Updates: unimpressed review of this year’s Art Festival…A wall is a screen, combined walking tour and themed film night, in Leith…talking of the festival, we have artwashing and over-tourism (it was ever thus), plus the council’s call for a tourist tax…Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival inc 39! walks and a pop-up hub as part of Doors Open Days throughout Scotland…
Edinburgh is, of course, The Festival City – it used to (at least) announce itself thus on a signpost on the A90, not far from my family home. It being 2018, such analogue delights have been replaced by a wide-ranging website, listing ten or so annual festivals including The Fringe, the original ‘alternative’ festival. The Fringe has begat further fringes, including Book Fringe and Architecture Fringe, the latter a response to Visit Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design.
This year’s ArchiFringe took place in June, with the obvious point of comparison of CAFx. Walking Heads hails a “bold and creatively challenging menu, with unexpected happenings in both likely and unlikely locations” including “an echoing Cumbernauld underpass” (celebrating the new town) and “forgotten parts of Kelty” (street art).
Having grown up in Edinburgh, the place names resonate across the North Sea, even as the places change. Many a time I have hopped on the Kelty bus, enjoying its non-stop surge down the Queensferry Road before hopping off at the Barnton Roundabout. Now when I go back it’s a process of revisiting half-remembered places and finding new ones; the Dick Vet as Summerhall, Lauriston Place Fire Station as event location, hosting a Pecha Kucha Night.
There are commonalities to be found too, with a different take, a different lens. Copenhagen’s brokvartererne have their parallels in Edinburgh’s tenements, once torn down and now gentrifying, creating a need for affordable housing.
The festival’s theme/provocation of COMMON/SENSES invited that British favourite, the play on words, and some diverse responses:
- LOCAL commons GLOBAL sense: “our everyday experiences are perhaps not as common as they once were…how do our experiences of everyday public spaces compare globally?”; at the Leith Walk police box
- Uncommon lives: “Everybody senses the common world differently. In a plural society the built environment can often be found to only reflect a narrow, defined, representation of that society.”
- The uncommon beauty of common things: exploring the emotive effect that buildings and materials have on us, via Charles and Ray Eames
- Spatial insults – common decencies: “tour taking in the scurrilous and disrespectful highlights of Glasgow’s urban environment”
Ironically, fewer commonalities here, given the local ‘one size fits all’ approach and lack of delight in the edgy.
Other provocations included Univer-City (@EdiSolidarity; see Crumble article, LFA’s Knowledge territories), addressing “the historical and ongoing domination of our city’s built and aesthetic form” and Frankentypes, for lovers of typology, “seeking to pluralise expected architectural representation and building types by creating new hybrid structures” (one | two | three).
Creative kudos to Shore 2 Shore (poetry, in Dunoon!), to Sarah Calmus for the Uber Dérive, and to Jenny Knotts for Architext, memories of Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre as a play script in the form of an architectural plan:
Where I feel less at home is with bothies and ‘hutting’ (paging David Cameron). Like Gaelic on road signs, the bothy-as-lifestyle trend seems to have emerged since I flitted to Denmark. ArchiFringe featured The Shieling Project, which doesn’t exactly capture the remoteness anticipated, resembling rather an idealised edit of hygge combined with an update of the ‘wilderness’ hut more likely to be found in Scandi proper (ie the other side of The Bridge) or Finland, yet one more tie-in with general Nordic envy.
You want more? See Antiuniversity Now’s Solus and the city, a small ‘solitude shed’ based on a bothy, in err…East Dulwich, and the Bermondsey Bothy. The Royal Scottish Academy has a forthcoming Bothy Night, celebrating Shelter Stone, a bothy book “made from 70 per cent recycled midge trap waste” (that’s surely a joke). We are now heading into full commodification, not least with Shed of the Year.
More gratifyingly, Alec (son of Iain Hamilton, creator of Adorno’s hut) Finlay has picked up the hutting ball and run with it, “responding to rewilding, ecology or the renewable avant-garde” with Hutopianism, part of Machines à penser at the Prada Foundation, a fringe event at this year’s Venice Biennale.
Where I find a sad lack of melancholy in the prevailing Danish discourse, here a brace of events (Chez Etym & more, Repurpose idea) celebrated the role of memory in constructing the present, and the future, of place. And where I sense a smoothing out and flattening of complexity here I find ‘comfortable chaos’ (Urbanistas), dissent (Pecha Kucha GLA) and disruption (Salon des Refuses), heralding new styles of living rather than a cradle to grave comfort blanket, ghettoised by age, with life starting and ending in an institution.
Next up: the light nights of summer 2018.