Brian Ferguson's Festival Diary: Spats with critics making the headlines

Unsung heroine Julie-Ann Laidlaw. Picture: ContributedUnsung heroine Julie-Ann Laidlaw. Picture: Contributed
Unsung heroine Julie-Ann Laidlaw. Picture: Contributed
She has a reputation in some quarters as the most feared critic on the Fringe '“ and her presence in the room has been known to put the fear of death into some comics.

My fellow Fringe diarist Kate Copstick has made more headlines than most at the festival thus far, after naming and shaming several established names who had refused her entry to their previews.

Paul Sinha, one of those singled out in her “egos have landed” tirade, did not take the criticism lightly, branding The Scotsman writer a “special kind of sociopathic bully” and an “ageing Veruca Salt”.

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The spat prompted fierce debate across the Fringe on the rights and wrongs of critics being turned away from shows that the public are being charged entry to.

It is little wonder then that many members of the audience who had set their alarms for Saturday morning’s Pleasance gala launch were really rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the show’s grand finale.

Was that really Kate Copstick they saw being led into Cirque Berserk’s fearsome-looking Globe of Death before motorcycles whirled around her? It certainly was.

Unsung heroine

Julie-Ann Neill, a public safety officer at the city council, is one of those unsung figures working behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of Edinburgh in August. Her day job involves everything from the licensing of the hundreds of pop-up venues to the latest counter-terrorism measures in and around the Royal Mile.

But she finds the time to front her own indie-rock-folk band, who landed a plum slot playing at the BBC’s pop-up studio at George Heriot’s School on Saturday.

Her work with the festivals, and her involvement in ensuring the city’s main public clocks run to time, have already inspired one song: When The Bells Go. Her inside track on this month’s festivals may have inspired even more new material by the time the Julie-Ann Band appear at Underbelly, Bar Brig and Sips in the City later this month.

Blowing hot and cold

The festivals throw up plenty of conundrums in Edinburgh.

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My favourite so far is from comic Scott Gibson on stage at the Gilded Balloon, with his question for the finest minds at Edinburgh University: “How come we can have a guy selling crème brûlée from a transit van outside but we can’t get air conditioning in here?”

The temperatures are apparently at the other end of the scale across town at the Traverse, where reports are emerging of critics huddling under several layers of clothing in the face of its aircon blasting out.