Summerhall the arts laboratory Wed, 12 Oct 2011 12:20:50 +0000 en hourly 1 Summerhall: Festival 2011 Thank You and Goodnight! (for now…) Thu, 08 Sep 2011 10:15:54 +0000 Rupert Thank you to everyone who came to Summerhall for Festival 2011. We received compliments from all quarters about the atmosphere in the venue, and that is due hugely to the audience who came to our events, exhibitions, bar, and café.

Thinking of that atmosphere, a couple of moments come to mind to me personally.

The packed audience in the Red Lecture Theatre, listening to Iain Sinclair give a specially-written talk on the psychogeographical triangulation between London, Edinburgh, and the Lake District. He talked passionately about Kurt Schwitters, and Chris Petit’s film Radio On (both of which were also featured on the programme), and a devoted audience left feeling informed and inspired.

Another memory is of Little Bulb’s Goose Party on the final Saturday night, as they played an encore in the Dissection Room bar. Dressed in hilarious fancy dress and leading a swinging party, when they slowed down for a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel (Mama Rock Me) it made for a particularly special few minutes.

Such moments as these did not go without recognition from outside quarters. Summerhall shows received an enormous proportion of glowing (nay, adulatory!) 5-star and 4-star reviews, not least for the spectacular all-night performance Hotel Medea.

We were also pleased to receive a number of awards and nominations, including Herald Angel awards for Hotel Medea, for the ‘These Silences’ writing conference, and, best of all, for the venue in general.

These successes are all due to the belief and abilities of the artists, the staff, and the organisations who worked with us to make Summerhall happen. We were thrilled that so many companies took a chance on this as-yet-unopened venue, many of whom are at the top of their professional game. The management team were incredibly positive and flexible, and the staff as a whole supremely friendly and capable.

The support and collaboration of Battersea Arts Centre was enormous, and great fun to work with, and the involvement of the Demarco European Art Foundation added unique depth and context to the contemporary aspects of the programme: both were essential to Summerhall’s presence.

Now is a time for reflection, but we are already working on plans for next year, and for year-round activities in due course. Keep an eye on the website and our social media platforms, and we will keep you updated as things progress. Exciting times!

Rupert Thomson, Festival Director

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Free Belarus Now! Sat, 27 Aug 2011 12:07:24 +0000 Box Office International Director Irina Bogdanova in conversation with Richard Demarco and Zara Coombes.

Richard Demarco and Zara Coombes will interview Irina Bogdanova, Director of Free Belarus Now and sister of imprisoned Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, about how her personal tragedy became a global fight for political freedom.

 On December 19th 2010 Presidential “elections” that took place in Belarus. Irina Bogdanova’s brother Andrei Sannikov, a former Deputy Foreign Minister, was the most credible Presidential candidate in that race. But he did not win, the election results were rigged. The incumbent dictator Alexander Lukashenko remained in power. Andrei, his wife Iryna Khalip, an investigative journalist, and over 30,000 Belarusian citizens took to the streets in peaceful protest on election night. Violent mass arrests followed. Andrei is still in custody.

Since that day his sister, Irina has lived in a world where words like, disappearance, KGB, and Torture are in every day use. Irina founded the Free Belarus Now movement to fight for every political prisoner Belarus, and to fight for free and fair elections in Belarus. She now speaks to politicians from around the world, working with other NGO’s to coordinate the Belarusian peoples fighting for freedom.

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The DALI Band Sat, 20 Aug 2011 13:06:07 +0000 Box Office The DALI are a four piece music band from Belarus.   The two leading members of the band, Victór Rudenka and Ivan Zaprutski, will be performing at Summerhall every evening from the 22nd -27th August.

DALI have a wide following in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine as well as increasingly in the west.   Victór Rudenka toured the UK in 2008 as well as appearing on MTV’s Unplugged.  The band’s musical style has been described as, “A hurricane of hard electronic riffs and touching lyrics filled with urban romanticism.”

DALI have been heavily involved in supporting social programmes including the Amnesty International movement for the abolition of capital punishment in Belarus, gave a concert supporting the United Nations campaign against domestic violence.

Note: Due to an unforeseen illness, the DALI Band will not be performing until the 24th August, and not on the 22nd or the 23rd, as previously advertised. Summerhall apologise  for any inconvenience caused.

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Review of RJ Thomson’s play ‘Singapore’ by artist Ingrid Christie Fri, 19 Aug 2011 16:50:26 +0000 Box Office Generally shying away from productions involving audience participation I entered Rupert Thomson’s play with a little trepidation.  Any anxieties, in fact all anxieties were magically dispelled as I was taken on what could be described as a  philosophical and mutually constructed journey.

The play ‘Singapore’ begins with a volunteer from the audience taking centre stage with the sole director and actor (Mr Thomson himself).  Often an audience member is brought on a stage with the status of a pawn, yet here she was instantly bestowed with the highest rank and invited to read aloud from a manifesto and asked to convince Mr Thomson of the truth within it.

Questions and answers followed the reading and here began a profound experience.  The concept of the place ‘Singapore’ as an actual play unfolds with a gentle weaving of audience experience with the director’s own life-changing personal experience of the place Singapore.

The play meanders and shapes the human mind according to the participants, and just as in life, one never knows quite what will transpire.  However, as a place previously unknown to me, I was also furnished with many interesting facts about the pla(y)ce, most especially of its tranquility and generosity of spirit.

Singapore is theatre with the capacity to really connect people and I would highly recommend it, including for those who might otherwise avoid participative experiences, perhaps most especially so.

Singapore will be performed again on August 20 at 15:00. Tickets are £5 / £4 and available at






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David Sedaris & Sue Perkins @Summerhall Wed, 17 Aug 2011 14:44:53 +0000 Rupert David Sedaris & Sue Perkins @ Summerhall for the Culture Show – Screened Thursday 18th August 7pm BBC2.

The Culture Show has taken up residence at Summerhall for the second time this August, to bring viewers the best of this year’s Edinburgh Festivals.

David Sedaris, Grammy Award nominated American humorist, writer, comedian, bestselling author, and radio contributor and Sue Perkins discuss; plastination, auto-asphixiation, Joaquin Phoenix, masturbation, nudist camps for senior citizens, boring murder trials, Spanish zombie movies, catheters & condoms, Kate Middleton & She-wees. These are  just a few of the highlights………….

David Sedaris & Sue Perkins from the Culture Show filming at Summerhall 16th August
David Sedaris & Sue Perkins from The Culture Show filming @ Summerhall 16th  Aug Photo Credit: Kitty Douglas-Hamilton


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Susie Leiper: Calligrapher & Painter Wed, 17 Aug 2011 10:25:28 +0000 Rupert

One of Britain’s leading calligraphers, Susie is known both for her traditional skills in writing with quills on vellum and for her innovative use of the Chinese brush as a writing tool. Susie’s formative years as a calligrapher were spent in Hong Kong, where she developed her passion for Chinese art and language.


Susie also paints in oils, watercolours and ink, sometimes combining painting with calligraphy in the tradition of Chinese art. Much of her work takes the form of handmade artist books.


Calligraphy, painting, poetry: the three arts most treasured by the Chinese. Susie aspires to marry western calligraphy, painting and poetry with the spontaneity and harmony of a Chinese master.






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BAC Scratch: Josie Long Mon, 15 Aug 2011 13:12:25 +0000 Box Office Josie Long is a stand up comedian whose main show at the fringe is about politics and anger.  In her Scratch performance she wants to work on something that’s the opposite of that… Probably involving making some kind of papier mâché puppets.

Scratch allows artists to test ideas and get audience feedback. Come explore and be the first to discover the future of theatre.



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BAC Scratch: Atomkraft Mon, 15 Aug 2011 12:55:24 +0000 Box Office Greg McLaren has been exploring the ‘Nuclear Issue’.  What’s that then?  The terror of accident?  The mystery of the process?  The deep and global energy corruption?  And how does that relate to a man boiling his hand?  Greg will occupy the fascinating Summerhall building for a day.  Inspired by the building and working with collaborator, award winning designer Mamoru Iriguchi, Atomkraft will be let loose at 4pm on Monday 22nd August.  Join us for what is likely to be an absorbing and electrifying journey into the (known) unknown.

Scratch allows artists to test ideas and get audience feedback. Come explore and be the first to discover the future of theatre.


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Book Ends Mon, 15 Aug 2011 12:31:41 +0000 Box Office Savin-O’Hara Productions repesents Book Ends, a new one act play about loving books a little too much…

A tale of two book lovers who meet while browsing for romance and passion in a local bookshop.

Book Ends  is a play for anyone who has ever read voraciously between the lines or fallen madly in love while perusing for just the right story.

Starring Hattie Ruffer and Richard Rowley.  Directed by James Savin.  Written by David K. O’Hara


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Summerhall: Site Fantastic Sun, 14 Aug 2011 09:08:52 +0000 Rupert

By David Pollock
Published: 6/8/2011

A visually striking new venue with a quirky, eclectic programme, Summerhall’s highlights include an all-night where bunk beds are provided for audience members to sleep in. David Pollock gets a guided tour

The former Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a building with history, and – for the duration of this year’s Edinburgh Festival at least – a bright and unexpected future. Tucked away on a corner of the Meadows, a few minutes’ walk from the new Fringe hub around Bristo Square, the rechristened Summerhall will serve as a venue with a difference for the next three weeks, staging an eclectic variety of theatre, spoken word, music and film events.

On a guided tour of the building a few days before opening, these two eras of its life collide with one another in often striking fashion. The venue’s late-night bar is an L-shaped room at the heart of the building, with large, open windows on either side and a balcony framed by an ornate metal and wood balustrade along the south wall. “It was the dissection room,” points out Summerhall’s director Rupert Thomson with relish. “When we moved in it was filled with all these metal tables…”

Opened in 1916 but appearing much older, the building combines the elegant and the institutional in that way Edinburgh’s academic spaces do so well. Thomson points out a grand ballroom-like space, a beautiful assembly hall which will serve as the main performance area, but which will count among its shows one performed to audiences sitting in lifeboats on the floor. Elsewhere, smaller lecture theatres will host one-off events, including this weekend’s Scottish Independent Record Fair, which will feature acoustic sets by artists from labels including Fence and Chemikal Underground.

In a corridor below the grand reception hall, Thomson pauses. “It gets quite spooky when it’s late,” he muses. “I was chased through here by a crazy naked guy carrying a knife the other night, for example.” Alongside him Jorge Lopes Ramos laughs: he’s the Brazilian co-director (alongside Persis-Jade Maraval) of one of the most ambitious shows at Summerhall, an all-night reinterpretation of Euripides’s Greek tragedy entitled Hotel Medea. The “crazy naked guy” was one of his charges in full dress rehearsal mode, as is the room fitted out with a semi-circle of bunk beds for audience members to sleep in, and a “campaign room” with interactive multi-media equipment.

“Everyone knows what happens in Medea,” says Ramos, “we just offer a few surprises in how it’s presented. The length of the show is nothing new, back in the 1960s and 1970s you had 20-hour long performances, seven-day performances. What we do have is a very strong idea, an idea we commit to which comes with a lot of discipline and precision. Anyone who hears about it, they either say, ‘Never!’ or else they share the vision with us. They want that show to exist. They want the possibility of going to an overnight show from midnight to dawn where people take care of you and then share breakfast with you. They hear of it and they don’t want to miss it.”

The three-word mantra Hotel Medea is informed by is “immersion, participation, interaction” – so much so that an audience-responsive event entitled Audience As Document has its own place on Summerhall’s programme and a corridor in the building will be given over to a display from similar past events. One spinner stand, says Ramos, will be filled with past funding applications for the show, “successful on one side, unsuccessful on the other – you can guess which one will be most full.”

“We require long-term collaboration and shared vision from a venue,” he continues. “There needs to be an understanding of the principles of looking after audiences, and a dedication which goes beyond any normal schedule of work. We need to run the whole show for a week before it opens just to tech it, for example. The actors need to get into their night-time sleeping patterns. The show has to be adapted to each new venue. We even have to consider when the sun will come up.” The finale is precisely synchronised with the dawn, the time of which will change by 30 minutes between the start and the end of this run.

Ramos and Thomson, both 29, met each other at a cultural leadership programme at Battersea Arts Centre (a producing partner and sponsor of Summerhall alongside the DeMarco Archive Trust), and they seem to enjoy a shared rapport when it comes to work that’s envelope-pushing, if not outright experimental. “Having seen it, you’ll remember Hotel Medea for the rest of your life,” says Thomson, the former editor of Edinburgh arts magazine The Skinny and the programmer of last Fringe’s Roxy Art House events. “It reminds me of those really big nights out when you were younger, where you would stay up all night and it would be worth it. As you get older those nights would blur into one, whereas this is a similar shared experience that has the same genetic penetration of committing that much of your physical effort to it. You won’t forget it.”

Hotel Medea is just one of many events which Thomson has programmed because they “interrogate their form of choice”, for example readings by authors like Stewart Home, Iain Sinclair and Tom McCarthy, and a series of “cineconcerts” – bands playing over film. “I like the way that challenges your sense of what music’s for,” says Thomson, “and what film’s for, and it’s a very strong overlap. You see the band as well as the film, and you can’t forget they’re there.”

It’s the kind of mouth-watering programme that suggests Summerhall could be a cult hit of this year’s Festival, although the “sold” sign on the billboard outside is a longer term portent. Thomson is entirely unsure if it might return in 2012, but at this point his only responsibility is to lay down a marker.

Thomson says: “Right now, all I want Summerhall to do is inspire people as much as it has the potential to. Our job is to put on a really exciting festival that people talk about and that’s ready to happen again in future, and to work with the building in doing that. It gives a lot, and to try and homogenise that space would be quite wrong.”

• Hotel Medea is at Summerhall until 27 August, Fridays and Saturdays only (plus Thursday 25 August); today at 11:45pm. The Scottish Independent Record Fair is at the venue tomorrow from 1pm. For full details of Summerhall’s Fringe programme, visit

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