Festivals · Gigs · Music

Bright Phoebus Revisited

Well, I thought it was great.
The Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow on Wednesday night, after an epic bus journey from Edinburgh (the capital) to Glasgow (Scotland’s major city) of 2 hours and ten minutes – for forty-five miles, in normal weather.
Infrastructure, we got it.
Martin Carthy, Marry Waterson, Eliza Carthy, Richard Reed Parry from Arcade Fire and supporting cast MD’d by Kate St. John.

Bright Phoebus Revisited live Glasgow

They did the record proud and I got Marry and Martin’s autographs on my Bright Phoebus booklet with the great sleevenote by Pete Paphides.

Festivals · Gigs · Music

Diane Garisto – Stoned Soul Picnic

Diane Garisto Live Glasgow Celtic Connections 2018

We were in Glasgow last night for one of only two shows we’re going to at this year’s Celtic Connections festival (the twenty-fifth year now.)

Celtic Connections 2018 The Music of Laura Nyro


The music of Laura Nyro

Diane Garisto was one of Laura Nyro’s trio of backing vocalists through the nineties – in fact, I saw her in 1994 with Laura at her show in London. She has also toured with Steely Dan and sings on Paul Simon’s Graceland album. She now fronts this project which is dedicated to Laura’s music and spirit. (There is a website for Stoned Soul Picnic which is well worth a look.)

Great band playing a selection of Laura classics, mostly from the earlier part of her career. Guests joining Diane and the band were Shawn Colvin, who’s playing her own headline show at the festival tonight, and Karen Matheson – Colvin also did a solo rendition of “Save the Country.”

Laura Nyro stoned soul picnic


It had been rumoured that Paul Buchanan was going to sing; that was incorrect, but he was around.

A mutual friend has told me to say hello to Diane, so I did…a charming lady.

Diane Garisto with Stuart Ferguson

Festivals · Music · Theatre

Edinburgh Festivals Days Twenty, Twenty-one, Twenty-two and Twenty-three.

Edinburgh Fringe - 70 years of defying the norm


Monday 21 August, day 20 of the Festivals…

Mairi Campbell Pulse


Mairi Campbell’s Pulse was a thoughtful and graceful exposition of her own musical journey from the conservatory to the folk tradition, directed by my friend Kath Burlinson.  Very good.

Not so good was the second show that evening…it may have been called “Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men meet Spooky Bitch and the Rockers Uptown.”  At least, it should have been.  I’ll never get that hour back…

Day 21, Tuesday August 22 was a hundred percent day though.

Guy Pratt - photo by Steve Ullathorne


First of all I saw Guy Pratt’s Inglourious Bassterd at Frankenstein’s as part of the Free Fringe.  I had seen him years ago doing a show called My Bass and Other Animals and enjoyed it, so it was well worth going to see the updated version, where he tells anecdotes about his musical career as bass player with Pink Floyd and David Gilmour as well as the numerous superstar sessions he’s done.  Sadly I had to leave quickly at the end of the show so was unable to speak with him and thank him for the magnificent bass part on Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dancefloor.”

A little bit later we went to see Alan Johnson at the Book Festival.  His third volume of memoirs has just come out and he was able to speak mostly about the book – a couple of years ago, during a Labour Party leadership campaign, he was at the Book Festival to promote the second volume but was largely asked about the state of the party rather than his book.

When he was Minister for Health in, I think, 2009 he had mentioned in an interview in The Observer about music that he was fond of The Pearlfishers, so with the agreement of the composer, I took the opportunity to give him a copy of The Pearlfishers’ official bootleg.  I think he is the fifth person to have a copy of this – I hope he enjoys it.


Alan Johnson discusses The Pearlfishers with Stuart Ferguson at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Day 22, Wednesday August 23 – one show, Kieran Hurley’s Heads Up.  A successful shot in the dark.  Apparently this won a Fringe First in 2016 and I could see why.  In the lovely surroundings of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Summerhall, Hurley’s show is a powerful monologue about people’s reactions to nuclear apocalypse, delivered mostly from a desk where he triggers samples from a couple of pads in front of him.  Sobering and sadly appropriate to our troubled and volatile times.

Day 23, Thursday August 24.  Just one show, which was OK.  So enough said.

I also had a pleasant couple of hours at the Book Festival with my friend Alan Windram from littledoorbooks, where we discovered that he and his wife were coincidentally going to an event the next day, and we agreed to meet up.

Meanwhile, in Musselburgh, a revolution in publishing marketing was underway…


Musselburgh Get a Free Sandwich


Festivals · Theatre

Edinburgh Festivals Day Nineteen.

Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Sunday 20 August, three shows, two of which were sadly a waste of time, ill-conceived with little content and no point.  Such is life and that’s going to happen, it’s just the other side of the coin which sometimes yields unheralded and unexpected good surprises (like yesterday.)  I do love the three and a bit weeks of the Fringe and I have a great time – it just doesn’t always feel that way at the time.

However, Stellar QuinesThe Last Queen of Scotland made the day worthwhile. Commissioned by The National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep, this was a newish piece by Jaimini Jethwa exploring the experiences of a Ugandan Asian girl expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in the 1970s. Like the author, she ended up in Dundee and the play recounts the refugee’s experience in the UK and specifically Dundee. Rehanna MacDonald was outstanding in the central role.

I always try to see Stellar Quines.

The Last Queen of Scotland Stellar Quines

On a different note, does it say more about me than the refurbishment that St Cecilia’s Hall seems to be impersonating a can of Carlsberg Special?

St Cecilia's Hall Edinburgh




Festivals · Theatre

Edinburgh Festivals Day Eighteen.

Edinburgh Festivals

Saturday 19 August.  Turned out to be a great day!

Shakespeare on a Shoestring’s Cymbeline was an inauspicious start – while the production itself was fun, witty and energetic, I had to ask a man with an SLR and a woman with a bright iPhone sitting in front of me to put them away…again, a production by an American school, so possibly something of a vanity production which parents would want to photograph and film to death…I think we will be avoiding the schoolies in the future.

A couple of hours later we saw Essential Theatre‘s reading of Julius Caesar and it was superb. A female cast delivered a powerful distillation of the play in just over an hour; wonderful acting and passion. This is the sort of thing that makes attending the Fringe so sweetly fruitful, to suddenly and unexpectedly come across theatre of the highest standard for a few pounds, brought to us by people who have travelled halfway around the world to be here, Australia in this case.  Thank you, Essential Theatre!

Essential Theatre's reading of Julius Caesar

I had no idea what James Rowland’s A Hundred Different Words for Love was going to  be like and it turned out to be the second excellent show of the day.  A monologue about meeting the girl and losing the girl set to occasional looped piano accompaniment (truly the year of the loop pedal at this year’s Fringe,)  it was unusually touching.  Great writing and performance in a lovely atmosphere, the Anatomy Lecture Theatre in Summerhall, which is acoustically perfect.  They knew how to build lecture theatres back then…

St Peter’s Church in Lutton Place hosted C theatre‘s stunning Shakespeare in the Garden; The Tempest. This is the same company who do Shakespeare for Breakfast and Dickens for Dinner, which I’ve already eulogised.  This is a more traditional take on the work; in fact, entirely traditional as it takes place in the open air in the gardens of the church.  I just loved this meticulous production and marvelled at the projection of the actors who had naught but the open air to work in, the lightness and charm of the direction.  This is fast becoming my favourite part of the Fringe –  I first saw this last year, I think it was Twelfth Night and look forward to next year already.  These people can turn their hand to anything.

The last show was a name comedian of which I can remember nothing, sadly.

Festivals · Theatre

Edinburgh Festival Day Sixteen.

Death on the Nile presented by Livewire Theatre Company

Clearly, sitting here on 30  August, I have got way behind in writing about the Festivals…but with a few alterations to tenses, I’ll carry on.  There were so many good things happened throughout the three and a half weeks that it makes the atmosphere in the city on August Bank Holiday quite poignant as many people are packing and leaving the city, or doing their final show.

But I’ll come to Monday 28 August eventually…

I only saw one show on Thursday 17 August, Death on the Nile presented by Livewire Theatre Company, who, according to their programme, were “celebrating 18 years at the Edinburgh Fringe.”  I’m sure I would have remembered if I’d seen them before.

This was quintessential am-dram, by which I mean am-dram at its finest, performed with skill and passion and a lack of pretension.  They don’t seem to have website (there are others with the same or similar names on a Google search) and there are no lists of Twitter or Facebook contacts on the programme, so decidedly old school, which is quite refreshing.  There seem to be many members of a family involved, so I’m guessing this has been an inter-generational project if they have been coming to Edinburgh for eighteen years.

The play itself was an original work based on Agatha Christie’s novel of that name and was not really worthy of the acting and production talent…no-one was credited with writing it, so I guess it may have been devised by the cast, it had that feel.  But no matter, the package as a whole made for an enjoyable evening.