AL Kennedy: Bananas, baboons and a festival of fun

Edinburgh Notebook: You'll meet at least one person you thought was dead

The Edinburgh Festival is not Edinburgh. Edinburgh is always there – it's the opposite of Glasgow, it has scruffy bits it hides down the back of the sofa and an exotic dancing club named after two body snatchers who specialised in murdering ladies of a relaxed social demeanour. It has a New Town, which is old, and an Old Town which is older and built on top of even older bits. It is Jekyll and Hyde.

The Festival only exists in August – it is Penn and Teller, it is Salt and Sauce, it is Wilson, Keppel and Betty. It is full of people you only see in August.

Afternoons will run like a sci-fi reworking of This Is Your Life. You'll meet at least one person you thought was dead. And as someone who generally only meets people I made up earlier it's a joy to – say – sit in The Stand's green room (which is, in fact, leopard print) and discuss hypnotherapy with a German Madonna impersonator.

Above all, the festival is, for a performer, about Your Venue – Your Venue is your happy place. It is where you have conversations about temporary deafness, caffeine levels and the optimum banana consumption for a bouncy show. This year I am in the lovely Assembly Rooms.

We of the Drawing Room dressing room have already developed a rudimentary civilisation based around ironing, audience analysis, and all the sighing, coughing, grumbling and humming noises that people who are about to talk for an hour tend to produce. I suspect we already sound like a distant colony of judgemental baboons.

Outside it may rain, food doesn't have performer discount, things are far away and may bewilder us – stuffed full as we are with words we have to remember and that amazing, utter tiredness we forgot about when we agreed to do it all again this year. "So that's my left leg that's on fire...? Sorry, which leg ? Right... Your left or my left ...? And what is it ? Oh, yes... on fire. Is that a bad thing ?" But inside it is happy.

No laughing matter

If you want to get people into your Edinburgh Festival show you are traditionally expected to have your big, silly mug photographed and then inserted into newspapers or plastered over perfectly entertaining graffiti, or stains about the town. This means you'll end up out in Edinburgh's jovial streets, looking like you do (someone who has received unsuccessful reconstructive surgery from voles) and yet being photographed as if you were somebody.

This process was aided yesterday by the kind lady who passed, took one look at the snapper and myself and collapsed into fits of helplessly pointing mirth. I was torn between humiliation and a desire to charge her for our entertainment value.



Words with A.L Kennedy is at the Assembly Rooms, George Street (£16.50), daily apart from 17 and 24 August. Her latest book is What Becomes.

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