburgh Fringe.