Edinburgh ‘complaints choir’ to sing at festival

Edinburgh's much-maligned trams project is expected to be one of the choirs' main gripes. Picture: Jane Barlow
Edinburgh's much-maligned trams project is expected to be one of the choirs' main gripes. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ONE is the controversial transport project that has been the bane of the lives of the people of Edinburgh. The other is the world’s biggest arts festival which doubles the population of their city every August.

Now it is hoped people will shed their frustrations about the capital’s long-delayed trams and the huge influx of Festival-goers into the capital – by helping to form their own “complaints choir”.

A public appeal is being issued via The Scotsman today to help find participants for the new group of protest singers, who will be staging “pop-up” performances across the city in August. And they are likely to appear outside locations where many of the guilty parties responsible for the tram project may well end up cowering.

Two Glasgow-based composers – Daniel Padden and Peter Nicholson – have been hired by the Edinburgh Art Festival to work on Scotland’s first contribution to a project instigated six years ago by two Finnish artists, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta Kalleinen.

It has since gone on to be staged in nine other cities around the world, including Chicago, Tokyo, Hamburg, and Singapore. The musicians – who are also members of the band The One Ensemble – are expected to produce a series of compositions based on complaints which are also being encouraged via the Festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

No previous experience is necessary to join the choir, although potential participants must have something to complain about and be prepared to exercise their vocal cords in public at the height of the Festival.

Several experienced or trained singers, who should also be prepared to bring their pet gripes to the project, are being sought to help knock the choir into shape.

The trams have been put forward in publicity material as a suggested topic for people to sing about, as well as “Festival-goers, dog poo, overflowing bins and see-you-Jimmy hats”.

The city council is even helping out with the project, by hosting an initial open rehearsal at City Art Centre, its flagship art gallery, next Friday.

Publicity posters for the project also state: “If something annoys you don’t keep it to yourself. Sing about it. Join The Complaints Choir of Edinburgh and sing your grievances outloud with other residents as part of this summer’s Edinburgh Art Festival.” A series of workshops and rehearsals will be held before the first pop-up performance on 2 August. The Complaints Choir of Edinburgh will be appearing at a string of “relevant” locations around the city before a grand late-night finale on The Meadows on 22 August.

Sorcha Carey, director of the Edinburgh Art Festival, said: “People need to be prepared to come the rehearsals and also be available for most of the pop-up performances.

“It’s one thing having something to complain about, but it’s another to be prepared to sing about it in public, and they must be from Edinburgh.

“The idea is very much for the choir to perform the various pieces in relevant locations around the city, and we’re already looking at places like the City Chambers, the Scottish Parliament and Waverley Station.”

Peter Nicholson said: “We’ve looked at what was produced by the choirs elsewhere around the world, but we felt it was a bit timid. We don’t think there will be any shortage of complaints about Edinburgh, especially in August, when a lot of people are really hacked off about the festival.”

• For further details of the project, and to register your complaints, visit www.edinburghartfestival.com/about/jointhechoir

Our Arts correspondent Brian Ferguson’s complaining song:

“We’re ever so proud to live here

The Athens of the North

From the Castle to the Palace

And the Bridge across the Forth

With its cobbles and its closes

And those pandas in the Zoo

We dearly love Auld Reekie

And we hope you like it too!

There’s really not much wrong at all

With our happy, cheerful home

But sometimes everybody

Likes a tiny little moan

There’s just one thing of which we couldn’t give a damn

So - cover your eyes and close your ears -


Gambon stars in Festival show

FILM and television actor Michael Gambon is to take on a starring role at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), organisers have revealed.

The 72-year-old Irish actor, who became a household name after appearing in the BBC adaptation of The Singing Detective, is known to millions as Dumbledore in the big-screen version of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Gambon, right, will be appearing as part of the Samuel Beckett season being staged at the Festival this summer by Dublin’s Gate Theatre, with his casting expected to provide a huge boost to ticket sales.

The EIF also confirmed that veteran English actor Peter Egan, star of TV shows Ever Decreasing Circles, Cold Comfort Farm and A Perfect Spy, will be appearing in another Beckett play, First Life, based on the writer’s 1946 novella.