EdFringe Solutions Update
I’m back from my holiday! Hi. Hope you all had a great fortnight. I sure did. I made a wish on a magic nose, and met a skeleton, and swam in a lagoon. Anyway, before I left I set up a couple of group-based exchanges-of-ideas, and then left them dangling while I was away, so this week I’m just going to wrap them both up, then move onto some new thoughts next week. First of all, I crowd-sourced potential solutions to the problem of unsustainably escalating accommodation costs at the Edinburgh Fringe. Big thanks to those who responded, especially Laura, who made a suggestion I thought was so interesting I went and expanded on it in this Twitter thread to get the thoughts of other comedians and Fringe participants. At the moment it’s firmly in “This would be a perfect solution if there was ever any way of realistically making it happen” territory rather than being a solution I actually know how to implement, but that’s not a bad place to start from! I’d like to try and follow up on it in some way to explore the potential for making it something we could actually do. As with last time, any thoughts on how to push for some kind of implementation of this idea – other artists to liaise with, organisational bodies to approach, ways of creating a campaign online for it, etc – would be gratefully received, as I’d absolutely love to find a way to be some part of pushing for positive change at the Fringe. Solutions/thoughts/ideas/volunteers welcome!
Digital Declutter Update
I also wrote here about the “Digital Declutter” I was undertaking at the start of April, which was a 30-day “unlearning” of casual, thoughtless, automatic tech-use, specifically for the purpose of leisure or distraction, inspired by Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I’ve now finished the Declutter, so thought I’d update you all here on what it taught me, and what relationship I plan to have with technology going forwards!
Partway through the Declutter I had to slightly change my initial “scorched earth” approach, which was to ideally reduce my use of tech to virtually zero outside of completely essential work, because I kept encountering people who told me I couldn’t survive as a comedian without having some sort of digital presence. Whether these people were wise sages who perfectly understand the way the comedy industry intersects with tech, or people who are themselves addicted to technology and assume it’s impossible to be otherwise, I don’t know, but it had the cumulative effect of making me worried my show at Machynlleth Comedy Festival at the end of the month would sell badly if I didn’t do the odd funny tweet, so I created my first mantra for the use of social media, which was “Create, Don’t Consume.” I permitted myself to log on to share the odd funny thought or promote a work thing, but then I wasn’t allowed to scroll or look at anything else. The other big mantra was “Intention” – I’d like to continue refining my relationship with tech until I only ever sit down at my computer, or look at my phone, with a specific aim in mind, to send a specific message or research a specific thing, but never to just see what’s going on in there and find something to divert my attention. Mach was my intended test-point for this approach, as the only big work thing I had booked in for April. If it sold well, then clearly being very active on social media has little impact on my ability to sell shows, and if it sold poorly, then clearly I’d made a mistake in not trying to be on there more. It sold out, so I’ll be continuing to scale back my use of online tools until I see some tangible negative effect, which so far I haven’t.
Two other takeaways, one of which intersects with a mantra my friend Emily came up with during her Digital Declutter, which she undertook alongside mine – “I want to be in the room I’m in.” I felt glad that this effort to rewire my brain a bit coincided with a holiday, because holidays are great opportunities to train your muscles for paying attention to where you are. You’re in a place you’ve never been before, looking at things you’ve not seen before and may well not see again, so it’s much easier than usual to be attuned to the place you’re in without the need for distraction, or the need to impulsively share what you’re doing with someone else remotely. I’d like to carry that sensation, of being in the place I’m in, back into the rooms and places I occupy in my day-to-day life, and hope I can maintain that sense of presence. On two consecutive nights in a fishing village, Miranda and I ate dinner and watched an old fisherman who stood on the quayside looking out at the sea for three solid hours without once looking at his phone. He might not even have had one, I dunno. He might have been too much of an old, carefree traditionalist to have ever bothered acquiring one. Maybe if we’d shown him one he’d have gone “Wow, this is amazing, I love all the games and apps,” I’ve no idea. I thought his life seemed nice though.
The final big thing I learned was to do with leisure and what I do to fill my time – the most profound and meaningful kinds of media I like to consume are those that are designed to end. It’s why books are better than podcasts, albums are better than Spotify playlists, and films are better than TikTok feeds. Every form of entertainment designed by an algorithm to serve up the next thing to keep my eyeballs on it ultimately leaves me feeling drained and inhuman, and every form of entertainment designed to bring me into a world and then to guide me through an experience and then to show me the way out of that world, leaves me feeling invigorated. Accepting the temporariness of things, the finality of things, is a huge part of what makes them resonate. Sitting by the sea and looking at it and thinking “I won’t be here tomorrow” feels so much richer than looking at a picture of the sea you sat next to last week thinking “Oh, so that’s where I was.” And yes, as evidenced by the photo above, I took pictures while I was on holiday. These are all lessons I’m still learning and internalising, not things I’ve mastered. One day perhaps I’ll be strong enough to go to a beautiful place and make no record of my presence there, and leave no trace, and simply to be there and to leave. Something to look forward to.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – I hope you don’t mind my linking to something of my own, but I’ve built a dedicated page over on my website about my new show, including information about the team, diaries of the show’s creative process, galleries of rehearsals and performances, etc. I’m trying to openly document the process of this show to open up conversations about collaborative show-making, so feel free to browse through the materials!
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – I saw Roisin & Chiara’s new show Sex On Wheels in Machynlleth and it’s delightfully stupid. The two of them dressing up as a horse is probably the thing that made me guffaw more than anything else this week.
Album Of The Week – I’m listening to the Greatest Hits of Roger Whittaker. I try to never listen to compilations, it makes me feel weird, but Spotify doesn’t really have any of his old albums, so I’m settling for a Greatest Hits. He’s just wonderful. The world’s greatest whistler. “New World In The Morning” is the loveliest song.
Book Of The Week – Continuing the theme of “presence,” while I was away I read The Tao Of Pooh & The Te Of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff, a pair of books that explore the core principles of Taoism via the characters of Winnie The Pooh. Absolutely brilliant.
Film Of The Week – The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, a new film in which Nicolas Cage plays a washed-up version of himself agreeing to a million dollar pay-cheque to go to Pedro Pascal’s birthday party. The thing counting against this movie is that it’s essentially a vastly inferior re-do of Adaptation, which also starred Cage in a dual role, so the parallels are very obvious. But if you forgive it for not being as good as one of the best films of all time, it’s brilliant. It’s definitely much funnier than Adaptation, nearly every scene of Pascal’s had me howling. Please go and see it, the cinema was completely empty when I went and constantly sitting in empty cinemas watching great films is making me sad.
That’s all for this week! As ever, thanks so much for reading – let me know what you thought! Did anybody else have a go at any Digital Declutter techniques this week, and how did you find it? If you’d like to recommend this newsletter to a friend, or encourage people to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it. Take care of yourselves until next time,
PS Here’s Ben Target and I by the Machynlleth sign