Written by Lou Conran

Voices

A Brew With Lou: Festival

In her latest dispatch from the frontline of chitchat, comedian Lou Conran reflects on this year’s Edinburgh Festival and the knackered old caravan that helped get her there.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

When I decided it was a good idea to do my Edinburgh show in a caravan this year, I didn’t really appreciate that having a ‘good idea’ would leave me with £4,000 worth of debt, a vitamin deficiency and nowhere to put said caravan after the Festival, on account of me forgetting I live in a flat with no garden.

If you’ve never been to the Fringe before, it’s a bit like being in the Big Brother house, only less civilised. Everyone that’s taking part becomes immersed in their own little bubble and it’s very difficult to extricate your head from your arsehole for a month. Until, that is, you’re swiftly brought down to earth by poor reviews, lack of audience and your non-comedy mates, who rightfully remind you that there is a life outside of Edinburgh, and this isn’t the be-all and end-all.

I’ve been up to the Festival numerous times, and each year is completely different. You can’t replicate the fun you’ve had in previous incarnations because even though the basics are the same (i.e. going to bed when people are going to work, drinking all of the cider, thinking that this year you’ll definitely walk up Arthur’s Seat, and promising yourself that nothing matters, when everything does), like the shows themselves, every day is different.

My entire life from March to August has revolved around a little green box on wheels. It wasn’t green when I bought it. It was a typical cream-slash-orangey two-berth 1980s job. And after a dicey afternoon stripping it out, and nearly blowing the thing up (slight accident with a mallet and a gas canister, whoopsie) eventually I found a man with talents beyond mine, and the caravan was painted, decorated and refurbished into a venue.

After I’d pawned my grandad’s bracelet to pay for the thing to be driven up to Scotland, reality hit home. With my life taken over by this little beauty, I hadn’t actually appreciated how many people I could realistically get in it, and was it even going to last for the month, and not collapse, and would anyone come, and why the hell was I doing this anyway?

As it was I could get 12 in it comfortably. It didn’t collapse – it leaked but it didn’t collapse – and it turned out to be a brilliant hideaway from the madness of the Festival, and became a mini private members’ club for me and my chums.

“It’s good to find out who your real mates are, when you’re under the pressure of doing shitloads of shows every day, when you’re running on empty and you’re crying at Cool Runnings.”

The upside of Edinburgh, apart from being part of the biggest arts festival in the world and getting your words heard by all sorts of different people, is that you get to spend time with the people that you knew you liked, but who surpass your expectations by being there for the ups and downs, and just being blummin’ brilliant.

The downside of Edinburgh – apart from the lack of audiences, the waste of paper from your flyers, shit reviews and your fucked-up digestive system from eating too many burgers – is that you get to realise who you don’t like anymore because they’ve turned into a twat of the highest order, and you’d rather punch yourself in the face with a dead animal than spend any more time with them. Actually I should really add this bit to the upside because it’s good to find out who your real mates are, when you’re under the pressure of doing shitloads of shows every day, when you’re running on empty and you’re crying at Cool Runnings.

I know it sounds ridiculous; what with everything that’s going in the world, it may seem that going to a festival for a month is really nothing very special. But when you’ve worked your arse off for the best part of a year, and you’ve invested so much of your time, money (well, Mr Barclaycard’s money), and you find yourself pawning your family’s jewels and selling stuff on eBay to pay for your art, then it is important. It’s important to you.

So as I type this with my post-Fringe flu dispersing, and I’m finally no longer waking up in the middle of the night thinking I should be at a gig, and no longer cursing every single thing about the Festival, I find myself already planning next year’s show. Will I use the caravan again? Well, like the difficult second album I’m thinking, “Go bigger, go better.” So if anyone has a yacht that I could use as a venue that’d be great. Either that or an upturned skip. Not sure, still deciding.

@louconran

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Written by Lou Conran

Lou is a comedian, writer, actor, lover of curry and cheese, and is also a giant simple child.