My Festival: Katherina Radeva

The performance artist and dancer on the glory of dogs, swimming in the North Sea and her supportive peers.

What are you doing at this year’s festival?

I’m performing my new solo dance theatre piece 40/40. It focuses on female joy, migrancy, hard work and permission. It has super tunes in it and I bust some cute moves too. It’s at Zoo Southside on the main stage. A rare treat to be performing on a stage which can actually accommodate what the show needs - what magic!

What do you most want to see this year and why?

Katherina Radeva: 40/40.Katherina Radeva: 40/40.
Katherina Radeva: 40/40.

I’m mainly watching lots of dance and physical theatre at Zoo Southside and Dance Base, and I’m also going to some great gigs that EIF have put on. And I’m trying to focus on seeing shows from international companies because it’s so exciting to see what makers across the world are up to. So much of our own work focuses on internationalism and what it means to break boundaries — social, economic, cultural etc. The Fringe is a super melting pot to engage with work from other cultures, which are unlike my own.

What’s your favourite place in the city and why?

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Mother India is a total fave — although I keep that as a treat. I love hanging out in the Fruitmarket Gallery and Dovecot Gallery - they always have great artists on show and their cafes are little oasis in the madness. I love the little independent shops and cafes in Leith and getting a sense of a city on the water. I swim in the North Sea so a trip to Portobello and a dip is always a great thing! So is a tour of Thai massage places to relieve the stress on the shoulders - my current favourite is Signature of Thai, they are so painfully good. But to be honest, you will most often find me in Press Cafe having scrambled eggs and coffee, or Lovecrumbs who do super vegan cakes - whoop!

Who do you most like spending time with at the festival?

Dogs! They are super calming and glorious things to have about - everything is fine in their world if they are fed and watered, and it’s a good reminder that the simple things in life are often more enriching and fulfilling. Other than dogs, of course it’s brilliant meeting audiences to hear what they’ve loved. And last but not least: peers! There is so much courage and support amongst peers — we have to care for each other. I often say cooperation not competition and I really stand by that.

What do you remember about your first ever Edinburgh festival appearance?

It was 2014 and we were doing Near Gone, a show that won the Total Theatre Award, and on receiving the award I did a proper Gwyneth Paltrow and basically couldn’t speak because I was in tears, thanking my entire family back in Bulgaria. It’s hard to follow that Fringe! But here we are again…

What are the best and worst things that have happened to you in Edinburgh?

The best thing is the moment when the work meets an audience. It’s why we do what we do. If the work gets a little recognition, and in the Fringe context that can be a friendly tweet or a nice comment in the bar, it feels really good too. Worst thing: the swinging emotions – one moment you are in the clouds and the next you might feel like you are at the bottom of the Earth in a very deep hole. To limit the swinging I try to focus on my wellbeing and care plan which offers me many strategies for dealing with hard stuff. The strategies don’t always work but knowing that they’re there is half the work.

How was lockdown for you? Did it change you, and if so how?

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My goodness, how long have you got? At first, it was absolutely terrifying, and that was so stressful and tiring. But we soon changed focus and that was okay. Having dogs to walk and stroke and talk to made a big difference. I live in a rural place, and there was something about enjoying space and quiet which, once I learned to give myself permission not to chase work, was a real delight. I think the pandemic – which is still going on by the way - has changed many of us in many different ways and the big learning for me is to really try not make any assumptions about where people are at.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I make really good rhubarb and ginger jam!

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

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Look at my partner and my dog! Then I have coffee! And then a couple of soft boiled eggs - yum!

And what’s the last thing you do before you go to bed at night?

Watch nature documentaries: they send me to sleep within seconds so while I have seen many, it often feels like I haven’t actually watched any. And the other pre-sleep addiction is the news: I like to know what’s going on around the world!

Thanks for the interview! We’d like to buy you a drink. Where are we going and what are we drinking?

I’m strictly non-alcohol during my run, but I’ll be drinking non-alcoholic cocktails at Paradise Palms! And you never know - at the end of the run - I might let rip and have a good and large G&T. Maybe we can take it as a picnic up the top of Calton Hill, and enjoy it with some cakes and a lovely view across the city.

40/40, Zoo Southside, 10.10am, until 20 August.

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