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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK
A diary of Edinburgh's festivals
Yana Thandrayen of BBC Scotland's Edinburgh festivals team is keeping a diary of the sights and sounds throughout the month of August.


Counterfeit note
The Nazis planned to flood US and UK economies with fake money

It's almost the end of our stint at the festivals and one of the best things has been the wide range of people we've met.

On Wednesday we did some filming with an amazing man, holocaust survivor Adolf Burger.

He was at the Edinburgh Film Festival to talk about Counterfeiters, a movie based on his autobiography.

Adolf Burger and his wife were imprisoned in Auschwitz, where his wife was killed. But he was kept alive because he had a skill the Nazis wanted to use.

Along with other Jewish prisoners, he was forced to work for the Nazis forging currency. The Nazis planned to undermine the economies of the UK and USA by flooding them with fake money.

Adolf, who has just turned 90 years old, has the force of character and energy of a much younger man.

Propaganda forgeries

He is adamant that his story be told and that people don't forget what the Nazis did.

He'd brought documents from the time, maps and photographs that he'd taken of skeletal people in a concentration camp.

Adolf showed us some of the notes he'd been forced to make and propaganda forgeries of UK postage stamps where the Queen's head had been replaced by that of Stalin.

It was all fascinating information but far too much for a short news piece.

Adolf told us that he doesn't usually do interviews that are shorter than 20 minutes, so I hope he didn't see the piece as we cut him down to 20 seconds. News is a terrible business.

Slam poetry

A name can make a lot of difference.

Daniel Beaty puts on an amazing one-man show, playing multiple characters, mixing slam poetry with gospel singing and comedy.

But the show is called Emergence-See! It certainly put me off.

The name only makes sense by the end of the play. Please help him find another title before the show moves down to London.

John Smeaton
John Smeaton was appearing on Janey Godley's chat show

John Smeaton, the baggage handler who tackled terror suspects at Glasgow Airport, is taking to the stage.

He'll guest star in comedian Janey Godley's Edinburgh Fringe chat show this teatime.

It's the first time John has been to the Fringe, and he's very excited about this one-off appearance.

The 31-year-old's actions in helping the emergency services after a jeep crashed into Glasgow Airport has turned him into a Fringe favourite.

Almost every stand-up comedian in Edinburgh is working a routine about him into their act.

John says he's just glad if people can find humour out of something so serious.

And on a very trivial note, Tom Hank's wife Rita Wilson has been spotted at a hairdressers in Edinburgh, where she booked under the name Miss Madrid. She didn't get a cut, just a styling.


food festival
It was a first for Foodies at the Festival

So Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt didn't turn up for the film festival, Bob Hoskins has had to pull out and Colin Firth looks doubtful.

One of the photographers at a red carpet event quipped that the most famous person there was our Correspondent Pauline McLean.

But that's not to say that the stars aren't here, you just have to know where to look for them.

Hiding in a yurt at the Book Festival we found the elusive Gruffalo, our cameraman Alan was overcome with excitement at this star spot and insisted on having his photograph taken with the mythical creature.

It's creator Julia Donaldson was there to launch two new books, her event was causing a tide of hysteria amongst the under five's. The queue to get books signed by her was so long that people were having to wait for up to two hours, that can't be fun with a toddler in tow.

It's been raining all weekend. The Book Festival has turned into a muddy a field.

The outdoor drinking areas at the fringe venues are sodden and sparsely populated by cagoule wearing students.

Walking around Edinburgh is always a challenge at this time of year, the narrow streets heaving with people, but the addition of umbrellas makes it truly treacherous. The Foodies at the Festival launch seemed a good place to go to escape the rain and crowds.

This is the first year that the event has been held, the idea is to showcase Scottish food and drink.

Lots of lovely things were on display and available to sample. However, what seemed like hundreds of other people had the same idea to seek shelter there. We formed a huge damp mass, dripping dirty rain over the ornately decorated cakes.


The Bacchae
Alan Cumming makes a cheeky entrance in The Bacchae

The International Festival's staging of The Bacchae almost turned into a panto on Wednesday night.

The show's star Alan Cumming, resplendent in a golden kilt, is lowered on to the stage head first - a rather cheeky entrance.

He then addressed the audience, asking the rhetorical question of whether it knows the story of his mother Semele and Zeus.

Maybe mistaking the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh for the Kings in Glasgow, someone shouted out that "yes they did!"

Being the pro that he is, Alan Cumming was not thrown by the unexpected audience interjection. He laughed and said that he was still going to tell the story anyway.

Anticipated event

The story of the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela is turning into a farce - and hopefully it won't be a tragedy.

The orchestra is made up of young people from some of the poorest areas of the country.

It is part of a government-run programme El Sistema, which has trained approximately half a million young Venezuelans to play a classical instrument.

The orchestra's show at the Usher Hall this Friday is one of the most anticipated events at the International Festival and has generated a lot of press interest.

Uncomfortable night

So interviews and filming were all due to take place on Thursday - but no-one could find the orchestra.

Lots of frantic phone calls later it transpired that the Venezuelans were still in Venezuela!

A plane had been charted to fly them to the UK on Wednesday, but it didn't take-off.

The musicians spent an uncomfortable night waiting in Caracas Airport and another plane had to be found for them.

It's due to take off on Thursday afternoon. Let's hope they make it in time for the show.


Fuerzabruta got the cameraman interested in performance theatre

It has been a busy, and at times very surreal week.

On Tuesday I found myself in a huge black tent being sprayed with water, performers flying through the air and the author John Le Carre standing next to me.

The famous writer of spy novels was at Fuerzabruta, the South American spectacle that is proving to be one of this year's must see productions.

After the photocall all the cameramen were raving about the show, their interest in performance theatre suddenly awakened.

Could it have had anything to do with the scantily clad dancers?

My spies tell me that Reporting Scotland presenter David Robertson has become the subject of a fringe show.

Limmy, whose comic talents have mostly been aired on the internet, has a routine about him.

The comedian has some footage of Reporting Scotland that he shows frame by frame to try to work out what David is doing with a pen.


In one frame David has no pen in the next a pen appears.

Limmy wonders if David is doing a magic trick.

I asked David about his pen antics, he laughed but refused to confirm if his sleight of hand was intentional but, I have my suspicions.

And it wouldn't be the festival without some crazy publicity stunt taking place.

This afternoon two fringe performers got married on the Royal Mile.

The wedding involved jugglers (of course), rings of fire and stilt walking.

Gwendolyn and George first met at the fringe three years ago and wanted all the street performers to share their special day, how lovely.

But nothing is as it seems at the fringe, the couple really got married last October in the USA.


Festival cavalcade
The festival cavalcade went ahead in heavy rain

Our cameraman 'Alan' is fast becoming a major attraction at the festival.

Not only are Taiwanese schoolgirls attacking him, but he's providing fodder for stand-up comedians.

At the Pleasance press launch the host of the show singled him out and tried to make him crack. 'Alan' remained impassive, no smile crossed his face.

He's done this job for far too long to be riled by anyone.

A night at Full Mooners, the late night comedy show staged deep in the caves of the Cowgate, is always full of strange and unexpected happenings.

The host Andrew Maxwell managed to lose the break-dancers who were meant to be performing.

Interrupted dinner

Instead, he threatened to put on stage a group of friends so drunk they would be willing to spin on their heads for our entertainment.

He did manage to find some real dancers - a couple of guys from Zoo Nation interrupted their dinner to do a few moves, then got back in time for dessert.

Sunday was spent standing in the rain at the cavalcade.

According to the director David Todd, that was the first time it had EVER rained on their parade.

Sorry, I wasn't going to use any clichés about 'rain not dampening the spirits of the crowd' etc, but that one just came out.

The cavalcade organisers had been worried that foot-and-mouth would stop them showing the Mounted Band of the Blues and Royals, but it turns out horses are safe from the current outbreak.


The Band of the Moscow Military Conservatoire

Have you ever wondered how we film those amazing pictures of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo?

The night before the event opens to the public, TV crews and photographers are allowed on to the esplanade of the castle. A full performance takes place and we are able to get right up close to the performers.

We can film in between the lines of pipers and stand side-by-side with the military bands.

The performers are told to ignore the press, so if a camera crew is standing in their way they'll knock them over.

We literally risk life and limb to bring you the best shots of the performers.

This year our cameraman, lets call him 'Alan', was whacked on the head by a baton-wielding Taiwanese schoolgirl.

Running formations

She seemed quite pleased, but 'Alan' was less so as an egg-sized lump appeared on his forehead.

The rest of the band was sporting bayonets and matching white boots, we were just glad he wasn't brained by one of them.

The goose-stepping Band of the Moscow Military Conservatoire was also rather frightening. It broke out into running formations, taking all the press by surprise.

Being charged by a Russian soldier swinging a trumpet is not a pleasant experience.

There's probably a sliding scale for lamping the media - five points for an enthusiastic amateur photographer and 10 for a BBC cameraman, but the jackpot of 20 points would go to the soldier who scalped an official military snapper.


Press bag
Members of the press have been given "survival kits"

Students in strange costumes line the streets, flyers are thrust into your hands and parking becomes even tighter than usual.

It can only be one thing; festival season is about to open in Edinburgh, the biggest arts event in the world.

It means a month spent eating party food and things from vans. It's like a mass experiment to see if the human body can survive on canapés alone.

Late nights are followed by early mornings battling with satellite equipment. Seven o'clock in the morning is a very lonely time to be broadcasting during the festivals, the seagulls and the street cleaners are the only other signs of life.

By the end of August I'll have a spotty face, bags under my eyes and I won't know my name.

This is the week of the press launches, when many the fringe venues showcase their best acts. It's the time when photographers, TV crews and journalists can get a taste of the fringe and blag a free drink.

'Wry smiles'

It's also the time when you can watch hip-hop acrobatics juxtaposed with hard hitting productions about apartheid in South Africa; a woman balancing on toilet paper and people covered in sticky tape. It's all here.

Also here is a whole new community; performers, PRs and journalists normally based in London make their annual pilgrimage to the north. Cue jokes about the weather and the folly of launching a suicide attack on Glasgow.

So the last few days have been spent hurtling between venues, plugging up the camera, getting what we can, then rushing off to the next event.

This year things got off to a rather cheeky start. In the past the (gentle) rivalry has been between the festivals, but this year the fringe venues were having a dig at each other.

After the Underbelly launch (held in an inflatable, purple upside-down cow) bags were given out emblazoned with the slogan 'How to survive the Assembly Press Launch'. Inside were some caffeine tablets, a game of sudoku and a set of ear plugs.

This caused some wry smiles at the Assembly and led to the Underbelly being the subject of some ribbing by Adam Hills and Jason Byrne who were hosting the Assembly show.

The earplugs certainly weren't needed for the showcase but they proved to be invaluable when the people in flat opposite mine started playing very loud dance music at midnight.

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