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Welcome to the Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival where
ably assisted by writers,
and, well, weavers, we'll be freaking out
and seeing if we think we're funny.
The circus traders next move is known as the fallopian flip.
Coming up - good times -
I get groovy with disco legend Nile Rodgers.
So you think you're funny?
Jason Byrne explains why Edinburgh's best to find out.
Speed of light - Michael Smith walks through a festival fantasia
and Alistair Sooke talks warp and weft at Dovecot Studios.
It's virtually comedy law that any stand-up that wants to stand out
should enter the So You Think You're Funny Competition.
In 2012 it's now reached its 25th anniversary and has
brought us such luminaries as Peter Kay, Dylan Moran and Sarah Millican.
Way back in 1996 Jason Byrne was a finalist.
Now he's one of the biggest selling acts on the fringe.
So we sent him along to check out this year's crop of contenders.
Scotland's contribution the space race!
Failure to launch!
Are you going to be my friend for the night?
I've been Jason Byrne. Thanks a million!
I first did shows here in 1996 but now I play pretty big venues.
Some people say I'm lucky, others say, "No, you'd have worked hard."
That's right. I worked hard.
I did many, many shows here over the 17 years but none of them
have been as important as this!
Are you ready for a top semi-final of So You Think You're Funny?
This is So You Think You're Funny.
It's an annual comedy competition for brand-new acts
and the final is held here at the Gilded Balloon.
It's one of the biggest five minutes ...must be like being in the X Factor or something.
-Afterwards you feel absolutely dazed.
-It feels amazing and so cool.
I feel like oh! I'm buzzing! It's the best thing ever.
It's a pretty basic format - acts perform short sets in heats
and then judges choose who makes the final.
It's now in its 25th year and in that time it's provided
a launch pad for some of the biggest names on the circuit.
So getting to the final of So You Think You're Funny can set
a comedian on the path to comedy greatness.
In the noughties, all the finalists are working.
Like John Bishop, Russell Howard, Sarah Millican -
none of them won.
They're doing fantastic, as you are!
Are you from Edinburgh then, yeah?
'So You Think You're Funny was a major leg-up for me
'and for all the other lads as well. We didn't realise
'how important it was then and Tommy Tiernan won by one point.
'He beat me by one point.'
I don't mind. It's grand.
I love nearly winning things.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next act. It's Mark Watson.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Ta. 'Bill Bailey was hosting it'
the year I did it.
For me, it was enough I was even on the same stage as Bill Bailey.
We had Mark Lamarr.
I spent the first half minute of my set just giggling
going, "It's Bill Bailey and all you here."
What a lot of people. What a lot of expectation.
When we did it it was definitely just for the fun of it and excitement.
And there was nobody talking to us about careers.
No, I think no-one was doing the final thinking,
-"OK, after this this is my five-year plan."
-Write me sitcom.
Whereas now they're really slick and the last minute of their set
is basically them going, "Here are my contact details..."
They're going to be in there feeling the nerves.
Some people need to go to the loo quite a lot, other people
physically get sick.
What I did was I paced up and down in that room in 1996 a lot.
Some of them might be doing this for the first time. Those are the rules.
They're going to be crapping it.
Johnny Vegas was in '95 and he nearly fell off the stage,
forgot his lines and just fell apart.
Never did comedy for two more years.
Oh my God.
-You are officially in the final?
I'm Irish, by the way.
I always want to use that as a surprise reveal at the end.
When people don't like you it's
the worst, horriblest, loneliest thing, but when they do, it's fulfilling.
She whispered to say,
"I wonder what sleeping with a black guy feels like?"
And I said,
"I don't know."
Tell me, why did you do this?
I wanted to know
if people thought I was funny.
You know, just getting through to the final is actually
big enough to give me the confidence I need.
What's your job? What do you do?
-My job description is a bingo caller.
Why would you leave that? Hang on a second!
You can definitely keep working and do stand-up.
It hasn't even started in here yet but as usual, with these rooms
it's absolutely boiling which isn't going to help
any of the acts that are on stage.
So this gig needs to start as soon as possible before those
lights turn this room into a sauna!
Good evening, everybody. Are we well?
NO AUDIENCE RESPONSE
He's really nervous. His throat is all dry.
Didn't see that one coming.
The problem is now is that he hasn't won them over quick enough
and now he's lost them and has to try to win them over.
Because you only get a few seconds to win them over.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Believe it or not,
when we were growing up in Scotland we all got told that
no matter where we went in the world people loved the Scottish accent.
And then we went abroad
and we found out that it's actually a registered disability.
You see, this is the point I was making earlier on.
You only get a few seconds and he's already cracked it,
so now they really like him and he's just a likeable fellow now.
It doesn't really matter what he does now.
They're going to laugh at everything he says.
Guys, thank you. Good night.
Yeah, I'd say he's going to get through.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
So that's 25 years of So You Think You're Funny. Will it last any longer? Well that's up to you.
You can give it a go and try and make it last another 25 years!
God help us all!
The winner of So You Think You're Funny will be announced tomorrow.
Jason Byrne embarks on a national tour in September.
Arthur's Seat is a magisterial mound that dominates the Edinburgh
skyline but this year it's the focal point of an event
in the international festival.
Speed Of Light combines performance, public art
and also an awful lot of huffing and puffing.
We told Michael Smith to take a hike.
Edinburgh must be one of the most urbane settings to experience art
A rich poem set in stone.
But Speed Of Light
commissioned for this year's international festival jolts us out
of this familiar context
and plunges us into a far stranger, more profound place.
Every night the extinct volcano that looms over Edinburgh
is brought to life by a spectacular theatre of light.
200 runners kitted out in specially made LED light suits
weave their way across the nooks and crannies of Salisbury Crags,
leaving beautiful abstractions in their wake.
It's a participatory event.
Each audience member carries their own portable light source
and becomes part of the artwork.
As the dusk draws into darkness we walk in single file like some
fluorescent caterpillar from the deep seabed,
slowly becoming aware of patterns of luminous joggers in the dark,
like wondrous, mediaeval, angelic creatures
slightly scary as they rush headlong towards us.
It's a very minimal piece, this one.
Stripped back to a meditation on one of our most basic everyday
activities - running, walking, moving through this spaces
we inhabit, but it re-imagines them
as something magical, mystical, sublime.
The project was conceived by Angus Farquhar,
the founder of Glasgow-based organisation NVA.
It's been a long time coming this piece, hasn't it?
You've been thinking about this for a long time. Why was it so important
that you got it done?
I've been a runner...since I hit 39
I'd been running for 13 years.
And I got more and more passionate about running.
And so I think when the Olympics came round
and when the chance came to make maybe a generational work, you know,
you only get to make these works I think once every 10, 20 years.
I wanted to do it about the thing I was really passionate about.
Being that it's a, sort of, public work
and that the audience form a really important part of the work,
what sort of reaction have you had from the audience?
I think, for some people, it's tough getting to that summit
and it's quite hard for them to,
to get that sense of peace and stillness to watch the work.
Other people come off and it can be quite a life changing experience.
So, you get the full mixture.
So, what's the inspiration, perspiration, erm,
ratio for this piece, then?
I think it's, er, 98% perspiration and 2% inspiration.
-Oh, I'll have that, that's all right, yeah.
Yeah, good, honest graft.
Is this a piece of art, or a piece of sport, or a piece of science?
Hmm, I'm not quite sure what it is.
It's made by the effort of the runners
and it's also completed by the effort of the walkers
and the movement of the light to the top of the hill.
It's a piece of work that's very subtle - it's durational.
It's like, it's like a slow-moving human sculpture.
Sometimes I just sit out on the hill and I just think,
"I've never seen anything like this before."
'The steep climb brings a whole new perspective.
'Not only do we get a bird's-eye view of space
'but a bird's-eye view of time.
'The deep time of cosmic and geological processes,
'the births of constellations, the drift of tectonic plates.
'The experience of Speed of Light
'crescendos at the peak of Arthur's seat.
'Up here we can wonder at our own slightness and insignificance
'in the face of the big wide world.
'At all human endeavour reduced to tiny jogging,
'luminous dots of light in the night-time.'
The runners are in metaphor for the real city down there.
For all our cities and civilisations.
For all human adventures over the generations.
Accreted like the coral fossil of Edinburgh lit up below us.
And you can appear in Speed of Light until September 1st.
Next up, Nile Rodgers is a disco genius
who's freaked, funked and flatlined his way
through an extraordinary life.
Working with his pop band Chic
and also the likes of Madonna and David Bowie,
his legend is extraordinary.
Well, he's at the Book Festival this week,
reading extracts from his autobiography
and I went along to have a chat with him.
And, if you're thinking of writing in, don't worry,
no rare psychedelic flamingos were harmed
during the making of this piece.
# Freak out
# Le freak, c'est chic... #
With hits like Le Freak and Good Times,
Chic were THE cool face of '70s disco.
Nile Rodgers entertained the festival audience
with some of his classic songs,
whilst also revealing the highs and lows of an extraordinary life.
# Le freak, c'est chic... #
13-year-old Beverly Goodman gave birth to Nile in 1952
and later married his stepfather,
white Jewish jazz fan Bobby Glanzrock.
His childhood was unconventional, to say the least.
Both of your parents became drug addicts
-but it's a very loving portrayal of them.
It's very bohemian. You don't get uptight drug addicted parents.
-Well, they were heroin addicts, to be clear.
They weren't just drug, regular, I mean, they were, hell,
they were full-blown, erm...
but they were both very, very beautiful,
very smart, super intellectuals.
It was very stimulating to be a six, seven, eight, nine-year-old kid
in that environment.
The great thing about it,
the by-product of being in that environment
is I became independent at a very early age.
I ran away from home and ultimately moved out when I was,
you know, 14 years old.
-I suppose you were living in a displaced fantasy world by now, as a kid?
Because the real world, however bohemian you describe it,
is not always a very cool place to be.
-It's pretty, you know,
they're becoming lost to their addiction,
then you succumb to your own addiction VERY early on.
Yeah, at 11 years old I started sniffing glue,
which changed my whole perspective of the world.
All of a sudden, instead of the world becoming scary place
and people not liking me,
everybody became friendly and I became brave.
And you knew the particular,
you know, you knew what kind of highs
-different kind of glues could give you.
And from then you're onto Amyl, from then you're onto booze, from then, and then...
Acid, I did acid with Timothy Leary at 15 years old.
Fortunately, drugs were not Niles's only release,
his childhood passion for music
turned into a multimillion dollar career
when he and musical partner Bernard Edwards
started the band that made everybody dance.
To start from when it starts to really kick off with Chic,
tell us what happened in the formation of that.
My girlfriend at the time was into a band called Roxy music,
which I had never heard of,
and it was the first time I had seen anything like that.
Roxy had this whole thing where the audience was beautiful,
they were cool.
So, I said, "What if we did the black version of that?"
And Bernard said, "Great, why don't you call it Chic?"
# I want your love I want your love... #
Atlantic records were keen
to sprinkle the Rodgers and Edwards Stardust over other acts.
The duo wrote and produced hit for Sister Sledge...
# We're lost in music... #
Then went on to work with Motown royalty Diana Ross.
The resulting album, Diana, became the most successful of her career
and made Nile the go-to producer for the biggest pop stars of the '80s.
# I'm boom boom boom boom coming!
# I'm coming out
# I want the world to know I've got to let it show... #
Continue to make Chic records, we never get another hit,
-but then I go on to do David Bowie, Let's Dance.
-That kind of works for you.
-Then I go on to do Duran Duran.
-That also works.
And then I go on to do Madonna, Like A Virgin.
# Like a vi-i-irgin... #
Madonna's 36th birthday is not a good day for you.
I had gone on a three-day alcohol and drug binge
where I hadn't fallen asleep.
People had to carry me out of Madonna's house.
18 years ago, as of a few days ago.
I've never had another drink or another drug since.
As somebody who is clean and sober, creatively, what are the things that excite you now?
When it came to writing the book,
which took better than four years,
I thought that this was the singular - and I still believe this -
most daunting task that I've ever embarked upon in my life.
Because a lot of it was from my childhood,
so when I confronted my mother,
which wasn't a harsh confrontation cos she's very open...
..it was actually a bit of relief.
It was getting clarity and resolving things, baggage,
that I've been carrying for years.
I feel really glad you spent four years, because it's a most incredible story.
And when you read it, you have to remind yourself it's non-fiction.
-And I mean that as a compliment.
-Thank you very much.
-Its an amazing life, so thank you for sharing it.
# Good times. #
Everybody sing, come on!
# These are the good times
# (AUDIENCE) These are the good times. #
The Dovecot Studio is home to some of the most extraordinary weavers
who worked with the likes of David Hockney and also Henry Moore.
To celebrate their centenary, they've mounted a special exhibition
as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.
Alastair Sooke went along to find out more.
Get your hands off me. You've got wood...worm.
Say the word "tapestry"
and you might think of twee craft kits from the 1980s,
the Women's Institute,
or dusty wall hangings in your granny's living room.
Once upon a time, it was all very different.
Back in the Middle Ages and Renaissance,
tapestries were prized far beyond paintings.
They were considered the most prestigious and most expensive
art objects that money could buy.
And they were designed by some of the most famous artists in the world.
Masters like Raphael.
What's quite surprising, though, is that in the last 100 years,
tapestry has been embraced not just by crafters,
but also by some of the biggest names in modern art.
'Established in 1912, The Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh
'have produced more than 800 tapestries.
'Their new show, Weaving The Century,
'reveals some of the highlights, with works by artists such as'
David Hockney, Graham Sutherland, Peter Blake and Eduardo Paolozzi.
'Skills like these take years to acquire,
'so artists working and tapestry collaborate with a weaver.'
..and it's a completely different mark on the painting.
'Artist Victoria Crowe is currently in the process of creating
'Large Tree Group, based on an existing painting.'
I'm very intrigued about what tapestry sort of adds
to your practice, what you make.
Well, I think the scale, for a start, completely changes the image,
because the painting is quite of a domestic kind of scale.
And also the way light is absorbed by wool.
You're getting a different response from the painted surface.
So it's almost like me seeing the translation into another language of it.
It's this other person's process that comes into it
that's really quite exciting.
-I mean, this is going to take David, what, about eight months, David, do you reckon?
-What, just on this?
-On this one alone.
-You won't be making anything else at all at the same time?
That's a big commitment!
But I hope someone else might come on with me,
just for a bit of company, but...
'Husband and wife weavers Douglas Grierson and Fiona Mathison
'help create many of the works in the show.
'They married after meeting at Dovecot.'
I think this is one of the most exciting tapestries in the show,
-and it dates, I think, from the '60s?
-Yes, that's right.
-And it's by one of Britain's finest pop artists Eduardo Paolozzi.
Oh, when we wove this,
I was a young man, and...
and it brings back some nice memories, you know.
We thought that that was really
what we'd call now cutting edge stuff, you know,
but that's what it felt like back then.
You know, that we were doing something quite important.
And how did Paolozzi react to it?
Because, I'm thinking, you know, as a pop artist,
-he was fascinated by things like plastic toys.
-Ephemera and junk he collected from the 20th century world.
So I'm quite surprised that he was drawn to tapestry.
In a sense, that's quite Eduardo to have a bit of a joke
with the idea, because the notion of tapestry
is something for a kind of grand... a grand hall.
And he's introducing cartoons.
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.
I mean, that's something which is very throwaway,
and yet, tapestry is so time-consuming.
-It's noticeable that here you've got one main stalwart
of British pop art, and then on the wall over there is another one.
-Hockney in his pomp. Is that from the '60s as well?
Yes. And Hockney didn't... He didn't come very often.
And when he did come, he upset the weavers by saying,
"Ooh, that just took me a second to do, and it's taken you a week."
-And he seemed to think that was...
-How bloody rude!
'David Hockney's work from 1969 is called
'A Tapestry Made From A Painting, Made From A Painting Of A Tapestry,
'Made From A Painting.'
-This is a reproduction of the original painting.
And you must have relished taking this on,
because, as you can see, it's a painting of a tapestry
now being translated back into tapestry.
Yeah, and that was the sort of in-joke at the time.
You know, that seemed to be an idea that,
or a notion, that Hockney liked.
The thing that intrigues me is that obviously, it's beautiful.
I think this is beautiful, but what does it bring to the table that the painting doesn't already have?
Well, in this case, it probably brings less to the table,
because I believe that weaving a painting the same size as a tapestry
does draw the weaver into a copying situation.
And I think we've got to give it scale,
we've got to intensify the colours,
and give the tapestry something that the painting can't give.
Weaving The Century runs until 7th October and then tours the UK.
# Boom! Shake, shake, shake the room... #
Now, critics are hailing Kirsty Gunn's new novel as "extraordinary" and "a masterpiece".
She takes as her inspiration for The Big Music, Scotland's history,
landscape and also its signature sound, the bagpipes.
I went along and had a chat with her.
# Boom! Shake, shake, shake the room
# Tick, tick, tick, tick, boom! #
Magic! Could you make Michael Gove disappear?
# Boom! Shake, shake, shake the room
# Boom! Shake, shake, shake... #
Translated from the Gaelic, The Big Music is "pibroch",
the ancient classical form of the Highland bagpipe.
Set in Sutherland in the far north of Scotland, Kirsty Gunn's novel
is a story of family secrets
and a dying man's obsession
with composing a musical lament to his life.
"From childhood and manhood to age,
"all here laying itself out
"like a map of all the places he knows
"and of his history and the people he has known,
"stranded together in this grass under his feet,
"spread out at his feet as he walks further and further away."
What I like about this book and what I respond to most is not that it's about music,
but actually that it evokes the qualities of music itself in its four minute structure.
It's not an easy read. It asks quite a lot of you, but that's great,
because it reminds you how mollycoddled you've been,
you know, in the things that you've read of late.
And it's ambitious and it's daring, it's difficult,
it's contrary, but it is, as critics have said, a really blazing,
trailblazing work of contemporary fiction.
So, Kirsty, in the year that the literary landscape -
I say literary loosely - has been dominated by the phenomenon of 50 Shades Of Grey,
you have elected to bring out this beautiful, lyric novel
in the modernist tradition.
Do you feel you're ploughing a sort of incredibly solitary
sort of road at the moment?
I certainly do. The book took a huge amount of work.
Seven years in the writing,
and in that time, yes,
I asked myself if I was completely mad.
Yeah! Do you ever sort of think to yourself,
"I could have spent six months and written a bestseller"?
-Is it not...? Is it something you couldn't...?
-Just can't do it.
Either you're going to write for entertainment,
which has all kinds of wonderful things,
including a nice cheque at the end, normally,
or you're an artist. In which case, you're launching yourself on this
extraordinary voyage into the unknown.
-We don't know where we're going to land, we don't ever know if we'll come home again.
"For what can you do to stop a thing once you've started?
"You don't stop it.
"The laying out of the ground, the setting forth of the beginning,
"the music that's always been in his head,
"getting to hear itself now he's coming to the end."
I knew that I wanted to use this pibroch form as my underlying structure.
And I knew I wanted these haunting kind of intervals that occur
in that music to be present
in the book in some way. To show emotional relationships,
to show the distance between people, and yet also the intimacy.
The secrets, and yet also the told formal stories.
So, all of these things kind of came to play and settled around that form.
Some people might find, you know, the novel more of an ask than most.
Yes, it's the very opposite of a narrative line,
where we begin at the beginning and various events occur and then here we have the ending.
-This is, as in life,
all of our memories and events taking place
in a kind of repeated, cyclical way.
"But the house is here. It's looking after him.
"All through those years away, the false years,
"there's been this place, waiting.
"And so, he had cast his eyes about the hills today, had he not?
"And claimed it all, the air, its sound.
"Only casting about in this fine day the last of the summer in it,
"and the future in his arms."
The great thing about the book is you journey in the landscape
and you get lost for a while.
I say that openly, as the reader will experience that sense of dislocation
that you do get with lyric novels. You're not...
Your hand isn't held at any point by the writer.
I love it that you said "I get lost", because, exactly,
that's the exciting journey that we hope literature will take us on.
And to have somehow been changed, to have been altered on that journey.
That's it for now, but we're back next week for more Festival frolics.
We leave you now with Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela
who have turned up in town with, well, just a few friends in tow.
Sort of a sombrero short of the full carnival there, but gave it my best.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd