Back in June, I wrote an article for Wannabe Hacks discussing the perils of grad scheme rejections. It wasn’t all bad news bears, though, as I was later offered an editorial role at Fest magazine, one of the leading publications that runs during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As a bit of a live arts junkie and major Fringe fan, this seemed like a pretty sweet deal.
As those of you who read my travel blog last year might remember, organisation in my personal life has never been my forte. Having crashed with friends up in bonny Scotland for the past few years, I took the job with little hesitation, thinking I could just do the same again. But this turned out to be a little problematic. None of my friends had space for me to stay, and my salary wouldn’t even make a dent in the exorbitant rental costs that are unavoidable during the festival. After much pleading, though, and just days before I was due to leave (around the same time I actually managed to book some train tickets), everything magically fell into place, and I geared up for my return to the Fringe.
When I finally made it to Edinburgh, several things immediately felt very wrong. For one, the sun was blazing, and for two, I was staying in a room that almost resembled luxury (hello double bed and ensuite bathroom!). But there wasn’t much time to indulge this shocking turn of good fortune, as I got a call saying I needed to head into the office.
Now I don’t know how many of you have been to Edinburgh before, but it is one hilly mofo. I mean seriously, that place is like hill upon cobbled street upon cobbled hill upon hill. In summary, REALLY BLOODY HILLY. I eventually made it to the office looking a little shinier than is acceptable, familiarised myself with the place (four walls. No windows. Didn’t take long) and pretended to do some work on my very tiny laptop before we went off for a staff curry. Everyone was young, normal and seemed to drink a lot, so things didn’t seem like too much of a departure from the student life I had been mourning post-graduation.
The next few days went by in a blur of free booze, early mornings and late nights, and the various venue launches were a great way to see loads of good acts condensed into a short space of time. I’ve never been to Edinburgh out of festival time, but needless to say the streets were buzzing, the posters were up and the flyerers were already pissing everyone off. Plus ça change.
My first big reviewing day was a bit intense: four shows, 1000 words to write and all with the narrowest of windows to turn the pieces around. But it felt good to have that deadline pressure back again, and while I did have a bit of a guilty wobble penning my first two star review, the volume of pieces I was writing meant that I didn’t have to feel bad for too long. Good news for me, not so good news for the many acts I trashed.
In between the editing, writing and having my feet shredded to pieces by the pesky cobbles, I was trying to restore some semblance of routine into my domestic life, which had been pretty non-existent given the long working hours. I spent the vast majority of the festival out of the house for at least 16 hours a day, giving me just enough time to shower, sleep and occasionally pre-prepare lunch for the next day. Having not explored the place I was staying in at all, an exciting night where I had about an hour to come home and eat dinner meant I rushed in with a ready meal prepared for quick munchies a-go-go, and was met with no microwave. I did try other ways of cooking it, but it turns out when packages say ‘microwave only,’ they really mean it.
Several other domestic failures ensued, highlights including attempting to wash my clothes, the result of which was everything stinking of dirty water and remaining soaking wet for a week, and calling 999 to ask them for advice on fixing a faulty smoke alarm. I don’t think they were too impressed.
In between being totally incompetent, I saw a few really good shows: Mess, a very powerful play about a girl with an eating disorder, Austentatious, an improvised Jane Austen novel, a mind boggling piece of interactive comedy from Simon Munnery and David O’Doherty’s stand-up show. Other highlights included interviewing a number of high profile comedians (some of whom were lovely and complimentary about the pieces), seeing a show which featured the smallest dog I have ever seen, and playing Homeless or Method Actor, which is always a great source of entertainment.
The work environment was ideal for someone like me – casual, varied and most importantly – fun. It might not be everyone’s idea of a good time combing through copy to make sure it reads well, and trying to produce a chunk of reviews that don’t all use the same idioms (not sure how well I did on that part), but it certainly increased my confidence in terms of both writing and editing. For a 20 year old to be deputy editor of a bi weekly magazine seemed a little daunting at first, but all the years I’ve spent slogging my guts out on work experience and writing for every publication under the sun (largely for free) were invaluable. With everyone on the team older and wiser than me, I also learnt many new words, at least two of which I can remember the meanings of, so it was essentially a win-win situation.
Although it was my fourth time at the Fringe, this was definitely one of firsts – my first time eating haggis, having a press pass for valid reasons, realising that after slating my degree for years, it may have actually helped my writing, being next to someone who fell asleep in a show (Henderson), properly getting to grips with the layout of the city, turning 21, discovering that everyone uses hyphens too much and, most importantly, undertaking my first proper paid job in what I plan to do for the rest of my life. All of these things have had a somewhat profound effect on me (admittedly some more than others), and I look forward to the next adventure in NYC . When I get round to booking it.