You are currently viewing Month 6. Scotland and the Edinburgh Fringe. 12th – 28th September 2022

I’ve added this blog as part of the Art Trail as it’s a massive creative part of this year’s journey of Acceptance, Adaptation and Ambition, and was initially funded by Arts Council England.

This September is the 4-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and one of the first people I spoke to when diagnosed was Steve Bate MBE. Steve is a good friend and the husband of my bestie Caroline. He is going through his own unique journey of acceptance and adaptation due to having a degenerative eye condition. He told me to turn this horrible diagnosis on its head and do something different with it. To use it and turn it into an opportunity to do something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

His words were perfect for me and helped me (possibly in a state of denial) make different plans and forge a way forward.

It’s always been about saying yes to things and living my philosophy of “how hard can it be?”.

So we’re here four years later and these years have been very hard at times, at other times they’ve been exhilarating, and always filled with love from expected and other unexpected sources.

The Parky Players and Shake It Up has been forged out of some of these unexpected friendships and love.

It would never have happened without the rich individuals who were also ready for this new chapter in their own story to be written. Parky Players has taught me so much about friendships, loyalty, passion and ambition.

Here’s my journal of the trip to Scotland that includes The Fringe:

Sunday 14th August – myself and a good friend (who will remain anonymous) travelled up to Newburgh, Fife and arrived at the Wonderland cottage.

Sketches of Wonderland cottage
My sketches of the Wonderland cottage

We had a lazy Monday and then I spent Tuesday 16th with my friend Teresa and her family and friends celebrating her 60th. Axe throwing, chatting and afternoon tea were on the itinerary.

Wednesday 17th was my 51st birthday.

I ate lobster and was thoroughly spoilt all day – the perfect birthday.

Pastel sketch of Crail
A quick pastel sketch of Crail

Monday 22nd – We went to Edinburgh to register with The Fringe, distributed leaflets and put-up posters.

I felt very emotional and scared as we drove in. Worrying about what the next few days might hold, and hardly believing that we’d got there. Once I’d spoken to the press office and gathered myself, I was okay.

I met Amanda-Claire (ACE) and we sorted out posters etc and I got a programme – all became more concrete and less scary.

We had one last relaxing day in Fife, and then it was an early start on Wednesday 24th to get me back into Edinburgh by 8am for our technical rehearsal. The weather was foul, but seeing ACE, Nicky, Richard and Jasper brought sunshine to the gloom.

Flyering in costume

We finished about 11am and the
weather was better, so we did some
crazy flyering in costume for an hour.

This was very good fun – ACE made me laugh so much.

We then dispersed and went to see some shows. I met up with Sheila and Barry on the way to meeting Chris off the train. Things were starting to feel real and very exciting.

Chris and I went to check in to our rural caravan about 30mins away on the bus – it was perfect for us to be able to get well needed peace and quiet after the busy days (although we never shut up talking).

Thursday 25th August. The first show went well – we were nervous before and a little rusty during the performance, but excited by the ticket sales and atmosphere.

Shake it up montage

Good friends Karen and Chris who have been a great support to me over the last couple of years came to see the show as part of their Scottish road trip. We went for a sneaky catch-up and cocktail afterwards.

After-show cocktails

Our second show on the Friday was different again – we struggled with some of the scenes, and although the audience didn’t perhaps realise, we were quite emotional.

Shake it Up performance
Caroline and Steve

My best mate Caroline and her husband Steve joined us on the Friday evening and we had a lovely night chatting. Both have been instrumental in me staying well, and keeping going since my diagnosis.

Caroline is my rock, my voice of reason with more empathy and love that can be expected of anyone. Steve is an ideas sounding board, someone who never dismisses a crazy idea, and totally understands what it is to have to reinvent yourself.

Saturday was the last performance and by far the best. We all delivered our lines the best we had ever done and sung our hearts out.

Those that could, stayed and had a drink in the outside bar area. We chatted with some great members of the audience and got some lovely feedback.

Director Dan helps put some perspective on what we’d achieved:

According to official Ed Fringe website there were 49,827 artists from 58 nations performing in 3,171 shows across the festival. The average audience numbers for a show at the fringe is 3, and 100 is considered the target to aim for across a whole run by many performers and promoters, so to do over 100 in three days in your first year is astronomical (especially with an earlier time slot!).

I feel prouder about this than anything else I’ve done. It took a whole team of people to pull together, and required resilience, self-belief and creativity.

The Fringe

Everyone has been telling me how big this Fringe project was and praising me for making it happen. It was only Saturday afternoon, and even more on Sunday Morning that I really began to see the enormity.

I now feel like the weight of the last year (maybe 4) has been lifted off my shoulders. All that repression, disappointment of the past 12 months is in the past. I’ve achieved what seemed impossible despite the weights pinning me down. These weights have been lifted now and I feel like I can fly. Those that chose not to come on the journey don’t matter – I’m able to focus, leave that behind, move forward. I’m so grateful for the friendship and support of the Parky Players, and my friends and family.

I now look forward to sharing new, fun experiences, some will be with Parky Players and some will be… who knows……………..

J Shipton
Arts Council England

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