Cunning stunts: Edinburgh Festival's greatest PR moments

Edinburgh old-timer Mark Borkowski pays tribute to one of the festival's finest art forms: the publicists' tricks that propel certain performers centre stage

Sunday 09 August 2009 00:00
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This is the year to celebrate the festival stunt – the quick and naughty publicist's plaything, constructed to achieve mass media attention. Publicity stunts have always been a vital ingredient of the Edinburgh Festival mayhem. They bring a creative flourish and give the shows life outside the rarefied Scottish climate.

Some have suggested the stunt is an endangered species, but I believe it is an art form as relevant as any performance on view in August, so I have set up a Twithibition to celebrate great stunts of the past. Each one has been captured in poster form by the design god David Hillman, based around photographs by Geraint Lewis and located at the home of the original stunt.

Edinburgh is big (show)business now and, as a consequence, is a tougher place for publicists to manoeuvre in – especially since the deaths of right-wing zealots such as Mary Whitehouse and Councillor Moira Knox, who were always ready with a storm of objections to filth at the festival. Even J D Kidd, an Edinburgh councillor who could be relied on to denounce bestiality, nudity and all the other things that guarantee ink, has died.

"Edinburgh has got a bit serious about comedy," John Fleming of the Malcolm Hardee Awards suggested recently. He is attempting to put some of the anarchy back into the Fringe with the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award, given for the best fringe publicity stunt of the year and the Twithibition has a similar aim. Putting it up on Twitter allows it to be completely egalitarian – by using the hash tag #twithibition, anyone can commemorate great stunts of the past or show off ones they've managed to pull off at the festival this year. Let the audacity and mayhem begin!

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