Back when the 21st century was still just a suffix in the title of Sci-fi novels and documentaries about robots doing the hoovering for you, an intrepid band of teenage drama nerds embarked on a mission to self-finance a trip to the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
This is their story.
At the start of the decade that sartorial taste forgot, I was at a comprehensive school in Sussex studying (ha!) for exams.
Most of the few high points of my school days revolved around various theatrical activities, both in and out of school. Half a dozen friends in the year above me – studying drama properly for O’ level – had formed a comic mime group. This is the style of mime that allows props, sound effects and basic narration, still preformed on a blank set in whiteface makeup.
Strike A Pose
I had managed to blag myself a job as stage manager, as I had done similar things in school drama productions, along with a fair amount of acting in various plays.
We put on a good few shows, and gained a surprising amount of local fame, packing the hall we hired two nights running despite the appalling weather that winter.
By the summer of ’82, we had begun a series of fundraising events – sponsored wheelbarrow race, a Welly Wanging pitch at the school fete, haranguing local and national businesses to provide sponsorship in exchange for adverts on our promo posters etc – and entered into negotiations with the school bigwigs about using their mini bus (and our English teacher to drive it) for a fortnight.
August came, and off we went, just us and our tame, young and trendy English teacher and a knackered transit van. We stopped overnight in Pudsey, near Leeds, at someone’s relatives’ house, then on over the border the next day.
Ah, Edinburgh, even back then the pubs seemed to be open at least 23 hours a day. Not that we went in any pubs, obviously, what with being underage and whatnot.
First stop was to find the accommodation. The boys, and Dick, our captive chauffeur/teacher/chaperone were staying in one student digs, empty for the holidays, the two girls in our happy little band in another.
We dropped the girls off first, just round the corner from our place, and took their luggage in for them. To be met by a hugely impressive foyer with a curving staircase leading to who knew what luxury on the floor above.
However, on depositing their bags, we discovered, much to our amusement, that the old townhouse had been ruthlessly chopped about in order to cram in as many flammable students as physically possible, should they require a quick insurance payout, resulting in a room not unlike a cell, with a skirting board that mysteriously vanished through the wall into the room (rooms?) next door.
Leaving them to fall over each other as they tried to unpack without injuring themselves, we went in search of our own barracks. What we found was a grim looking, grey fronted building on three floors with a heavy black door leading into a concrete stairwell with a steel rail disappearing up into the murk.
Up we went, towards whatever dreadful abode awaited us.
On arriving at the top floor landing with it’s single door, we found ourselves entering a large lobby with black and white tiled floor and another curving stair, this time leading to two large, high ceilinged bedrooms, each plenty big enough for two to share.
Downstairs, off the lobby was a large kitchen and another bedroom.
Needless to say, smugness doesn’t cover the reception the girls got when they came to see our pleasure palace, and after they finished hitting us, it was decided to use our place as the main base for catering and socialising.
Some frenetic work in the theatre, which we shared with a number of other groups, to set up the lighting plots, rehearse stage positions, etc followed, and them we were ready to wow the festival crowds.
“Ok guys, do ‘serious’.”
Find out more about this year’s Edinburgh Fringe here