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Live! Roller Derby! Auld Reekie Roller Girls Home Bout: ARRG’s Twisted Thistles vs ARRG’s Cannon Belles

Auld Reekie Roller Girls travel teams are facing off this weekend, in  a bout that many have waited a long time to see. Here at Alhimself we are excited about the prospect of an Edinburgh Roller Derby Home League in 2012, so this bout will certainly be something to whet the appetite in anticipation.

The bout will see the two teams face off against each other to ensure that both are skating their best heading into the 2012 season, when these two teams will represent the best of ARRG across the UK and beyond.

“We are immensely lucky to have so much talent in the ARRG league,” said Belles (for whom Alhimself will be rooting on this occasion) captain Bruise Leigh. “But these two teams have never been pitted against each other. What better way to hone our bouting skills for 2012 than to take on this fierce and formidable team?”

Thistles captain Crazylegs said, “We’ve faced teams from Glasgow to Stuttgart, but the Belles are sure to give us a run for our money. If anything, we’ll all probably be harder on each other because we know it’ll help us get ready for next year. This is going to be very, very fun.”

Next year marks a new era for ARRG with the introduction of home teams, which will play each other in a series of tournament-style bouts. The travel teams comprise the league’s best players, who take on the challenge of representing ARRG in external bouts in addition to playing on their home teams.

What is Roller Derby? I hear you cry. Well I asked the people at Auld Reekie to explain:

“Roller derby is an all-female sport that involves teams competing on an oval track in a series of ‘jams’ – two minute periods that see teams of five players each battling to score points. During each jam, one player on each team is designated as the ‘jammer’ who scores a point for every member of the opposing team she passes.

The sport requires a punishing array of agile and athletic skills, from zig-zag blocking moves to body slams to all-out speed-skating. To perfect these manoeuvres, skaters commit to several hours of practice every week, paying for gear and practice space out of their own pockets.

While it has its roots in sports-entertainment-style exhibition bouts going back as far as the 1930s, modern roller derby has reinvigorated the game with a grass-roots DIY ethos that puts the passion for athleticism front-and-centre.

The trend finally reached Edinburgh in 2008, when a small group of women founded ARRG. The Edinburgh league now averages at over 80 skaters, and is run purely on the volunteer efforts of its members.”

Saturday 29th October 18:30 – 20:30. Tickets are £5  (Free for children aged 14 and under) from: http://thistlesvbelles.eventbrite.com/


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Alhimself @ The Traverse: New Season, New Writing

As you may know, we here at Alhimself are big fans of The Traverse, and with October seeing the release of The Traverse theatre’s winter season, I thought I’d look back at some of the best shows they had on offer in the Autumn and look forward to some top shows from Scotland’s new writing theatre (which also happens to be one of the best bars in town).

Coming up this October, the return of A Play, A Pie and A Pint .  The fourth season of the successful program, has five world premieres by the UK’s hottest new playwrights. The performances take place at 1pm from Tuesday to Saturday, which gives you the chance to spend your lunchtime watching a brilliant 45 minute play – with a pie and a pint – simple as that. To whet your appetite check out Katie Douglas’ Dig, a tale of economic hardship and the struggle between pride and providing. Also highly recommended is Leo Butler’s Eternal Source of Light, which promises to explore birth, life, death, and the prospect of an afterlife in just forty-five minutes.

Some of Autumn’s best from The Trav included I, Malvolio & the award-winning The Wheel, for interviews with Zinnie Harris and Tim Crouch, check out The Traverse’ podcasts here.

The Right Way to Spend A Pony

or Why I want £22 of your money. Right now.

In October last year Edinburgh University Settlement, who owned the building that The Forest occupied at 3 Bristo Place, were declared bankrupt and forced into administration. The administrators put the property on the market and are currently trying to sell it. As part of that process, they terminated the Forest’s lease, giving them six months notice. Their last day was Wednesday 31 August. It’s been empty now for twenty days, but that isn’t the end.

The Forest is a big part of this city, it’s a free arts space in Edinburgh and it’s always been good to me. Sure, it’s full of vegetarians and people with dreadlocks (some people don’t like steak and combs, who knew?) but it’s a publisher, a disco and after the closure of the Roxy Art House it’s all we’ve got to stem the tide of faceless corporate pubs and expensive empty conference centres dominating the future of music, literature and community spirit.

They don’t want to leave their home of eight years in a listed historic building, so they’ve launched an appeal and they have managed to raise well over £30,000 so far.

Maybe you’re a Forest fan that is directly affected or maybe you’re an ex-pat who loves Edinburgh, whatever the reason you should help buy the Forest because right here, in 2011, with all the s**t that’s going on is an opportunity to make a difference to the arts scene.

Ryan Van Winkle, who’s one of the brains behind the campaign (and literary pistolero to some, Spanish language Bruce Campbell to others) had this to say:

“We are in a pretty amazing time right now — a decade ago no one would ever have thought it possible to raise £70k in one month but thanks to the wide reach of the Forest, the massive tentacles of the internet, and thanks to sites like ‘WeFund’ where you pledge and don’t pay unless the campaign is successful — I actually think we have a shot.”

The pledge system will only take your money if they reach the target, so in essence it won’t cost you anything unless the Forest hit their target, and if they do then you will have taken part in an amazing venture! If you need any more encouragement, take a look here.

But what if they fail? What if I only donated a tenner? I thought you wanted twenty quid?

Good question(s), and the answer is simple. I want you to put your hand in your pocket for The West Port Book Festival as well. They run an awesome free book festival for the last three years and they are doing it again, come hell or high water, and you can make the difference to this adventure too. They want it to stay free, and when you consider the line-up of year’ past and that a ticket for one event for the Edinburgh International Book Festival costs £10 by itself, a tenner for a whole festival of delights is a total bargain!

Edinburgh is the home of artistic endeavour in Scotland, let’s help keep it that way. All I’m asking is for £20, you’d spend that in the pub in one night. If you spend it today on these worthwhile projects you will be making an impact that will last for a very, very long time.

Now that you’ve waded through all of that, if you’re still with me, I shall reward you with news of a poetry competition worth £2,500 – the Fifth Annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize – which costs £5 to enter. If you do win, I’ve some ideas about where you could invest the money…

The West Port Book Festival will run from the 13th-16th October 2011 and full details of the programme will be available here tomorrow.

Best of the Fest: EdFringe 2011 Comedy

Here are some of the finest comedy shows that Edinburgh offered up this year.

Josie Long: The Future Is Another Place (Fosters Comedy Award Nominee 2011)

Josie Long has been bringing quality stand-up to the Fringe for the last three or four years, winning the if.comedy award for Best Newcomer for her 2006 show, ‘Kindness and Exuberance’. Her performances are generally marked by these gentler attributes, making her stand out from the usual vitriolic comedians that marks a lot of the newcomers to the Fringe comedy circuit. This year, however, Long has continued the trend she flirted with last year and brings us into her innermost political thoughts. Having embraced the work of anti-cuts activists, UK Uncut, Long described how she has come to get to grips with the politics of the day. The programme for the show is a photocopied zine which includes a “Tories’ Fun Page” and Long directs much of her ire at the new coalition government.

She charts a year in which she made contact with Kenny Zulu Whitmore, a member of the Black Panther Party who is still in prison, performed a gig in a branch of Barclay’s and found herself flying into a greenhouse in Wales. Not all of it is directed at the Tories, there is a brief interlude featuring the Bronte Sisters, but The Future Is Another Place is undeniably a foray into serious political comedy. Good news then, that Long’s character still comes through all the material and the experience remains as much of a treat as always. I suspect she would do well to commit to some of the ideas she is raising with a bit more determination but I’m sure that will come in time. As a manifesto for a new wave of left-wing comedy, Long has made a fair bash and it’s worth an hour of your time.

Richard Herring: What is Love Anyway?

From Ferrero Roche to sexual excrement, Richard Herring tries to answer the ultimate dilemma (according to him) of 1981: what is love? This is a much softer show than those who have seen Herring before will perhaps be used to, but it is no less polished.

He charts a virginal youth, replete with dreadful poetry and pent-up feelings of chivalry, while explaining to us the various dimensions of life as a forty-four year old finding love. His journey includes a mortifying anecdoteabout Julia Sawalha, his then girlfriend, and a Fist of Fun episode involving a creepy shrine to the actress whom he had yet to meet.

Stewart Lee is not Richard Herring

At its heart this is a love story to Herring’s current girlfriend, wrapped in a smartly-paced package it never fails to impress. If you are looking for something as acerbic as Stewart Lee (whom Herring does a spot-on impersonation of) then this might fall slightly short.

If you want to take your significant other out for some quality comedy though, Herring has put together a considered and charming little show that would certainly suit.

Michael Winslow: The Man of 10,000 Sound Effects

Familiar to anyone who has ever seen the Police Academy movies, Michael Winslow’s run at this year’s Fringe proved to be a huge success.

It was the first time the stand-up had brought a show to Edinburgh and his dexterous vocal talents seem to have fit in rather well.

Winslow, who voiced one of The Gremlins and made an appearance in Spaceballs, is a man who comes across as deliriously happy to be doing what he does.

That enthusiasm is infectious, and whether he is explaining the mechanics of AM radio or taking us through the TIE fighter dogfight from Star Wars: A New Hope, he does it with such a sense of mischievous pride that you can’t help applaud the sketches.

Some of the observational comedy which ties the ‘funny noises’ together is under-cooked and often hampered the pacing of the show. So too the attempts to engage with the ‘British’ sense of humour. It seems rather unnecessary to include it, but kudos to Winslow for trying to give shape to what otherwise would be a rather manic sixty minutes.

At the end of the day the sound effects speak for themselves and that’s what people have come to hear.

Lee Mack: ‘Going Out’ – Festival Theatre

I was determined I would not enjoy the show. Well, perhaps determined is too strong, but I wasn’t expecting a lot. Lee Mack will always for me be that chap from Comedy Lab who has been trying to make it big for just a little too long. Now, of course, he has had a successful tour and will be airing the fourth series of his BBC3 sit-com, Not Going Out, very soon; so one could say he has made it big. Maybe it’s the lack of a Fringe award that has stayed my nodding head from acknowledging Mack’s work. I suppose I have to look through that perrier prism of my youth, I’m an Edinburgh lad and have suffered extreme over-exposure to the Festival scene over the years. I can’t deny my critic roots, and I am certainly biased toward this little comedy festival of ours. In any case, I was expecting something really rather ordinary.

I enjoyed the show, let us get that out the way first and foremost. In a strange way though, Mack was still rather ordinary. His humour is at times vulgar, and at other points plainly rooted in his Pontin’s background. Stand-alone jokes are, sometimes clumsily, slotted into the more free-flowing routine he has been polishing on this sell-out tour of UK venues. If I had one glaring criticism,  it was that the affair went on too long. His best material came early doors and after the warm-up was followed by an interval, I can see why. The material dipped in the middle and in fairness, it ended on a low. Some of this material is plainly not going to make the cut for his Fringe show and it is to that I am sure he is looking.

The crowd were obviously convinced Mack fans, and that helped him out a great deal. For periods early in his routine he bounced happily off the audience, poking fun at regional stereotypes, and I was chuckling away with ease.  That probably says more about myself, the small coterie of Newcastle folk in the crowd and the general ease of an Edinburgh crowd in March. A Lancastrian by birth, Mack is well known for his disdain of the London-based set. He is something of a northern martyr perhaps, but he certainly has a fairly comfortable grasp of the Scots’ accent and he got a lot of laughs from antagonising his crowd. A good setup for the coming festival, I imagine, where getting a rise out of the crowd is often the extra edge that makes good material into award-winning comedy.

What surprised most though was the fact that Mack seemed to stradle the old school nuances of sketch-based jokes with observational improvisation usually lacking from his TV appearances. He carried the air of someone who had lifted a gong and was on a victory lap. The BBC deal must be fuelling him a great deal, but I had not entirely expected such an assured performance, given that he can often look out of his depth on panel shows. Like the unpopular kid at a birthday party, invited by your parents, and trying desperatley to fit in. I imagine a lot of comedians relate to that role from an early age, but in the company of the metronomic Frankie Boyle, or the erudite David Mitchell, Mack had always struck me as something of an also-ran.

If he were to distill this routine down and stage it up here in August, he could well be in the running for the top prize. That remains to be seen however. There are a lot of acts that break at the festival, and some that burn slowly for many years. Mack may be the latter, but he has produced a surprisingly enjoyable show.