Sunday, 25 November 2018

URY 1350AM: Autumn 2003 - The Station That Respects The Dead

October, November and December 2003.  The country is still reeling from the Iraq War fallout and the opposition are in disarray.  On television, Dirty Den has risen from the dead and it's just been announced that Doctor Who will shortly be doing the same.  On the radio Sara Cox is about to leave the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and Chris Moyles has been announced as the next host.  In the charts the Black Eyed Peas have had their first hit and The Darkness are limbering up to fail to hit the Christmas number 1 slot.

More important than any of that was my fourth term at the University of York, controversially following on from my first, second and third.  I'd been on University Radio York since January 2003 and regular readers will know of my discovery of masses of cassettes of various bits of output, which have formed the basis of my compilations of each term's output.
Freshers' Week flyer
I'd hate to say these recordings are in any way representative, and certainly not the best bits - indeed this term seems to mark the point where my clips of other people's shows begins to decline - but, as I always point out, it's quite possible this stuff doesn't exist anywhere else.  Any after listening to it, you might wonder why I bothered keeping it.
Freshers' Week 2003 schedule
A reminder that the quality of these clips vary hugely due to mostly being recorded on C90s from medium wave. However for the first time during this compilation there's also some AM audio logger, as when we were given access I'd generally choose to download it in that format.  It just seemed...right.
Largely illegible URY Breakfast flyer. "No cheesy crap" - advice not passed onto the presenters
So here we go with 43 minutes of student radio from Autumn 2003.  After a long summer off the air I remember being incredibly excited about getting back in the studio and particularly about my breakfast show debut.  Enjoy!
My presenter contract
00:11 URY Breakfast with James Brookes (04/10/03)
URY returns after 14 long weeks off air.  A special Freshers' Week schedule operated although James was as ever in position on Saturday breakfast.
01:38 Weekend Early Breakfast with Jonathan Bufton (05/10/03)
7am and 8am openers from my return to the air, in my summer term Saturday and Sunday early slots for one final week.  Listen out for a remixed URY News jingle which launched that week and the first time I used the Pearl and Dean theme which eventually opened all my shows, including (naturally) my Alumni Takeover show fifteen years later.
03:11 URY Freshers' Week Breakfast (09/10/03)
Some of the special breakfast show that ran all week, here from the morning after "Fresh" featuring Eurovision 2003 no-hit-wonders Jemini and 90s legend Pat Sharp.  With James Wickham, James Dickin, Simon Taghioff and Lizzie Whitebread.
05:50 URY Live from Freshers' Fair (11/10/03)
James Brookes is live from the Exhibition Centre, interviewing Station Manager James Dickin and keeping fingers crossed people would sign up.  I on the YSTV stall a couple of metres to the right.
08:25 URY Breakfast with Michael Brothwell (12/10/03)
Michael's first Sunday breakfast show - a slot he was made for, and indeed over the next two years Sunday's Freshly Brewed became something of an institution.  He was quite good at spotting future stars, here bigging up the debut record from someone called Amy Winehouse.
09:48 B&Q advert
Voiced by Adam Leith, and running throughout this term.  Considering we all lived in rented furnished accommodation, I imagine B&Q's appeal to students was limited.
10:38 URY Breakfast with Adam and Jonathan (16/10/03)
My first breakfast show proper, which Adam Bell and I mainly spend talking on top of each other.  Here's some incisive chat about the toilets in the just-opened Roger Kirk Centre.  We did get better.
12:14 Soldier of Hell with Spencer Vale (07/10/03)
Despite the graduation of the Soldiers the previous term when they graduated, the singular Solider (here feeling very old at 23) was back.
13:32 The Source at Six Special (29/10/03)
URY's news programme stayed on air to cover the no confidence vote in Iain Duncan Smith live.  Campus Conservative Iain Lindley - a nice guy who was the go-to-Tory for campus media as he was always happy to come on and chat - is interviewed by Jameses Doughty and Gallagher.  Here he correctly predicts Michael Howard will be the next leader, and incorrectly thinks his popularity isn't an issue.  Apologies for the particularly grotty audio quality.
15:52 URY Breakfast with Adam and Jonathan (30/10/03)
The following morning, Adam and I indulge in some "satirical comedy" around the same issue.  Watch out Rory Bremner.
16:20 URY Breakfast with Sam and Simon (11/11/03)
It's the 85th anniversary of the end of World War One, and Sam and Simon observe two minutes silence in their own inimitable fashion.  You can hear the disdain for the Student Broadcast Network sustaining service throughout this, which although giving us a lot of funding was often pretty shoddy.  Now into their final year as a going concern, they even forget to do the Armistice Day silence.  Sam (or is it Simon) links out of their (edited down by me) silence with a compelling new slogan for URY.
20:54 URY Breakfast with Adam and Jonathan (06/11/03)
When I was parachuted into Adam's breakfast show I suggested a feature parodying Challenge Anneka called (yes, you guessed it) Challenge Adam.  Most of my features were based around an old TV theme tune and this was no exception.  Adam gamely went along with it and here, with help from Owen Murphy and James Gallagher, he's sent to sing at a porter in Langwith.  Just to date it even more, listen out for the Bo Selecta audio at the start.  Followed by me closing the show with another old theme tune and an accidental whopping double entendre which got me onto the URY Quotes Board.
25:08 Sunday Early Breakfast with Jonathan Bufton (16/11/03)
Although Michael and I were both placed on the breakfast show this term we were still quite fond of our early slots, and so he took on Saturday Early Breakfast whilst I kept the sabbath.  The appeal wore off quite rapidly with colder weather and a longer walk onto campus, and you can definitely hear that in our voices here as Michael guests on my perennial "week in news" feature.  What was that I was saying about old theme tunes?  True to form this started as the Lottery of News, became the Wheel of News and finally here was Play Your News Right.  Listen out for "news" of the URY AGM.
27:36 URY Breakfast with Jonathan and Tom (20/11/03)
Taken from a week when Tom Hughes was standing in for Adam, a few clips from where "Challenge Tom" became "Challenge Jon and Tom", with new Station Manager Owen Murphy taking control to resolve the bickering by setting me the ultimate challenge: talking to women.
32:37 James Wickham (10/12/03)
Some technical problems are resolved by Terry Withers followed by one of Mr Wickham's jingles.
34:06 & 41:25 Christmas jingles 
Made for use during the final fortnight of this term.
34:26 The Block (11/12/03)
A big selling point of URY this term was the station's very own soap opera, The Block, set in the fictional Vanbrugh D block (geddit?).  A lot of effort went into it and it was actually quite good, although as heard here during this short edit of the Christmas special it got surreal quite quickly.  We used to play it out during the breakfast show which meant as well as being able to listen to it we got to put our feet up for a bit - 25 minutes in this case.  Look out for my shameless theft of an old 1FM news jingle at the start...
41:43 URY Breakfast with James Brookes (13/12/03)
The last show of the year, and Santa Brookes is here with his little helper to see the station off the air for the final time in 2003.
The Block flyer

Coming next: fire up your Top Up TV box, it's Spring 2004.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

URY 1350AM: Summer 2003 - What's Korfball?

This is my third compilation of audio memories from University Radio York fifteen years ago, and we've reached the end of my first year, and the long hot summer of 2003.

If you've missed round 1 and round 2 then let me fill you in.  In my student days I presented on the University of York's student radio station URY, and recently I've found the tapes.  As well as my own, there's plenty of random unlabelled stuff that I recorded for reasons unknown, but thanks to my odd devotion to C90 a lot of material that was presumably otherwise lost forever lives on, admittedly as fuzzy medium wave recordings.

The desk in 2003.  Photo courtesy of Simon Taghioff

So, without further ado here is 42 minutes of student radio from April, May and June 2003 - the good, the (often) bad and the (hopefully not) ugly, featuring game show scandals, student politics, Roses, a playlist rebellion, a surprising amount of Craig David and very bad karaoke. In what I think was a first, the previous term's schedule was used for week 1, rather than the station being largely off air until week 2 whilst the new schedule was arranged.   Due to the very late Easter that year, the term oddly began on Wednesday 23rd April, and so URY sprang back into life the day before.

00:05 The J Team take a "radio jog" around campus (22/04/03)
01:52 May Contain Nuts with Jonathan Bufton and a ever-so-slightly tongue in cheek tribute to S Club 7, who had announced they were splitting two days previously (23/04/03)
03:26 Stop Broadcasting Now with Simon Taghioff stops broadcasting (for now), with a nicely edited package that makes us sound quite funny at times (25/04/03)
05:15 Sunday Early Breakfast with yours truly, Michael Brothwell and Simon tackling the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire coughing scandal in our own inimitable way (which is basically embryonic Nation's Favourite material).  And yes, that is the Weakest Link bed, it was the closest I could get... (27/04/03)
07:17 and the transmitter is sounding even more fuzzy than usual leading to an on air apology.  Anyone know who the presenter is? (30/04/03)
07:56 Sourcenight with James Doughty and guest Iain Lindley look at the shortage of campus accommodation for final year students, featuring a slightly astonishing statement from the uni.  URY's own Adam Bell was one of those who missed out, and ended up taking the remaining room in our shared house as a result (02/05/03)
10:56 Weekend Early Breakfast with Jonathan Bufton - yes you read that correctly.  This term Michael and I conquered earlies between us, after we snapped up vacant slots so that I held weekends and Michael owned weekdays.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  But living on campus and it being summer meant the early starts weren't too painful, and we actually had a lot of fun with the vast amounts of airtime we had to play with, "Shame Academy" (with added Taghioff) being a case in point... (04/05/03)
13:07 Complain! This was on the adverts mini disc but I don't remember ever having to play it.  Maybe we were obliged to air it once a term?  Anyway, here are the defunct watchdogs that you could complain to if we stepped out of line.
13:59 Roses 2003 and a selection of output from the weekend when Lancaster came to York to, er, play sport.  Our output was also transmitted on 87.7 Bailrigg FM and we had special jingles, all of which was quite exciting even though I had zero interest in sport.  Here we have a preview of the weekend (what's Korfball?) and Owen Murphy and Simon Taghioff run through Friday's action (what's Korfball?) No actual sport, just talking about it, which was basically what you got most of the weekend.  Spoiler: York won. (08-09/05/03)
16:57 Roses Early Breakfast and Breakfast - for the simulcast a 24 hour schedule was organised which meant my early start became an hour earlier.  Features James Brookes complimenting this achievement and an SBN promo for the Student Radio Chart. (10-11/05/03)
20:19 A monologue on student ambivalence.  I have no clue who this is, but it's quite...something.  Any ideas? (11/05/03)
22:05 URY Breakfast with my good self standing in for Wickham and Alice.  My first proper try-out at the Breakfast Show which I was very excited about indeed.  It also meant I was on air for a total of ten hours that week, a record I (thankfully) never broke (16/05/03)
23:03 Soldiers of Hell with Spencer Vale, where it appears to be about 1995 (20/05/03)
23:55 URY Breakfast with Sam & Simon attempting to remove a track from the URY playlist by hiding the CD and crossing it out from the chart sheet, all of which sounds prehistoric now.  No idea who the caller was (21/05/03)
25:22 Sourcenight features Louise Wheeler on the apathy towards Union General Meetings (23/05/03)
27:44 Oxfam Week advert with Adam Bell and James Dickin.  Quite a unique effort compared to the usual ads we had to play out (24/05/03)
28:57 Weekend Early Breakfast/Breakfast handover where I finally confront the nicest man in radio about being called mad each week (24/05/03)
29:30 James Alexander really really wants us to pass the YUSU budget so he can go to Ikon, Toffs and Ziggys in quick succession again (02/06/03)
30:31 URY Breakfast with Jameses Wickham and Gallagher, and the debrief from the previous night's URY social (06/06/03)
31:30 Adam Leith (who appears to be presenting The Best of Pages from Ceefax) has trouble with the news not appearing.  Play-and-record jingle fans, it's the full News In (08/06/03).
32:24 URY Breakfast has a tricky start as Robbie Dale enters the studio moments before the three beeps.  He's particularly unlucky here as SBN elect not to put out stacks of ads and promos after the news bulletin.  Robbie would often arrive with seconds to spare and still be effortlessly better and cooler than I had been directly before him (08/06/03)
33:43 Epiclectic reminds me that this summer URY had someone in on work experience!  No doubt highly illegal these days, but somehow the station managed to keep Idris occupied for a fortnight (11/06/03)
34:09 Weekend Early Breakfast breaks the news that URY has new CD players (and my god we were ready for them) and airs a brain fade moment from when I covered Michael's show a few days previously (15/06/03)
34:54 URY Breakfast with...well.  Robbie overslept a couple of weeks running at the end of the term because he clearly had more exciting things to do the night before than I did, so Michael and I took control (and the piss).  If you listen carefully you'll note all the early mornings have paid off and we've been told we're on Breakfast from the Autumn (15/06/03)
36:07 The Hype Guide to What's On which for a while replaced the DJ-read guide during the breakfast show.  I love the jaunty samba music in the background as the Islamic Society's meeting in the Prayer Room and a Roman Polanski film is promoted (16/06/03)
37:48 James Scott and "Kevin Bowman" who after his op sounds surprisingly similar to Gill Rickson... (23/06/03)
38:56 Soldiers of Hell comes to an end after four years...until it came back the following term, that is (24/06/03)
41:00 URY Breakfast and who else but James Brookes gets the honour of switching the station off for the summer as the 2002/3 academic year comes to a close.  Listen carefully and you'll notice this is from the new webstream, as I'd been kicked out of my campus room and returned home the previous day (28/06/03)
Hardcore early noughties kit.  Photo courtesy of Simon Taghioff

Coming next: Autumn 2003.  Make sure you've updated your Real Player.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

URY 1350AM: Spring 2003 - Life In The Funny Lane

This is my second compilation of University Radio York output, this time featuring highlights from Spring 2003 - my second term at uni, and my first on air on URY (cringe).

As with last time, it's all from cassettes that have been sat in my parents' loft for over a decade, all recorded from medium wave, so adjust your audio expectations accordingly.  Unless someone else was pressing play-and-record at the time it's unlikely this audio exists anywhere else, so hopefully it provides a unique window into student radio in the early noughties.

I originally had no intention of presenting on the radio station, instead thinking I would help out editing things behind the scenes.  However, after an utterly tedious two hour session helping make a thirty second McCoys crisps commercial, and encouragement from my housemates (more of them later), I decided to have a go.  At URY you had to have a training session - usually in the studio late at night in one of the on air slots the Student Broadcast Network insisted they have - followed by a "demo" to prove you had the minimal technical expertise required.  I can remember for my demo I bought all the tabloids from the student union shop to mine for stories to talk about (as if anyone would give a toss what I was saying), eventually settling on a bizarre story about a Countdown fan playing the show's theme at their funeral.  Towards the end of the term this clearly gripping recording gave me the green light, and I was allowed to go on air from January 2003.

On air in January 2003 (photo courtesy of Simon Taghioff)

The schedule was pretty crowded at this point so newbies were generally given an hour slot, so I was awarded 4-5pm on Wednesdays.  However a few of us - including my housemates - expressed an interest in upping URY's airtime by also filling some more "off peak" slots.  So I made my debut in the primetime slot of Sunday 7-9am, which of course on student radio was christened "Early Breakfast".  Between us that term, URY went on air at 7am, seven days a week, and at the weekend stayed on air until 3am.

Despite the early alarm, I absolutely loved it.  From putting the station on air in the morning to having hours and hours to muck about, make mistakes and talk nonsense, I was so excited about going on air each week.  It was also a big term for the station, as for the first time it could be heard around the world on the website.  For around a year previously it had been available on the campus network (so basically in computer rooms), but now it could be heard literally anywhere - and in stereo too, not fuzzy old medium wave.

Also in this compilation - the debate over differential rents, two very different special guests, the buildup to the second Iraq War, talk of Heslington East and a central venue (it'll never happen), more early morning and late night broadcasting, coverage of that year's Student Union elections, and Red Nose Day.  Happy memories of simpler times.  Enjoy.

00:06 The Ultimate Student Chart 2003 promo that was the call-to-arms towards the end of the Autumn 2002 term for...
00:49 The Ultimate Student Chart 2003: Top Ten Cheesy Tunes with Buzz and Lizzie starting with the definitive "technical difficulty" that we all had at least once, which was go on air before switching the on air output from SBN to Studio 1... (11/01/03)
02:06 The Ultimate Student Chart 2003 with James Brookes and Pam Wells.  As heard here James is in his second stint on URY "training as a maths teacher", which he's now been doing for real for many years, and of course he's still on URY in 2018... (11/01/03)
05:30 Sunday Early Breakfast with Jonathan Bufton.  That's me, and this is my first link, at 7.03am on a Sunday morning.  Could be better, could be worse, but at least I hit the bloody intro spot on! Not that I'd been practising... (12/01/03)
06:09 Soldiers of Hell with Spencer Vale, specifically Bargain C*nt with David Dickheadson.  2003 in a nutshell, there (14/01/03)
07:58 No idea who this is, but it's another new presenter clearly struggling as they try to hit the top of the hour.  He correctly identifies that as with Alan Partridge the last thing you want is an awkward gap whilst trying to hit the news at the top of the hour... (16/01/03)
09:07 The Source at Six with Verity Wilde and Nick da Costa.  This is all I have but shows how Iraq dominated the headlines that term (16/01/03)
09:52 Freshly Brewed at Early Breakfast with my housemate Michael Brothwell.  The new webstream meant we did (very occasionally) get exciting emails from around the world.  Notice also the slight tension towards SBN's output, which we all regarded as total shite (17/01/03)
11:28 Sourcenight reporting on differential rents between different accommodation, something that was still a hot topic for many at this point.  Of course, nothing changed (17/01/03)
13:30 Stop Broadcasting Now with my housemate Simon Taghioff.  Yes, the acronym was intentional.  The filled the late slot after 1am on Friday nights, and here Simon tackles the truly abominable York Star newspaper that we'd been receiving in Edens Court (24/01/03)
15:10 James Gallagher versus James Brookes on a Saturday afternoon (25/01/03)
16:39 York Hire Ware advert, voiced by Phil Stewart, which always used to annoy me when it referred to "scuff links".  Sadly York Hire Wear closed down in summer 2017 (Spring 2003)
17:01 Tim Bateson with special DJ guests Friday Night Posse and a debate on vinyl versus CD.  This discussion will be somewhat out of date within a few years... (26/02/03)
19:55 The Festering Skunk with Michael Brothwell and special guest Dr Maden Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute.  Quite a coup for Michael although I have to take the credit for the phone flashing so early in the show... (28/02/03)
21:14 SU Elections 2003 Question Night for the Student Union elections, which entirely by coincidence starts with the eventual president, Chris Jones, whose interview I've included in full (02/03/03)
27:30 Epiclectic with Simon Tagioff and yours truly, whose mobile embarrassingly goes off as soon as we go on air, immortalising my naff 2003 ringtone forever (05/03/03)
28:50 SU Elections 2003 Warmup with James Wickham and Owen Murphy as they build up the excitement for the big night (07/03/03)
29:44 SU Elections 2003 Results Night with James Doughty, James Gallagher and Simon Taghioff.  Here we have the intro, a technical cockup after Tatu that James G links out of superbly, the policies of the eventual president Chris Jones, highlights of the week's coverage and a nasty technical cockup.  Worth listening to for James G's comment on Doorsafe alone (07/03/03)
37:56 Freshly Brewed with Michael Brothwell and myself on Red Nose Day 2003 - and the last day of the Spring Term 2003 - reviewing the term's news to the sounds of that year's Comic Relief single (14/03/03).

Next up - Summer 2003.  I bet you can't wait.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

URY 1350AM: Autumn 2002 - If You Like It...Or...Or Even...

This is my first compilation of University Radio York output, starting appropriately enough with half an hour of output from my first term in York in Autumn 2002.
What I didn't realise until I started combing through my cassettes (which, other than a date, are largely unlabelled) was quite how much of the campus radio station I'd recorded upon my arrival in October 2002.  I'm not really sure why either - I think I loved that not only did we have a student radio station, it could be received in our rooms on campus. I never quite understood the cynicism about student media from students - for me it was exciting to have this output made especially for us.  Not everyone on it was up to Chris Moyles or Scott Mills standard (and that's putting it mildly), but that's what you'd expect from a station where anyone with a minimum level of technical expertise was able to "have a go".  As you'll hear in this compilation there were plenty of rather good presenters, some of whom have made a career out of it.  I just thought it sounded like great fun and after encouragement from my housemates, decided to have a go myself: you can read about my years as a fair-to-middling DJ here.

It was after YSTV's 50th birthday bash recently that I realised that whilst YSTV has 13 years (and counting) of programming online, there is next to nothing available for URY.  In fact I'm guessing unless someone else pressed play and record, most of this compilation doesn't exist anywhere else.  Hopefully these recordings might be interesting to those who weren't there as a snapshot of student radio fifteen years ago, and to those who were - and particularly those actually in it - as a real trip down memory lane.  What's weird is how much I captured on tape of people I would later know quite well, and in some cases still do.
Autumn 2002 slightly dubious Freshers' Week publicity

As Radio 1 Vintage proved, nothing can quite take you back to a point in the past than hearing the live radio of the period, and there's plenty here to root the output to the last few months of 2002, with talk of Fame Academy and other TV of the period, the SU president on York's dull imagine, hopes of a central bar and new campus (both of which would finally arrive at the end of the decade) and the Conservative Party chair telling her MPs to stop infighting...whatever happened to Theresa May?  All that and the usual "music and chat" that the generic schedule billing listed.

A couple of disclaimers - every single clip is recorded in glorious mono on cassette, so adjust your sound quality expectations accordingly (although I quite like the nostalgic fuzzyness of AM).  The exceptions are the jingles and ads, which I sneakily made a copy of when I started presenting the following term. This also means there's none of me - well, almost...

And yes, the Toffs ad is in there.  Enjoy.

(If I've mis-remembered any of the names - it's been a while - or you've got any more info, let me know in the comments and I'll update it)

00:11 URY Top 20 with James Brookes: the first one of the term, and a plug for the URY welcome meeting for freshers a couple of days later that would persuade me to have a go myself (14/10/02)
02:51 The Source at 6 reports on Theresa May's attempts to change the image of "the nasty party".  An open goal for jokes so I won't even bother... (07/10/02)
03:58 James Gallagher and Kimball Johnson with quite a unique link that has to be heard to be believed (12/10/02)
05:26 The Nerve with Rob Berry - which I recall was an arts magazine at 1830 after the news.  Here we have the glamour of "Cinema Liaison Office" which I can't believe was an actual elected role, and the first appearance of many by James Wickham as he pretends to interview David Gray (07/10/02 and 23/10/02)
06:59 The Score - Saturday afternoon sports news, which was again anchored at this point by James Wickham, here slagging off IRN who'd been misbehaving (26/10/02)
08:47 The Lowther advert - voiced by Ed Mitson who doesn't seem to believe what he is saying.  I love how it tails off the end with "down by the river" - find it yourself
09:19 James Gallagher again who seemed to like playing this song at the time (November 2002)
09:49 The Source at 6 with Brendan Beaton and (eventually) Verity Wilde.  The opening theme of this show was great - as if The Day Today never happened.  The three beeps at the start were the opt-out signal from the sustaining feed after their news and ads, which of course meant it was more like The Source at 6.03 (05/11/02)
10:40 The Lush Show with James Dickin - an actually quite good dance music show, even if AM wasn't the best place to listen to it (08/11/02)
11:28 URY Breakfast with Kate Harries - this was Sunday's breakfast show, which the following term I'd have the dubious honour of warming up for with Early Breakfast.  Amazingly the Breakfast Show website of the period is still online (10/11/02)
12:30 Janos Bene - the closest thing URY had to a John Peel figure.  Every link would be much like this... (13/10/02)
13:36 URY Breakfast with Adam Bell - Monday's breakfast show.  A year later I'd not only co-present the programme but also live with the presenter (11/11/02)
14:48 Rook and Gaskill advert - it's that man Wickham again.  Nice pub, but it wasn't close to campus as the ad claims...
15:31 Soldiers of Hell with Spencer Vale and someone else dissecting Fame Academy, Pop Idol and other talent show guff of the period (13/11/02)
18:14 The Source at 6 - SU president Tom Connor on York's dull image, something much discussed that year I seem to recall.  Introduced by Verity Wilde again (22/11/02)
20:55 URY Breakfast with James Brookes - Saturday's breakfast show.  Despite joining in 1997 James is still on the station today, seemingly because he does a good job and is a very nice man (23/11/02)
21:52 URY Gold - apparently the first edition too.  James Wickham and Lee Beaumont launch a long-runner that would carry on even after I left York (25/11/02)
23:40 Kevin Bowman and James Scott talk through that night's TV.  Kevin was in charge of YSTV at this point and told me every single caller they mentioned on their show was fictional, which is not at all surprising (09/12/02)
25:35 The Big Cheese with Tom Hughes - and a memorable guest appearance by Michael Brothwell.  Michael and I lived in the same block on campus and he asked me to ring the studio to pose as a mad fan of his show, the results of which can be heard here.  The three of us would live in the same house for our second and third years and I'd later present with both Michael (doing more of this sort of nonsense) and Tom (on the breakfast show), none of which we'd have predicted at this point in 2002 (10/12/02)
29:23 The Toffs nightclub ad (voiced by James Dickin) which I think all of us can recall word for word 15 years on as it aired for so long.  Apparently this continued to run for a period after Toffs stopped paying URY to play it, as everyone was so used to putting it out.
29:57 The Source at 6 - the last edition of the year with the obligatory "and finally" story (13/12/02)

Coming soon....Spring 2003! (how did you guess?)

Monday, 29 August 2016

Edinburgh Fringe Blog 2016

2016 marked our fifth trip to the Fringe!  You can read about 2012 here, 2014 here and 2015 here.  I clearly couldn't be bothered to write anything in 2010.  This trip was a cheeky little last minute effort after previously deciding we would sit this year out, but then leafing through the programme and thinking "oh go on then".  As a late decision we went for the first time over a proper weekend (I'm not counting the first weekend of previews last year) and only went for three days, our shortest trip yet.  So, enough with the setup paragraph, I suspect you are saying, get on with the reviews!  The present Mrs Bufton, pictured below, is this year contributing some thoughts of her own - only when she can be bothered.


Show 1: John Gordillo - Love Capitalism
Our first show and someone who I first came across as the young(ish) host of BBC Choice's nightly comedy show The RDA, a wonderful ramshackle series that was loved by about a dozen people and ignored by everyone else, thus ensuring its fate.  Despite an obvious lack of content and interest and investment by the channel, what really held the whole thing together was the likeable host.  Until now I hadn't managed to see his standup (despite performing many times at Downstairs at the Kings Head, the famous comedy club at the end of our road when we lived in Crouch End for 6 years), but he doesn't disappoint. Performing in "the hottest room at the Fringe" Gordillo deconstructs capitalism's attempts to be friendly with us, particularly Virgin Trains' increasingly weary chatty marketing on their trains (such as "hey there good looking" on the mirror above the toilet as you urinate) and asking via email "how likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family", rightly pointing out that when it comes to trains from London to Scotland, Virgin are certainly unrivaled. Towards the end the show took a much more confessional turn which was more successful with Kate than me, but overall a great hour. And our only visit this year to The Stand, which was nice as now matter how smug they are they are still miles away from virtually everyone else.

Kate's review: Considering the big criticism we had of last year's run of shows was that the subject matter always felt a bit flighty and lightweight, it was a joy to kick off this year's run with heavy stuff. Maybe it's also because of the job I'm in where Gordillo's dissection of brands trying to sell 'experiences' and 'feelings' rather than services that this resonated quite deeply.

Show 2: Jake Yapp is One in a Million
You may know Yapp from his "in 90 seconds" segments from Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe.  He starts his latest Fringe show in much the same way with a fantastic "The Fringe in Five Minutes" sequence, which accurately captured all the clich├Ęs you can spot during August in Edinburgh ("we're just these three crazy guys that leap about, shout a lot and do sketches! There're no jokes, but still..."). Sadly after this point it became a bit more pedestrian with a lengthy sequence on Yapp's veganism, which was about as interesting as it sounds, and then something about his kids. I think. As with Gordillo, a genuinely lovely guy who you are willing on to succeed, but he could do with making all sixty minutes as compulsive as the first five.

Kate's Review: A lot of Jake's set sagged in places but ultimately he came up with a character that said 'I LOVE Coco Chanel. I've got a Chanel bin' which for some reason was my favourite line of the Fringe.

Show 3: Set List - Standup Without a Net
One of the more successful "late night rotating lineup shows with a gimmick" (we'll certainly more than Comedy In The Dark, which remains one of my worst comedy experiences of all time), Set List has become something of a hit since we last saw it, even being made into a TV show that no one has seen.  Now residing in the "Nightclub" venue of Gilded Balloon - so called because it is usually home to drunk students dancing to S Club 7 - Kai Humphries hosted five acts seeing the themes of their set appear in front of them as the performed.  When it works, it works really well, although you do feel the terror of performers as they stand there hoping what they come up with is funny. After sitting in the Gilded Balloon bar for a couple of hours looking at the various shows starting as we waited I said to Kate "there is no way I am seeing the bloody Axis of Awesome, they're almost as ubiquitous as flaming Abandoman in doing the same act year in year out". So I only had myself to blame as a familiar-sounding "poet" act, later revealed to be an alter-ego of Abandoman, was one of the acts, and the big finale was, of course, Axis of Awesome.  And the embarrassing thing was that they were absolutely superb.


Show 4: Radio Active
One of the Pleasance's headline shows this year is quite a coup - a reunion of the Radio Active cast, performing two episodes of their 1980s Radio 4 show which parodied the then new concept of local radio stations. Obviously I was too young to hear this the first time around but the idea (and the rare chance to see the cast back together) seemed too good to miss.  With the sense of occasion in mind it was a bit disappointing to see quite how safe and Home Service most of the material was, causing barely a ripple of laughter in the carvernous Pleasance One. The highlight was Status Quid performing "Boring Song", and you can probably guess what that entailed.  

It seems a little churlish to describe a Radio 4 programme as "very Radio 4", but it is the best description I can surmise. One can only guess you had to be there, and it just kind of worked in the background whilst doing the washing up in the way that it doesn't in a massive venue.  But we did get three things out of seeing Radio Active: 1) seeing how at 60 years old Angus Deayton is incredibly well preserved and hasn't aged a day, 2) an afternoon of Googling Michael Fenton Stevens to find out where the hell we recognised him from (answer: virtually everything), and finally 3) our Anecdote of the Fringe 2016, which you can find at the bottom of this blog.

Kate's Review: Gutted that we missed Mark Cooper-Jones' 'Geographically Speaking' to watch this. Mildly amusing, if I'm feeling generous.

Show 5: Lolly 2
Lolly Adefope is someone who we have sort of followed from the start, after a hysterical turn at the 1Xtra Comedy Night two years ago followed by her debut solo show in 2015. So Lolly 2 continues with more of the same character comedy, but this time with the recurring theme of her reviews from last year, many of which bafflingly remarked that she didn't mention her race at all (Adefope is black). This idea, fed into various skits including Lolly auditioning for "Black Hermione", accompanies plenty of other set pieces, none of which quite hit the heights of Lolly 1's talent show conceit, particularly one item about an American talk show host which went on for far too long.  But she remains one of the Fringe's most exciting talents, and it is to be hoped TV will manage to harness this in an appropriate format at some point.

Kate's Review: I LOVE YOU LOLLY. Although I agree that the talk show host bit went on too long. Her 'Diversity Inclusion' Officer character was inspired. She just does character comedy so much better than everyone else, with an attention to detail and mannerisms that leaves everyone else trailing in her wake. 

Show 6: James Acaster - Reset
Another outing for James "always nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award but never gets it" Acaster, this time graduating to Pleasance One, the second biggest venue at everyone's favourite yellow Fringe venue on a hill (the biggest being Pleasance Grand which even Adele would struggle to fill). The promotion didn't entirely suit his act, or indeed any standup, the room being very long and thin.  We didn't find this show quite as good as last year which was quite exceptional, but Acaster remains one of the stars of his generation.  Any show which refers back to his failed musical career as part of "The Wow Scenario" is going to be worth seeing.

Show 7: Princes of Main - Cool
IT'S ANOTHER MALE TRIO SKETCH GROUP! Following Pappy's, Wit Tank and Beasts we decided to see these guys on the basis of the show being directed by Lolly Adefope.  Residing in "the hottest room at the Fringe", Princes of Main made a pretty good stab at providing a variant on the now ubiquitous format this time loosely themed around how to be cool, the highlight of which being "badly translated French" sketch where someone was listening to "Jason of Rulo" whilst eating a "little boy" yoghurt. The hour didn't really sag at all and the room was pretty full for Sunday night, so they must be doing something right.

Kate's Review: A boy sat behind me laughed too loudly and for too long in my ear in order to impress his date. I liked Princes of Main but was largely preoccupied with thinking about what a massive tool he was. Plus, the 'crazy one' in all these male trio sketch groups is never as loose a cannon as Tom Parry from Pappy's, so they end up looking like a pale imitation.


Show 8: Five Go Off On One
When we were kids Kate and I loved the Famous Five books, and despite this have turned out to not be racist and sexist. Kate does however love ginger beer.  So when we were handed a flyer for this comedy play we were quite keen to see what they'd done with the subject matter.  After all, surely getting laughs out of the Famous Five is like shooting fish in a barrel? You'd think.  You can't really do the obvious jokes as the Comic Strip have kind of exhausted that one.  But still a lot to work with, you'd hope? 

Five Go Off On One failed on so many levels it is hard to know where to start.  It had no idea what it was trying to be - spoof, farce, surreal, or even straight comedy version of the Famous Five? All of those were thrown into the mix throughout the hour, almost as if to see which worked, but nothing stuck.  The most annoying element was trying to work out what was going on as so many plot threads were thrown into the mix, and at 55 minutes in there still wasn't a resolution, which rather gave the game away it was going to be a bit of a cop out.  Various bizarre set pieces were added, the oddest of which was an interlude where fictional news headlines were read out to the sound of the extended BBC News theme, culminating in terrible puns. The including something about Ed Miliband's hair resulting in the punchline "Ed Fringe". Yes, that's Ed Miliband off of 2010. 

Bits that could have worked well were flunked, such as a plotline that Timmy had gone missing. This could have worked into a terrific running joke with the audience who were well aware that a dog would never feature in the live play, but the resolution of Timmy being played by one of the cast with a sock on their hand when he was finally located was poor (surely pretend he's run off to continue the gag, or put a giant dog costume on or something?).  Bits that did work well, such as an interlude where Uncle Quentin looked menacing to the War of the World theme before starting to strip off when the music kicked in, was run into the ground when repeated a few minutes later.  Some intriguing plot possibilities were ignored when the suggestion that Uncle Quentin was just keeping the kids occupied by leaving crates around was brushed under the carpet.  By the end we had absolutely no idea what was going on.  The final line "Five Go Off On Two", yelled by the cast presumably to excite the audience in the idea of a sequel, instead had the effect of stunning everyone there into silence. I really really wanted to like this show but instead went away Googling to find out who was responsible.

Kate's review: The people involved in this show seemed absolutely lovely, and I genuinely believe that the best of intentions were behind the production. But my God, why did nobody in what was presumably quite a long road to get this to the Fringe stop and say 'Hang on everyone, this material isn't funny. It's really NOT FUNNY.' And we even paid for the privilege. My god.

There were numerous pointless scenes written to showcase the individual talents of the cast (for example, filling a cave with infinite crooks so one guy could show off his range of American accents) which added nothing. I was also pissed off that George the tomboy was a sap in pigtails. Ideally the show needs a talented script editor and a big red pen, otherwise they should stick it in the bin and use this year as a learning experience to write something better.

Show 8: Rhys James - Forgives
Second year running for us seeing Rhys, once again in the not-at-all-a-Portcabin surroundings of Pleasance Beside, apparently "the hottest room in the Fringe" (guys, enough, we're all sat down out of the glare of the lights drinking beer so don't get as hot as you).  James is another likeable guy with a very deft set of funny lines weaved around...well not very much, that's kind of the problem. James falls into the problem we all do at 25 in thinking we are now fully grown adults, rather than children who have only recently stumbled into the real world and still have a lot of learning to do. A bit harsh, but if you're going to fess up that you recently moved out of your parents' house, get used to it.  The highlight of the show was undoubtedly a letter he wrote to himself 15 years previously as part of a school project, apparently entirely true judging by the hysterical laughter coming from one of his friends in the audience. A decent hour but we'd probably go and see someone else next time.  He did however have the courtesy to finish 10 minutes early to allow us to dash across Edinburgh to our next show, beginning 15 minutes later...
Reading out the Chilcot Report, in full, in a bus, 24 hours a day. 

Show 9: Alistair McGowan - 12th Impressions
In the early noughties I thought Alistair McGowan was the bees knees.  Rory Bremner aside, impressions had largely gone out of fashion when The Big Impression launched on BBC1, and I loved it. So seeing that McGowan was back at the Fringe I jumped at the chance to see him live.  So it was we crammed into "the hottest room at the Fringe" - only this time it was, with the chairs in the Gilded Balloon's Debating Room pushed so far together everyone had a pair of knees crushed into their buttocks. The show didn't get off to the greatest start, with McGowan seemingly genuinely annoyed people were still sitting down when he came on (perhaps try playing a smaller room next time?), but as it progressed I was reminded of what used to frustrate me about The Big Impression - spot on impressions, and slightly ropey comic material, the exact opposite of Dead Ringers. (Why couldn't McGowan just join them? Oh, he did, for one Radio 4 series, and left. That answers that one then).  Some of the material was a little questionable - in particularly a tired run though Dad's Army characters, a rather pervy interlude where he imagined commentators at Rio 2016 admiring the bodies of female athletes, and a request that woman stop bothering to worry about what earrings they wear as we are looking elsewhere.  Al, 1996 is on the phone and wants its material back.  Put all that together with pausing for applause after every bloody joke and you've got a major disappointment.

Kate's Review: Alistair had a segment which was basically a long whinge against Twitter and the pointlessness of it, with the audience loudly agreeing. I think I last heard those kind of jokes around 2009.

Show 10: David O'Doherty - Big Time
After, quite frankly, a bloody awful day of shows, we really needed someone to pick things off the ground for our final show of the Fringe, and O'Doherty delivered in the way he always does because he's a genius.  In something like his 15th consecutive outing at the Fringe he mused on subjects including mundane promoted tweets, his Twitter hassle from Ed Sheeran fans and the realisation that, after being on the up for the last few years, he's only going to go down now in terms of success.  We also learnt about his efforts to have a "No Lilt February" and his hatred of brunch DJs.  Despite being in his words "the enviable third Monday of the Fringe" show we finished our fifth Fringe on a high, after which he promptly followed us into Pizza Express.  Man, know some boundaries.

Kate's Review: David O'Doherty tweeted me back when I called him out on his Pizza Express stalking, saying 'I can't help it. I just h8 all K8s' which absolutely made my week.

Finally, as is traditional, a few final Fringe thoughts...

Due to the seemingly never ending redevelopment around Bristo Square that has already displaced the Udderbelly, the BBC's Fringe - sorry, Edinburgh Festivals - venue was relocated this year to the grounds of a school, quite out of the way.  I've written a few times on how despite pouring money into this venture each year they don't seem to have a clue what to do with it, and this year was no exception.  The three editions of The One Show live from Edinburgh included some festival content, but you do start banging your head against the wall when they open with an interview with someone from Casualty.  This year also saw the notable absences of Radio 1 and (by definition) BBC Three, which hasn't helped things.

Caldonian Sleeper
We got the sleeper train home!  In order to maximise our time at the Fringe (and only take one day off work), we checked out of hotel on Monday lunchtime and were still able to see a full day of shows before catching the train home late on Monday night.  This was our first trip on the sleeper since Serco took over from ScotRail as a standalone operator, which they have cunningly named "Caledonian Sleeper".  It doesn't need pointing out that the rolling stock is on its last legs but some improvements have been made, such as two pillows on each bunk, USB charging points in the cabins and more breakfast options.  We must have caught the various sleepers in the UK about half a dozen times now, and I think we've only had a decent night's sleep a couple of times.  But there is something undeniably special about going to sleep at one end of the country and waking up in another.  Long may it continue!

Anecdote of the Fringe 2016
OK, you've waited long enough.  Before we saw Radio Active Kate spotted Ian Hislop hanging around the Pleasance Courtyard.  Surely not here to see Angus Deayton, with whom it is quite well documented he doesn't see eye-to-eye with?  More like Paul Merton, also on that afternoon with his Impro Chums.  Anyway, after the show we again found ourselves behind Hislop as he negotiated the tiny staircase down to the toilets at the back of the Pleasance.  What are the chances that he should find himself facing Deayton coming up in the other direction?  #awkward.  Anyway, all that was a long time ago now wasn't?  Surely after 14 years they could at least acknowledge each other?  Nope.  They both looked in the other direction and pretended they hadn't seen each other.  And Kate was stuck in between them both.

And on that buttock-clenchingly embarrassing tale, we're done.  Will we make it four years in a row?  Unlikely.  This year was, as you've probably noticed from the reviews, a bit of a disappointment.  Partly due to our own choices: too many big rooms, as the people we follow have become more successful, and not enough small "will this work?" type shows.  Perhaps also an inevitable consequence of going at the weekend and only having 3 days to cram things into this time, there were plenty of shows we wanted to see but just couldn't due to clashes.  Or maybe it's time to take a break...

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Edinburgh Fringe Blog 2015

It's that time of year again! After months of anticipation, much rehearsal and considerable coverage in the national press, I'm writing a blog.  Ahahahaha.

This was mine and Kate's fourth trip to the fringe.  You can read about the last two here and here.  Our last in particular was a bit of a washout which is why we've broken our unofficial rule of going every other summer.  We don't go for the weather - you'd be mad to do that - but it was so oppressively wet and cold that promoters were reduced to shouting "come to our show because it's dry and warm".  So we headed back up and (thankfully) enjoyed five almost unsettlingly hot and dry days.  And if there's anywhere you want to be on a hot day, it's in a windowless shipping container in a car park with 78 strangers.  This was also the earliest we'd ever been.  Due to leave availability at work we visited right at the start and over a weekend, which was also a first for us.  But without further ado, the reviews - if you can call them that.  All with the proviso that everyone we saw was far more talented than I'll ever be.  So with that in mind:


Show 1
David O'Doherty: We Are All in the Gutter, But Some of Us Are Looking at David O'Doherty

A "strong start", as they say.  O'Doherty is something of a Fringe veteran, presenting his fourteenth consecutive annual show in Edinburgh. His star has grown in the past few years meaning he now effortlessly fills the sizeable George Square (Lecture) Theatre.  It's more of the same, but with David that is never a bad thing.  Touching upon on the Irish equal marriage vote he tells a terrific story about the after-effects of a celebratory party that left us in stitches.  Self-effacing, modest and hugely talented.
Pleasance Courtyard

Show 2
Chris Martin: This Show has a Soundtrack

No, not that one.  Chris is a hugely likeable comedian who we first encountered warming up for Room 101, and this is the second time we've seen him at the Fringe. The time he is part of the Free Fringe - more on that later - as he points out on the flyer, "this doesn't mean the show's crap, but I'm getting married and still live in my Mum and Dad's shed". The hook of the show is that his friend has composed a soundtrack to the show that will run throughout, just like in film and TV, and the concept provides some early gags.  It's a shame then that it gets almost entirely forgotten about later on, simply rumbling away in the background like hold music.  Chris is also just too nice a guy.  Given the gift of not one but two women-with-silly-cackles in the audience, he seemed more flattered that they're enjoying the show than anything else, and indulged them far longer than necessary when it was clear everyone else was getting a bit fed up. 
Gilded Balloon, Teviot House


Show 3

There have been some medical advancements in recent years as it seems as if Pappy's and Wit Tank have somehow managed to reproduce and give birth to a new all-male sketch trio.  Pappy's Tom Parry has even been kind enough to direct their show as part of his fatherly responsibilities.  I'm being unkind here as BEASTS easily fill an hour and hold the audience's attention around a plot where they attempt to film their show for a DVD release.  It was easily one of the best shows we saw at the Fringe this year, and all felt so familiar.  The three males all speaking to the audience, introducing their sketches, screwing them up and having to do them again.  The multitude of silly props. The mad sweaty one intent on breaking the rules.  The straight-laced leader trying to get things back on track.  The other one.  Is this harsh of me? After all, I didn't criticise Chris Martin for the unoriginal "solo male standup" act. Perhaps Pappy's and their ilk have created a genre of their own.  After Last Show Ever, though (one of the most outstanding Fringe productions of recent years) they have a lot to live up to.
Kate celebrates the Gilded Balloon's 30th birthday

Show 4
Iain Stirling: Touchy Feely

The third time we've seen Iain live, and he's come a long way from "Seminar Room 2" back in 2012, now filling up Pleasance Above - the definitive "on the up" venue - without a great deal of difficulty.  Sadly whilst voicing Love Island some of the sun has gone to his head, and some of the confidence and assurance has been lost from his act.  To be fair, it was a preview - but then so were virtually all the shows we saw.  From the "catch-all title required by the Fringe in April before anything is written that ultimately has nothing to do with the show" to a confused dialogue about the shame of eating McDonalds (yeah!) that immediately segued into Iain's vegetarianism (eh?), it felt a little...unfocused.  Which is a crying shame because he's a likeable guy who can engage with an audience well, and is undoubtedly reaping the rewards of bringing the older end of the 2010-ish CBBC viewership and Love Island's audience (don't laugh) into his gigs. Trying to get some kind of theme running through the show would be a good place to start next year.
Udderbelly's Pasture

Show 5

A bit of a wildcard, but one of the joys of this end of the Fringe is that if you don't like something you're only a few quid down.  The concept of this "part comedy show, part music quiz" is to guess which song's lyrics a sketch is performed using. The winner gets the "golden mixtape". To help you along each show has a theme - ours was "solo stars" (which hardly narrows it down...). All amiable entertainment and the enthusiastic group of performers really gave it their all.  The format conspired against it, though.  It's quite difficult to write a funny sketch using such a restrictive selection of words, which often resulted in them saying the same words over and over again in an attempt to not make it completely obvious. When they did strike gold with the setup, any laughs they deserved were minimal as everyone was concentrating on trying to work out the answer.  Maybe it works for them - or maybe I was miffed we missed out on the Golden Mixtape by two points.  They do however deserve credit for essentially putting on half a dozen different shows to support the different themes.
Friday's winner of the "Golden Mixtape"

Show 6

The latter end of the by-time-of-day listings is full of music nights that you'd think would struggle to fit into the concept of the Fringe. One we saw had a theme of "crap music requests" - surely that's just a quirky club night paying to get into the Fringe programme for more publicity? But to prove we're still down with the kids (yeah, I've got a Game Boy Camera!) we went to PLAY, a two hour show in the Gilded Balloon which pits DJ sisters The Mac Twins against each other, with the audience "voting" using their coloured wristbands. Much is made of 80s computer game imagery on the big screen, with some impressive choreographed routines from their dancers. Attendance was a little patchy on our night but the crowd really got into the concept - initially choosing genres, before the two teamed up to "take on cheese". Given the reaction of the crowd to C'est La Vie and Cotton Eye Joe they probably wondered why they bothered with the earlier proper DJ bits, but then this is the Fringe on a Friday night.  And if nothing else, it means you don't have to go to Late 'n' Live next door.
The Mac Twins and co in "action"


Show 7
Phill Jupitus is Porky the Poet in Apologist Now!

Our first Fringe cockup. One of the problems with the Free Fringe is there is no way of stopping over-capacity, as after all there are no tickets to sell.  So we found ourselves cramming into a room to see Christian Reilly before it became obvious that not only was there nowhere to sit, there wasn't really anywhere to stand either, so we cut our losses and headed back to bar.  According to the Fringe app, Phill Jupitus was due to start 20 minutes later in the same building. As fall-back options go, I've had worse.  Phill did an hour of poetry - an area of his repertoire I've not really encountered before - but it was enjoyable stuff, in particular a diversion into some of background and family history.

Show 8
Michael Hill: My Two Years in Tokyo

Another Free Fringe show, and with exactly the same problem as we'd just encountered - too many people cramming into a corner of a bar, not helped by a table of mouthy blokes who refused not only to move but to stop their loud conversation once the show began. Newcomer Hill could have demolished this opposition easily as he had the entire audience behind him but chose to instead try to pacify them and carry on. As you can see from the photo ours seats were directly behind him meaning we spent an hour staring at his arse (the Free Fringe, there).  We were inspired to see this show following our trip to Tokyo earlier this year, and it didn't disappoint those with or without any knowledge of Japan (and looking at the crowd there were a few men with a certain kind of "interest" in the country).
Sitting behind the mic stand!

Show 9
James Acaster: Represent

Acaster is one of the most promising comedians of his generation. We first encountered him on Josh Widdicombe's XFM podcast show at last year's Fringe, after which he received a Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for his own show. Expectation was high and he didn't disappoint, skilfully weaving together a story involving a period on jury service and the Christingle service that was layered and peppered with subtle call-backs for those paying attention. Sadly this was Saturday night in Edinburgh so the audience contained a number of individuals were definitely not paying attention (possibly Mock The Week viewers killing time in between hospital appointments). Acaster is a master on the stage and adeptly dealt with the interruptions, although sadly this extended the show length by around 15 minutes, meaning many ended up dashing out during the finale. Despite this, a hugely impressive show and (still) one to watch.
Show 10
Voices In Your Head

And so it came to pass that we were wandering around the Assembly beer-and-food area (enclosure? compound?), thinking of calling it a night when we were accosted by a flyer-er offering us two for one tickets to see Voices In Your Head, an intriguing-sounding descendant of Whose Line Is It Anyway where unprepared performers have to inhabit a given character based on instructions from "the voice" and props given to them by the audience. Our hearts sank when we arrived at the venue and found a solitary person waiting, but eventually the theatre was about a quarter full. And it was a decent enough show, although one you feel would have been improved by a bigger audience and some less petrified performers. Kate bravely volunteered her handbag for one sketch, and the performer deduced that based on the contents he would be "a bitch who works in PR"!  "How do you get through the day" asked the voice.  Looking through her bag, out came some Nurofen and the answer "drugs"...
Pleasance Courtyard


Show 11

One of the stars of the BBC's Hip Hop Comedy night we attended last year, this was Lolly's debut hour, and the flyer promised she was "as head on 1Xtra and Radio 4", which is an achievement if nothing else. After instant brownie points for her audience-entry music being the "Wheel of Fortune" theme on a loop, so many times that it stopped being funny and then started being funny again, the show was based around a regional talent show that allowed Lolly to perform various characters, with local radio-style adverts playing as she changed outfits behind the curtain (my favourite being "Maplin Electronics. If you want electronics, we sell them"). Able to effortlessly nail characteristics of her characters, Lolly is a star of the future. See her now before she's pushed into an ill-advised BBC3 vehicle that kills her career stone dead.
The BBC site on Potterow

Show 12
Ivo Graham: No Filter

Another name we discovered through the XFM show last year, Ivo is a young performer with a strong grasp of his material, although at 24 having been out of uni a few years and in a relationship for one, he doesn't yet have a great bank of life experience to draw on, so heads straight to the old fall-backs of social media and modern technology. Despite this it is an entertaining and promising hour but one you feel could probably be better in a few years time, and perhaps delivered at a slower pace with a tad more audience interaction.
Time-travel adultery.  Monday 8.30 on BBC1

Show 13
Matthew Crosby: Smaller Than Life
Crosby is one third of the aforementioned Pappy's who this year are largely focussing on their solo endeavours.  After many years of performing Cosby is a master of communicating with his audience, and his hour - looking at a trip to Russia and ironically celebrating a certain V. Putin - zips along and doesn't dip at any point.  It's a real talent to be able to engage with an audience with them feeling relaxed enough to not worry about being humiliated.  Although a decent-sized audience for a Sunday the show wasn't sold out, which is a real shame as there are far less talented acts packing rooms out night after night.  Plus he looks like a bloody nice bloke.

Just the Tonic @ The Mash House


Show 14
Bridget Christie: A Book For Her

Ah, Bridget.  Once again a Bridget Christie hour means getting up painfully early (well for an 11am start, which for anything other than children's shows should be forbidden) and trekking over to The Stand.  Was it worth it?  Well, we got a seat this time, which was good.  The book of the title refers to her newly released tome (and is a play on her former show A Bic For Her, which is itself a satire on pink pens for women), but the hour of new material didn't refer to it at all, and instead was another energetic discussion of political and feminist issues.  I find it hard to say this without it sounding anti-feminist - because I'm not - but it does feel, much as with her husband, that we're getting the same show each year. 

Udderbelly's Pasture

Show 15
Rhys James: Remains

A show I'd have been happy to see based on this tweet alone but more heavily endorsed by Kate who's actually worked with the guy in her other life as an online video guru (yep, she works for Real Player).  On the surface another Ivo - early 20s, middle class, white, even the same room at he Pleasance, and not much to talk about other than, yep, relationships and social media, but delivered with a great deal of confidence and presentational zing (including an entertaining opening video featuring - it's that man again - Matthew Crosby playing Rhys's manager).   Once again, one to watch.

Underbelly Cowgate: condemned chic

Show 16
Tom Parry: Yellow T-shirt

Another Pappy's refuge, although a brief reunion in some ways as Crosby turned up to flyer his own show at the start and "the other one" Ben Clark helped with props and the collection.  Not the Free Fringe but a new "pay what you want" tier from Just The Tonic, with a suggestion of £5-7.  Ironically this show could have charged far more given the sheer enthusiasm that Parry delivers it with.  Loosely themed on fancy dress, Parry's incredible engagement with the audience is such that he is able to pre-arrange and rehearse a standing ovation to end the show with in advance, and everyone's more than happy to go along with it. 


Show 17
Reginald D Hunter: Bitchproof

We booked our Fringe tickets soon after the programme was published in June.  Each time we do this we pool together our requests, see if there are any the other is really not fussed by, and as long as there are no clashes we go ahead and book the lot.  This year, Kate was really keen to see Reginald D Hunter.  I can't remember why but she was adamant we had to go and see him, so on the list he went (as our most expensive show, no less).  August rolls around, and checking our planner reveals what is lined up as our final show.  "I don't remember wanting to see Reginald D Hunter", says Kate.  So it was that we ended up seeing a Fringe show neither of us were that fussed about, but we'd already bought tickets.  Notably it was our first show in the Pleasance Grand - a cavernous 750-seater which is more Live at the Apollo that Edinburgh Fringe.  I've nothing against the guy who has been amusing enough on Have I Got News For You, and in the slightly more intimate setting of our old local pub in Crouch End.  But there was nothing about this fairly pedestrian 50 minute set (not even the full hour) that suggested it deserved the enormous patronage it received.

Show(ish) 18
BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals: Vic Galloway

But we weren't quite done!  We wandered over to the BBC area on Potterow.  Conscious we hadn't managed to see anything in the tent this year, we watched some of Vic Galloway's show via the big screen outside.  Vic Galloway!  You know Vic Gallow?  Session in the Nations, Radio 1 Scotland, 1999-2010?  No?  Well he's still on BBC Radio Scotland doing much the same thing.  This doesn't quite qualify as a show but brings me back to the subject of the BBC's presence at The Fringe.  Going to their area is much like going round your grandparents - you know you'll pop in at some point and it'll be well presented and exactly like it was last time.  Fringe broadcasts by the likes of Scott Mills and Richard Bacon were amongst the reasons that made us want to go to the festival for the first time five years ago.  It is somewhat bafflingly that the exercise hasn't yet succumbed to the cuts, but the food and booze sales probably go some way to paying for it.  They do need to remember what the Fringe is supposed to be about, though, and not just use it as a cheap way for a programme to do an outside broadcasts (The One Show, I'm looking in your direction).

The spirit of the Fringe

And that was it.  Our favourite shows?  A threeway tie between Lolly, Tom Parry and Matthew Crosby.  My least favourite?  Undoubtedly Colin Baker.  (and a pat on the back to anyone nerdy enough to get that joke).  To finish with, a few random thoughts.

Free Fringe

The biggest change we've seen over the past five years is undoubtedly the rise of the Free Fringe, which was almost non-existent in 2010 but unavoidable in 2015.  Some big names as well, such as Phill Jupitus, and more of the "squeezed middle" who previously charged for shows, such as Chris Martin.  It is an area that is likely to keep on getting bigger as it means the acts don't have to pay to use the performance space.  They are however reliant on audience donations at the end of the show, which can often be quite miserly.  As we experienced in the Tokyo show, audiences just don't seem as committed and invested during the Free Fringe shows.  Organisation can also be less than slick.  Waiting for Jupitus's show we found ourselves in a stairwell with a crowd not knowing where to go, before the man himself emerged and (to everyone's amusement) pointed everyone in the right direction.

Money Money Money

It doesn't have to be expensive.  Whilst certainly not cheap, it doesn't have to be as huge an outlay as you might think.  As well as the aforementioned "free" Fringe (which isn't free, but a lot cheaper) the opening few days have preview prices and then two-for-one deals on the first Monday and Tuesday.  We travelled by train for free on reward scheme tickets (admittedly one no longer running) and stayed in an Airbnb flat, for around the same price per night as a hotel room - and a price not hugely inflated by the Fringe either.  This then allows you to have as many meals a day at home as you fancy. 

Be Nice to Flyer-ers

They're not chuggers (who incidentally you should be nice to as well - or at least polite) so allow them to give you their spiel and a flyer.  They'll clear off pretty soon as it'll be clear if you aren't interested.  A huge number of these are actually flyer-ing their own show, so smile, be nice and say thankyou, even if you do throw it in the recycling bin round the corner.  This is how the world goes round at the Fringe, so even if you're in town just to see Jimmy Carr on his three nights at the Festival Theatre, remember this is how it all begins.


And on that note - thank you for reading.  I'll be in Pleasance Twelve from 1st September with my new show Bellend in a Courtyard.  I hope you can join me - if not, wait till I'm out of sight before you put the flyer in the bin...