Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time
Tonight, our Edinburgh Fringe show - Alternative Sex Education - opens at the Bongo Club. This is the culmination of a lot of work for us - a chance to package up our politics, honed with sympathetic audiences and friendly bloggers, and take it to the general public. A quick plug, in case you, or anyone you know, are going to be in Edinburgh this month:
3-17 August, 8.30pm (1h)
(if you're a blogger, and fancy writing about us, please check out our press page at http://lashings.org/press/)
What Edinburgh means to me:
I still can't believe that this is going to be my third Edinburgh with Lashings! Even though I'm only coming up for a little while this year, I'm so, so excited to be bringing the QUILTBAG joy to a whole new audience for another year. In celebration, I present to you, in no particular order, some of Galatea's favourite Memories of Edinburghs Past:
- Sitting backstage at the late lamented underground Carlton Cabaret Bar, crushing ridiculously on the exquisitely beautiful and talented Rachael Sage and trying to find places in the overcrowded dressing room/cupboard to stash all the costume bits and ballet shoes.
- Late-night performance readings of very bad vampire fanfic conducted by Florestan and Lil!
- [TW: Fictional character death, suicide] Not exactly a favourite memory, but... of all the shows I went to in the 2010 Fringe (including our own), all of them except one featured at least one dead or deeply, permanently unhappy queer character. The one that didn't? Was a children's production of The Wind in the Willows. My own fault for choosing to prioritise attending queer-themed shows, I guess... but it was then that I resolved that we needed to start making a special effort to tell happy queer stories too.
- Getting apocalyptically drunk on the last night of the Fringe with Dr Carmilla, Rachael's band and sundry assorted Mechanisms, and wandering the streets at 3am singing 'Vagina Dentata'.
- Performing Lashings classic 'You're the Top' with Sebastienne at the Midnight Kabarett and having the audience near-about take the roof off!
- Flyering on the Royal Mile dressed in full-on Victorian Goth mode, and performing flag dances with giant rainbow flags while perched on top of bollards.
- Appearing on Gareth Vile's late-night Edinburgh radio show and having the guests that were supposed to appear after Lashings not turn up... leading to a 1.5-hour long rambling Lashings interview of JOY!
- Hiding out from flyering with Rob in a chocolate/coffee shop and cooking up the idea for Cinderella: A Queer Sort of Pantomime in a burst of sugar-addled creativity.
- Carlotta's trademark early-morning porridge with peanut butter, brown sugar and strawberry jam... better (for me) than some types of sex, and every bit as sticky.
I can't wait to make some new Edinburgh memories to go alongside these... if you're at one of the shows between the 9th and the 13th, I'll be the small ginger-blonde blur hovering six inches above the stage in excitement!
I suppose that I now count as an Edinburgh veteran. This is my third year co-producing a Lashings show, and my sixth year performing. To start with, it was just an excuse to show off - to find myself a fabulous costume and strut around as a panto villain or a high-school goth. I couldn't afford much at all, so mostly went to free shows or just took in all the free street theatre on the royal mile. It was almost like a package holiday - the show's producer(s) would take care of my accommodation, my food, and tell me where I had to be when. All I had to do was just show up and sing...
These days, it's a lot more involved. Lashings operates as a collective, so no-one is just "along for the ride" any more. We've all written and rehearsed acts, planned setlists, built costumes, and once we get here we're contributing by flyering or networking or cooking. We're all much more invested in the show going well - not only have we all had a lot of creative input, but we have a lot of political engagement as well, and a bigger audience means a larger number of people who've heard our message.
Also, this year, we're attempting something new - to stop treating Lashings as a hobby. Our WeFund campaign was part of this, and a corollary of that is that, for the first time, performers aren't being expected to pay rent out of their own pockets. If all goes well, we should make enough money this year to cover our costs for the first time (thank you, so much, to the people whose donations have contributed to this). This is so, so important to the ethos of Lashings - our kind of activism should never be for just those people who can afford to pay.
So, what does this Edinburgh mean to me? It's about getting a chance to really finesse some of our acts by performing them every night for two weeks. It's about getting the chance to bring our message to a much more diverse audience than we might attract outside the adventurous fringe festival context. But, most of all, it's about spending two weeks in a political utopia, where we eat communal vegan food and respect each other's identities and work to make the world better.
I write this sitting at the kitchen sink.
All right, no, I don't, but I DO write it AT OUR VENUE. (We're doing our tech rehearsal and I'm an extremely last-minute multi-tasker.)
I am somewhat on the fence writing this blog post (as I am in most of life, generally, natch) because on the one hand, this is my first Lashings Fringe experience, and I am so so unspeakably excited. On the other hand, I went to Edinburgh University and have also been a member of the audience, performed in shows and worked Box Office at the Fringe on several different occasions, so I feel like I'm coming home. This also means I feel like I'm coming at the Festival itself from two different angles, both as a local and as a visitor/performer.
Most Edinburgh locals hate the Festival: it's kind of a measure of your cache as an Edinburgher. Unsurprisingly, this isn't an attitude I have a ton of patience with. I love the Fringe, and could fill an entire blog post with all my reasons why. In short, I think it's a wonderful opportunity to level the playing field, we get to perform alongside much more well known and established performers such as Miriam Margolyes, Susan Calman and Sandi Toksvig. As Sebastienne said, it's an opportunity to get what we're saying heard by a much larger audience. I love going back to London in September and seeing which shows are now being performed at the West End (at massively inflated prices). I love that the city explodes with people for a month, that the Royal Mile is jammed with audience and performers alike. I know I'm in the minority but I actually quite like both flyering and being flyered. (I love that flyering is a verb.)
I actually originally first saw Lashings here at the Fringe, because of one of their flyers. My best friend, her girlfriend and I hid out from the rain at the Starbucks on the Royal Mile at the 2010 Festival to go through the flyers we'd been handed and thought Lashings sounded awesome. We loved them so much they were on our 'must see' list the following year.
Even though I've performed at the Fringe before, I've never put this much into a show, both in terms of my time and energy, but also myself and my beliefs. It really does feel like coming full circle somehow. Did I mention the unspeakably excited? I guess I found some words after all.
This is my first time at the Fringe, ever, and it's fabulous to be here helping make a show happen. Yesterday was spent ambling the streets, giving wide smiles to shopkeepers and hoping I could persuade them to add just one more poster to their overflowing walls. Today, we're passing the laptop around between sets in our tech rehearsal, and we open this evening. I'm excited! The number of shows happening here is overwhelming, and I'm so glad to be here as a performer, rather than 'just' a consumer of the festival. If nothing else, it simplifies things.
Having done my good share of activism involving serious, negatives-focused consciousness-raising, taking part in something involving song, dance and silly costumes instead feels like a much-needed break. As queer feminist activists, we seem to spend a lot of time living in spaces that are not our own and trying to justify our existence to others. I feel like Lashings doesn't primarily exist to try and get right-wingers on side: we're here to create the shows and the spaces that our communities need. We're here to make shows about us. And with that, I feel like there's an acknowledgement that we don't need to be serious or debatey to get our point across: cheesy musical numbers are a great form of activism for us as performers and marginalised people, they're great for our QUILTBAG audiences, and the logic that dismisses us based on our frivolity is the same one that would brand us as unreasonably angry from the other direction. We may as well have an excellent time singing about carnivorous vaginas.
Squeeeeeeeeeeeeee-we're-back-at-the-Fringe-we're-back-at-the-Fringe-this-is-so-awesome! – and also, also, there was banana and golden syrup porridge for breakfast, and we have squid soap. *Squid soap*! And we're in the middle of our tech run and there are people singing songs I've never heard them sing before, but they're only singing snippets right now because, well, it's just a tech run, and the whole thing's *so* teasery. Teasery? Yes, that can be a word. This is all very joyous! :D