Edinburgh Fringe for All

 

Edinburgh Fringe Accessibility 

Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe  thrill is navigating its many shows and people to find hidden gems. However, if you are a visitor with additional needs this can be daunting. Imagine tackling Fleshmarket Close with a cane or deciphering a Princes Street poet via hearing aid.

Fringe Community Engagement and Access Manager Lyndsey McLean said: “The city of Edinburgh is one of the Fringe’s biggest assets, but it also presents one of its biggest challenges; its medieval and Georgian architecture creates an immediate physical barrier, which in many cases cannot be altered. Venues for the Festival Fringe often appear non-traditional theatre spaces, so we work to help venues, performers and audiences improve accessibility.”

Improving venue accessibility can mean anything from installing a wheelchair ramp, to offering autism friendly shows. With such a variety of considerations, Edinburgh Fringe has once again collaborated with specialists at Attitude is Everything to optimise its efforts.

McLean said: “This year we are piloting a Venue Access Award, developed in partnership with Attitude is Everything. This provides venue managers with minimum standard of accessibility guidelines and offers different levels of achievement. This year audiences should start to see venues displaying Venue Access Award certificates.”

The certificates are a natural progression of the projects that Edinburgh Fringe has been undertaking since its founding.

In 2011, Edinburgh Fringe introduced its access bookings team to provide a personal service for disabled audience members. Now the team continues to build its access information database, and has trained customer service staff to provide improved booking services for disabled audience members.

Alternatively, customers who want to complete bookings online can establish a show’s accessibility via the Edinburgh Festival Fringe website or app.

McLean explained: “Audience members can filter their show search by accessibility. This allows you to see which shows are in venues that have level entry, wheelchair space, disabled toilets, and so on.”

She added: “Alternatively, if you find a show you would like to see – either online or in the printed programme – you can look for the access icons next to each entry. If you need more information then you can get in touch with the access bookings team, who will be happy to help.”

The Fringe booking process has also become friendlier with the introduction of free personal assistant tickets, allowing carers or friends of disabled customers to attend shows with them at no added cost.

After making it easier for disabled customers to see its shows, Edinburgh Fringe sought to give them more reason to want to see its shows. To do this the Fringe became an Attitude Champion.

McLean explained: “Being an Attitude Champion means setting goals that range from committing to ensuring that Fringe Society organised events are accessible to everyone, to creating an environment that encourages deaf and disabled people to work and/or perform at the Fringe.”

2017 Fringe shows that focus on disabled issues include include: Tom Skelton: Blind Man’s Bluff  – a comedy in which Tom talks about his and many more blind lives; Blank Tiles – a show about life after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis; and Bella Freak: Unwritten – a comedy show on three disabled individuals’ stories. These are just a taste of the many accessible shows that Edinburgh Fringe has to offer, the rest can be found at the Fringe website.

McLean concluded: “The Fringe Society works to make sure that the Fringe is as accessible and inclusive as it can be.”

Glasgow Paranormal Investigations

 

GPI 

Exploring the unknown in Scotland is Glasgow Paranormal Investigations, one of the country’s oldest ghost hunting clubs. Founded in 2008, GPI investigates places like castles and military bases; as well as businesses and homes.

In fact, it was haunted house that led to the club’s formation.

Investigator Billy Binnie said: He said: “One night I was at home watching TV, with my back to the door, when my wife went upstairs for a shower. I heard her come back downstairs, open and then shut the door and go back upstairs. I didn’t think anything of it until she came back to watch TV.

“I asked her what she had forgotten and she was confused; she said that she hadn’t been down the stairs until right then. But I had felt and heard the door open and close. So if it wasn’t her then what was it?”

Intrigued by their experience, both Billy and Kim Binnie attended a ghost-hunting group, where they met paranormal investigators Lisa Maxwell and James Hume.

Binnie recalled: “After going to a few of these meetings we decided we could do much better ourselves; so we broke off and formed our own group, which became Glasgow Paranormal Investigations.”

Now the four work with ‘relief investigators’ to track paranormal activity.

Binnie said: “We can help people understand what is going on their houses; we can track the paranormal activity and attempt to communicate with spirits through our technology.”

The group does not however perform exorcisms.

Binnie explained: “For that you would need a priest or a really good medium.”

He added: “If people have genuine poltergeist activity then they should seek help, not attempt to tackle it themselves. Care should be taken when dealing with spirits.”

Despite this warning, Binnie perceives ghostly activity as a positive thing.

He said: “Belief in the paranormal has given me more hope in life after death. It makes me think that when people die it is not just the end; that they continue on in another plane of existence.

While firm in his belief, Binnie wants to find more evidence of ghosts.

He said: “Paranormal activity centres around personal experience, which can be hard to translate into solid evidence.

“For example when GPI went to Renfrew Baths, we heard a faint cry about four or five times in a row. Of the eight of us in the room, six of us heard it. No one in the room made the noise, but I am at a loss to say what did. I would say it was a spirit, but I can’t prove it beyond doubt because I didn’t have a camera on everyone.”

Video cameras are just some of the technology GPI use to track ghosts.

Binnie said: “We now use spirit boxes to scan radio frequencies and look for manipulation. This allows us to ask questions and hear answers in real time.”

As well as spirit boxes the club uses electromagnetic frequency (EMF) detectors, video and thermal imaging cameras.

Binnie said: “Thermal imaging cameras detect change in heat, so you can see hand and feet prints left by spirits. The cameras used to be thousands of pounds to buy, but now you can get ones that you plug into iPads and capture the thermal images through its screen.”

Evidence of the clubs’ findings can be seen on its website, but Binnie said this is no substitute for a live investigation.

He added: “Sometimes when you are just about to pack up the tracking technology goes crazy or you hear an unusual noise. Sometimes when you are chatting as a group the spirit can feed of your energy; or seek to get the energy directed back to them and let you know they are around.”

While exciting, Binnie said GPI work was hard.

He explained: “The club is not for everyone. There can be hours and hours of video footage and audio files to go back and examine after an investigation takes place.”

However, enthusiasts are always welcome to try the club.

Binnie concluded: “The best way to join GPI is to come along on our investigations and get to know us. We have very high standards/expectations from members. So at the moment it is a case of working alongside us as a relief investigator until everyone is happy.”

To join GPI gatherings enthusiasts can find the details on the group’s Facebook page.

 

ASMR

ASMR

Dr Craig Richard Ph.D.

 

 

Giving the world tingles is the new art form ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is an audio and visual phenomenon that has gained popularity through YouTube, where thousands of artists continue to post their relaxation videos.

 

What is ASMR

 

ASMR is a term coined in by cyber security professional Jennifer Allen, who in 2010 identified common sensations she and other Facebookers experienced. The sensations included tingles from the head to the body and mild euphoria, prompted by soothing, repetitive sounds and actions.

Although similar to hypnosis ASMR is so called because it doesn’t just relax its subjects, it provokes peaking waves of pleasure.

 

How does ASMR work

 

One man who has studied the phenomenon is Dr Craig Richard, Ph.D. in Physiology and Cell Biology and founder of the ASMR University (an online resource sharing centre).

While Dr Richard admits more research is needed to discover the cause of ASMR, he hypothesises that it mimics interpersonal bonding – such as that of a parent and child – and causes similar feelings of comfort.

He said: “ASMR and bonding behaviours share similar triggers like gentle touches and soft voices between individuals that trust each other, and also have similar responses like feeling comforted, feeling relaxed, and feeling secure. 

“Some of the basic biology of bonding is well established and this involves specific behaviours, which stimulate the release of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These bonding behaviours and molecules may provide a good explanation for most of the triggers and responses associated with ASMR.”

Dr Richard summarised that endorphins were likely to be the source of ASMR ‘tingles’; dopamine the source of ASMR’s moreish nature; oxytocin for the reduction of stress and serotonin for the elevation in mood incurred by ASMR.

 

Does ASMR work for everyone

 

Dr Richard suggested the key to understanding ASMR lay in ASMR insusceptibility and cited a 2016 study by Smith, Fredborga and Kornelsen.

He said: “This study demonstrated that people who experience ASMR may have different neuronal connections in their brains.”

The study compared the default mode network (daydreaming part of the brain) of 11 individuals with ASMR to that of 11 matched controls. The results indicated DMN of individuals with ASMR showed ‘significantly less functional connectivity’ than that of the controls, but also increased ‘blending of multiple resting-state networks’.

These network conditions seem to make some people genetically more likely to experience the phenomenon than others.

However, Dr Richard noted that even those who easily experienced ASMR could build a tolerance to its triggers (such as whispering) when faced with repeated exposure.

He said: “ASMR is probably mediated by neurotransmitters or neurohormones because tolerance is a typical response to repeated stimulation of a receptor.

“Receptors are very good at becoming less sensitive over time in response to the same stimulus, this is especially true for endorphin receptors. This is why people who repeatedly use morphine or oxycodone (which bind to endorphin receptors) need more drug to get the same response over time.”

Dr Richard said that if ASMR were confirmed to trigger endorphins it would explain ASMR tolerance.

 

Can ASMR help treat illness

 

Aside from recreation, fans have started to debate whether ASMR might also help lessen the experience of pain and illness.

Dr Richard said: “There are many anecdotal reports on the internet of people sharing how ASMR has been helpful for their insomnia, anxiety, and/or depression.”

He noted the 2015 publication about ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response: A flow-like Mental State – which suggested ASMR might be helpful to individuals suffering from depression or chronic pain.

The doctor explained: “This data set showed that watching ASMR videos boosted the mood of 80% of the participants, and those at high risk for depression had an even greater boost to their mood.”

However, Dr Richard was quick to explain that many more studies must be completed before any real conclusion could be met. He also cautioned that ASMR was no substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment.

He said: My biggest concern is that people may use ASMR to self-treat serious medical issues rather than seeking medical attention. I strongly recommend that individuals talk to a clinician if they think they are suffering from insomnia, depression, anxiety or other serious conditions – and to talk with the clinician about the potential use of ASMR for their condition.”

 

ASMR as Art

 

While its medical value remains unproven ASMR has been embraced – by many- as art. ASMR videos across YouTube feature everything from make-up tutorials, to car maintenance, massage, and role –play; with artists investing hundreds in 3D sound equipment to enrich the experience.

Dr Richard listed some of his favourite ASMR artists as WhispersRed, Tony Bomboni, Deep Ocean of Sounds, SoftlyGaloshes, SoftAnna, Heather Feather, GentleWhispering, JellyBean Green, SensorAdi, Dana ASMR and theASMRnerd.

Reflecting on the vast range of ASMR videos available, Dr Richard offered ASMR artists advice.

He said: “Artists should be genuine and not expect everyone to love the type of ASMR they create. ASMR is a personal and specific experience triggered by many different stimuli.”

To help gain further insight into ASMR, the doctor encouraged readers to go to the ASMR University and take part in its survey.

He concluded: The wider goal of the website is to help to encourage others to further spread the awareness of ASMR and/or to get involved with research to help understand it better.”

Summer Movies at Loch Lomond Shores

Summer Movies

 

Nothing says summer like open- air cinema and that’s what is coming to Loch Lomond shores this July 2 -3.

Organised by the events arm of alfresco caterers Firedog; the Summer Movies will show two days of free family-films, on the big screen.

Firedog Events partner Jonathan Stipanovsky explained: “We are going to have a 60m screen – one of the biggest in the UK – pulled down onto the beach. The top half of the beach will host a 18 by 6 meter bar tent, cornered off with white picket fencing, leading down to a deck chaired area by the screen.”

Launching at 10am Saturday with cartoons; Summer Movies will continue with Finding Nemo at noon, Jamanji at 2pm, Back to the Future at 5pm and Jurassic Park at7.30pm.

These box office classics were chosen so that families could enjoy the films without loosing the plot, should they stop for a break.

Stipanovsky said: “We choose films that were good action films that everyone has seen and loved. The idea is that people can arrive at any point of the film, sit with some food and drink and enjoy their favourite bits.”

Easy viewing continues on Sunday with another 10am cartoon start; followed by Toy Story at noon, The Goonies at 2.30pm, Dirty Dancing at 5pm and The Lost Boys at 8pm.

All of the showings are free to attend, but seating is likely to fill up fast.

Stipanovsky added: “We have deck chairs and picnic benches at the front of the cinema. It’s first-come- first- served on seating, but being at the beach people can bring their towels.”

As well as two seating areas, Firedog Events has organised food to compliment the films.

Stipanovsky said: “Firedog will be there – in our fire engine catering van – serving gourmet hotdogs, fries, nachos and Aberdeen Angus burgers. Joining us will be Bowl Food, offering a range of hot treats from a converted ambulance. Firebird will also be on hand, serving up stone-baked pizzas; as well as The Buffalo Truck, who will be cooking up fired chicken.”

To wash all this down the bar has a range of treats.

Stipanovsky listed: “The licensed area will have Jaw Brew and Estrella beer, Rekorderlig cider, Daffy’s Gin and a cocktail bar.”

The bar tent will be open from 12pm till late.

With trains every 15 minutes from Glasgow to Balloch, it’s the perfect excuse to leave the car at home. Or – for the designated drivers – the Charlie Mills coffee truck is open from 10am till 10pm.

Stipanovsky concluded: “It’s a free event with a stunning backdrop, massive screen, great films, beach bar and some of people’s favourite food. What’s not to love?”

Day of the Dead

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Honouring lives lost and risked for Mexican freedom of Expression is the Mitchell Library Day of the Dead event.

Hosted by The Scottish Writers’ Centre in partnership with Scottish PEN, the event will take place on November 2 -from 5.30pm- in the Glasgow Room.

The free, un-ticketed event will see readings both about the country and from its writers.

Host and writer Jean Rafferty explained: “We’re celebrating the Day of the Dead to honour ‘Absent Friends’ and commemorate the courage of writers, poets, and journalists living and working in Mexico; one of the most dangerous countries in the world for freedom of expression.”

Rafferty has organised the event as part of her role within Scottish PEN.

She explained: “PEN is an international writer’s organisation whose Scottish branch has been gathering for nearly 90 years.

“Scottish PEN supports freedom of expression in every form. For instance, I am chairman at the Writers at Risk society, which supports people who have been threatened for speaking out against their government.”

While the society has paid tribute to Mexican writers before; Rafferty explained that this event has particular significance.

She said: “This year’s Day of the Dead event will be particularly poignant, as we have Mexican writer Lydia Cacho as an honorary Scottish PEN member.”

Rafferty added: “As well as being a great writer, Lydia runs rescue centres for women that have suffered sexual and physical abuse. Lydia’s work will be read at the event.”

The event will also feature readings from Anabel Hernandez, whose novel Narcoland exposes Mexican drug cartel, an exposure which has seen threats on her life.

Rafferty said: “As well as established writers, we will also hear from Mexican student, Bernardo Otaola Valdes, who has written a very moving piece about his plan to go back home and study journalism. Studying journalism in a country like Mexico is dangerous; and shows that Bernardo fits the night’s theme of Courageous Writers”.

She added: “As well as Bernardo’s reading there will be a reading from a Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia’s work. Javier lost his son to the violence, and wishes to share his own final verses.”

Following this there will be an ‘open mic’ section of the night. Here writers can take the stand and respond to the theme: ‘Mexico or Courage in Speaking Out.’

Writers wishing to participate in the open mic section can contact Rafferty via email.

The organiser explained: “The open mic section has seen applications from various people, including Portuguese film writer; Carla Novi, who has made a documentary Desaparecidos, about the disappeared Mexican students.”

Rafferty concluded: “Scottish PEN not only cares about the writers whose lives are endangered in Mexico, but the people all over the country, whose experiences are expressed in the writing.

“Freedom of expression is a basic human right. It is important to support writers because they represent everyone’s struggle.”

Edinburgh International Film Festival

EIFF

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has cameras rolling and chins wagging with its 69th event.

Opening the festival VIPs – including Robert Carlyle and Ashley Jensen – graced the red carpet for Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson.

EIFF Recruitment Coordinator Katri Vanhatalo said: “This year’s festival has had a great UK presence, and it has welcomed so many icons of the screen that I feel star-struck!”

Yet the 2015 hype wasn’t all about celebrities, as Vanhatalo explained, it emanated from audience participation.

She said: “This year’s festival is different because it is headquartered at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema; allowing pass-holders and the public a place to share the excitement.”

This interactive spirit started with Film in the City, an EIFF programme of outdoor screenings, which overlap the main festival.

Vanhatalo said: “The screenings take place over two weekends, both of which show family films in a friendly atmosphere.

“On the first weekend there was a dance-a-long show that kept the crowd warm, even in high winds. The outdoor setting brought together film-lovers who wouldn’t otherwise meet.”

This interactivity continues in the festival’s new strand: Doc of the Day; a changing daily feature that explores EIFF non- fiction films, through activities.

Vanhatalo explained: “Doc of the Day will host events like sherry tastings and a rock gig, as well as traditional Q&A discussions.”

This non -fiction focus takes the EIFF back to its 1947 roots; when it was a documentary showcase, held by the Edinburgh Film Guild.

Now the EIFF enjoys the support of Creative Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, EventScotland, Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund and the British Film Institute.

EIFF prides itself in presenting both factual and fictional films from home and abroad.

Vanhatalo said: “Our programme is filled with films from 44 different countries. Some highlights from this year’s programme are the Mexican movie: 600 Miles from Mexico/USA, German film: Who Am I – No System Is Safe, Canadian/Kiwi horror: Turbo Kid, and the Chinese/American film: The Iron Ministry.”

She added: “We have 34 films in our programme with a Scottish connection.

“The Best of British strand shows new films from Scotland, England and Wales, including: Iona, The Pyramid Texts, The Violators, 45 Years and The Marriage of Reason & Squalor.”

These and many more films will compete in the EIFF Awards Ceremony; in Filmhouse 1, on June 26 (1pm). This event is open to the public and free.

Vanhatalo said: “EIFF has a mixture of free events, special events and events attached to film tickets. We also have special discounts, on multi- film purchases, via the EIFF brochure.”

She concluded: “EIFF has something for all ages. It has the Film Fest Junior strand and Inside Out UK premiere for families; The Young and The Wild strand for 15-19 year- olds; and films of an adult nature for others.”

For information on EIFF 2015 or on joining next year’s – 70th anniversary – celebrations visit the festival website.