The Scotsman Sessions #96: Keir McAllister

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, stand-up Keir McAllister draws our attention to some of the “hidden victims” of the cancellation of this year’s Edinburgh festivals

“It's the entitlement to not like the Fringe that we enjoy more than anything” Edinburgh resident Keir McAllister suggests of the city's ambivalent relationship to its festival. “Of course we secretly love it. But we love a good moan just as much.”

As a comedian and playwright though, McAllister is actually deeply concerned about the cancellation of this year's event and the ramifications for the venues and performers who depend on it for their livelihood.

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“Just the idea that if next year's Fringe does happen, there might not be a [permanent] Scottish venue still open is extremely troubling, that's a very real possibility” he argues. Creative Scotland haven't recognised comedy as an art form in the past. And they don't have a great track record for funding it, so we really need them to step up to make sure valuable venues like the Gilded Balloon and The Stand don't go under.”

Keir McAllister

The 45-year-old had been anticipating his play, The Bench, touring in three different countries when lockdown occurred. The disruption to live entertainment hit his household particularly hard, as his wife is fellow comic Jay Lafferty, one of Scotland's most in-demand comperes. As recounted in her 2019 Fringe show, Jammy, the pair had seemed destined not to become parents. Yet they conceived against the odds and now have a nine-month-old son. One upside to the pandemic, McAllister explains, is that “he's had full-on attention for the last few months, which has been intense and great. However, I am now worried that he'll grow up expecting to be spoiled. We might be raising a Tory.”

Parenthood also directly inspired Waiting For Marvel, one of The Coronalogues audio plays McAllister has written, which weaves together five interlinked Covid stories set on a single Edinburgh street, raising cash for its contributors and the Gilded Balloon's survival fund.

“That was a very personal chapter for me” he reflects. “There was so much negativity about lockdown and I wanted to write something positive. They were a really quick way to get work from the page to the public.

“I might do another one if there's a second lockdown. Which is a horrible thought. But it's a real possibility isn't it?”

To listen to Keir McAllister’s contribution to the Coronalogues, Waiting For Marvel, visit https://the-coronalogues.sounder.fm/episode/chapter-3-waiting-for-marvel

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