Edinburgh in August. Wish you were here?

I hope they’re not calling me curmudgeonly, out on the street there. They could be. Not entirely without reason, it has to be said. That’s the Edinburgh Festival over for another year, I’m told. How many shows did I go to? One. And that was with a grandchild. It was a bit disappointing, if you ask me, but if you ask her I expect she would say she enjoyed it. So it goes.

The monthly meeting of the non-fiction writers group I go to held the August meeting in the courtyard bar at Summerhall, a very convivial joint, and before turning up I was bit defensive about how curmudgeonly I have been. I shouldn’t have worried. My one show was an increase on some of my friends’ efforts. One chap, with nothing to do on a day off in Edinburgh in August went for a day out to Markinch on the train. MARKINCH! Jolly interesting he said. Now some might say that’s curmudgeonly, but not, presumably, him. It takes all sorts, does it not? (That’s not curmudgeonly. Ed)

Well, I’m with Richard Demarco on the subject of Edinburgh in August. It’s hit saturation point – too many shows chasing not enough audiences. Having thrived from being unregulated, the Fringe has gone professional and commercial to a disappointing extent. There’s some good stuff, very good stuff, well worth seeing and supporting. But, sadly, not cheap, not always worth taking a punt on a ticket like it was back in the day. And, as big Richard says, Edinburgh doesn’t deserve its good fortune. The city doesn’t have to bid for this and wait fifteen years for the next turn. It’s a cash-cow. They rejoice in ever-increasing numbers of tickets sold, shows seen, hotel rooms taken, tram journeys to the airport. An entirely commercial model, in other words. Where are the scholarships for artistic endeavour? Mind you, they can put on a spectacular for the telly. The nightly fireworks, and the biggie on Monday evening to finish off the Festival. How much does every rocket cost? (that’s curmudgeonly – Ed). But it’s worth it, to get the images and profile round the world.

There’s a line in my book tracking Sick Boy in the episode In Overdrive on the High Street: “The Fringe was probably at its strongest in the 1980s: mature, confident, flexible, subversive, aspirational, funny, open, and cheap, before it became a shop window for the professionals and a sequence of television studios having a month on the road.” That was then. But we’re dealing with fiction here, not history. I go on: “Sick Boy is not there to enjoy the fun in any generous or open way, but to personally take advantage of the ‘fanny of every race, colour, creed and nationality present’”. Ah, I was young once. I was no Sick Boy, of course. A decent fellow, me, if a little curmudgeonly. That’s history.