Twenty four hours to go! I arrive in Edinburgh tomorrow. On BBC Radio 2 with Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp this weekend, I gave some tips for the Fringe based on my Edinburgh traditions: people who I make a point of going to see every year. I’ll post some more tips soon, once I’m up there. Everyone I’m linking to here I would recommend to anyone — but I particularly recommend if you’re going up to Edinburgh for the first time and/or you don’t have much time. There’s a mix of the traditional/quintessential Fringe and the new/surprising. For the full experience, you also need to throw in something you get randomly flyered for and don’t really want to go to.
Lucy Porter — Consequences — a new Edinburgh venue and a brand new show: always witty, inspiring, though-provoking and the best kind of silly.
Jo Caulfield — Pretending to Care — The first show I saw when I first came to Edinburgh as a punter in 2009 was Jo Caulfield at The Stand and I have never forgotten it. It was a work-in-progress that year and she was reading stuff she had written that day off a clipboard, the first time I had seen anyone do that — it was raw and fresh and brilliant. Always sharp and original.
Tom Allen — Indeed — I can’t go and see Tom Allen too much because he makes me laugh in a painful way. He has beautifully crafted material and wonderfully caustic observations but it’s his delivery that really kills me.
Austentatious: An Improvised Novel — Just the best long-form improv. Six performers in Austen period costume dramatise a novel, the title of which is suggested by the audience. I must have seen them about 10 times now and I can 100% promise that every single show is different, every moment is improvised and every performance is guaranteed excellent. This is a Fringe must, especially if you haven’t seen improv before (or if you “hate” improv — it will change your mind).
If you are chomping at the bit and want to book many things at once (yes, do this!) then on R2 I also mentioned Lauren Pattison (Katherine Ryan tour support), Laurence Owen (new Tim Minchin) and Lolly Adefope (brilliant sketch work). But I have a million more recommends (well, maybe not that many — although there are over 3,000 shows) coming soon. Or message me on Twitter @vivgroskop telling me what kind of thing you like and I will suggest stuff.
Thrilled to be on talking about Be More Margo with Alistair McGowan (one of my all-time favourites), Evelyn Glennie (the most inspirational woman imaginable), Matthew Herbert (wonderfully innovate and eccentric soundscape creator), Phil Gayle (news hero!) and Clive Anderson (presenter hero!). I just about managed to keep it together despite getting a bit weepy during the Scottish folk singing from Karine Polwart and the plinky-plonky Vietnamese music from Hanoi Masters. Listen again here.
Writing in today’s Guardian about 1976, supposedly the greatest year ever for Britain. Certainly the hottest summer ever. A great year for the country, perhaps. But not for three-year-old me… The only good thing that happened that summer was my engagement to George (pictured above). Read more here.
My 13-year-old self would have been thrilled to be sitting next to Martin Kemp OF SPANDAU BALLET FAME. My 43-year-old self was also pretty embarrassing. Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp are sitting in for Graham Norton this summer on the Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2. Much talk about Edinburgh, why people do stand-up comedy (a very good question), avocados, The Kids From Fame (they played High Fidelity for me!) and, less gratifying, golf. That was mostly Martin. That is what he does now. Not GOLD. But GOLF. Well, we all have to age somehow.
I think this is the favourite interview question I have ever had. Interviewer: “You are very brave bringing a show about Britishness and being middle class to Edinburgh. Because there is a lot of hatred towards the English. Are you not worried?” Me: “No. I am extremely English and therefore extremely self-loathing. We can bond in hatred. It’s the perfect match.” Bring it on!
(Pic on title page: Matt Crockett.)
What is it about Waitrose? Writing in The Pool about Waitrose and that news that proximity to the branch of the most middle class grocery store in the universe can add up to £40,00 to the value of your home. Not being in such a position (I’m not in walking distance of the hallowed portals), perhaps I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder… Margo would have been OK in Surbiton. I think maybe they have three branches.
In Wow 24/7. A crybaby Remainiac writes… This is a bit of a million dollar question. (Or in the case of Edinburgh economics, which are weighted against your average stand-up, a minus 47p question.) Can Brexit be funny? Seeing as many comics feel as if they have no choice but to talk about it (including me — I have been working on a show about Britishness and class for six months — how could I not, even if it has meant reworking the entire show?), it’s not even a question. It had better be funny. Or else.
How much can I say this: I love War and Peace. It’s compelling, exciting, beautiful and – perhaps most surprisingly of all – (intentionally) funny. So if you’re hating War and Peace in any way at all, my (somewhat gushing, I’m afraid) reviews are not the reviews for you. Most people, however, are loving this six-part drama, concluding Sunday 7 Feb. I calculate that precisely 4.9% of viewers *are* not enjoying it. These people claim that it’s just not faithful enough to the original. I also calculate that approximately 99% of these people are only pretending to have read the book. In the main the comments are positive and jubilant. It has certainly made large numbers of people want to read the original (whether again or for that first time), which for a 540,000 word book is an amazing feat in itself. And don’t get me started on Dolokhov and his amazing feats (and feets and hands and general physiognomy).
This is my last programme at the Independent Bath Literature Festival (10 days, 150 events, 20,000 audience), where I’ve been Artistic Director for the past three Festivals. It’s a job I love and I couldn’t sum up this year’s programme better than blogger Claire Hayes, one of our army of 200 volunteers:
“This year marks the festival’s 21st birthday, and – just in case the impossibly hip might consider it over the hill – is defiantly themed Forever Young. And, despite appearances from luminaries like Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks and Tracy Chevalier, this means Viv Groskop, in her final year as Artistic Director, has resisted the lure of the literary pipe and slippers in favour of a record number of emerging new writers.”
To help us celebrate our 21st we have a great cast: from Gloria Steinem (with Jenni Murray), Sebastian Faulks and Pub Landlord Al Murray in The Forum to Pat Barker, Joan Bakewell, Austentatious and The Shakespeare Gala (featuring Salon Collective and Extempore Theatre, the world’s only Elizabethan-language improvised play) in The Guildhall. Full programme (26 Feb to 6 Mar) here.
Writing this piece for the Guardian on all the things I’ve inherited from my grandparents was cathartic but also difficult. I hoped it would help me to give away (throw away?) some of their stuff. But it just made things worse: it made me want to keep it all the more…. Still waiting for the phone call from Britain’s Biggest Hoarders. Some great advice in the comments and this issue sparks an interesting divide: half of the comments say “Get rid of it all — you will feel better”, the other half say “How could you ever let this treasure go?” I’m still torn.