Summerhall’s special brew proves a refreshing change

The Scotsman / Tim Cornwell

The Summerhall venue at the old Dick Vet building came to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time last year in a new and deliciously offbeat style, with stand-out shows like Hotel Medea and These Silences.

Now back in a more permanent fashion, as patron Robert McDowell follows through his ambition to turn the complex into a new arts hub for Edinburgh, it has contributed to the recent shift of the Fringe to the south of the city.

The venue had its own beer on offer at the launch of its 2012 Fringe programme yesterday, though it is not, yet, brewed on the premises. Also on offer were copies of The Arts Journal, a new publication edited in the building by the veteran and versatile novelist, military history buff and art expert, Iain Gale.

The influence of Ricky Demarco can be clearly seen at the venue this year, not just the display of his archive and art collection, but in the strong line-up of Polish acts, including the welcome return of the Song of the Goat Theatre, with Songs of Lear. I will be personally looking out for The Guild of Cheesemakers, promising guest cheese producers and wine experts in their search for the “captivating 198th cheese in The Book of Curds”. Given the £20 ticket price, the cheeses are presumably real.

The building, observes one party-goer, has a kind of comfortable, quirky, retro-Victorian feel about it, with medical implements and African masks on the walls and lavish G&Ts at the bar. There’s talk of repainting the somewhat dour grey of its inner courtyard in a fitting rusty colour.

The Arts Journal features mostly trusted names on trusted subjects. “There hasn’t been a magazine of this kind launched in Scotland since 1832,” Gale writes in an editor’s forward, when William Chambers first