Spiralling Into the Unknown

by | Aug 30, 2018 | Compositions, Photography, Theatre

Ed Fringe 2018 – A collection of photos of Edinburgh & reflective bits of writing jotted down in stolen moments of quiet found in coffee shops, up hills, on trains in the midst of the craziness of the Fringe.

I wrote a lot whilst in Edinburgh, as a way to process my feelings and look back on the impact things were having on me, the special moments but also because I had moments of inspiration or where the words just seemed to fall on the page nicely. I also jotted down notes about each show I saw, workshops I did and about specific memories and things I learnt but this is more of a sharing of the slightly dreamy, reflective things I wrote which I thought I’d share alongside photos for a bit of a different insight into moments of the experience.


It’s 7.45am Tuesday 31st July and I’m getting on the first of three trains from my Yorkshire hometown to Edinburgh, a place that feels at this point like vast unknown territory in comparison to my hometown and the city of Sheffield which I live near and know well.

I feel a bit apprehensive, unsure what to expect as I embark on this month long ‘adventure’, my very first fringe and yet with the knowledge of previous successful adventures and the anecdotes of fringe loving friends ringing in my ears I feel somewhat hopeful and excited as I clamber with my heavy suitcase on and off trains.

I arrive in Edinburgh, a little disorientated and naturally get a bit lost on the way to my first stop, Summerhall, for a training day at Roundabout. Later I head to my accommodation and meet my flatmates for the next few weeks, the lovely York dramasoc. Wednesday is our first show day (I produced a show about living with OCD called can’t stop can’t stop). I have several stresses about flyers, running on time but outwardly keep it together and breathe a sigh of relief after it all goes well before spending the evening catching up with my friend Polly.

And so began my descent into the ‘Edinburgh Fringe bubble’, which for the next month I became absorbed in, this real but not quite normal life of the fringe. Looking back at that first day just a month ago is funny, because by the time I left I felt at home in the city. The fringe that I was once uncertain of had reached out and woven its tendrils round my heart.

2(ish?) weeks in, in the Pleasance Dome cafe between evening shows…

I sit, wrapped up in several layers and tucked into a booth, leant against the side of the wall

The not so gentle hum of the world going by surrounding me.

A street events music floods the cafe along with,

the sound of bustling Bristo Square with it’s flyerers,

people rushing from show to show and

flickers of tipsy laughter can be heard from the outdoor bars,

the occasional whoop thrown in there for good measure.

The city in motion, its sounds spinning and swirling around me, its lights glowing as darkness settles.

I wear my glasses, observe the view, seeing the space in focus,

neat shapes, details, a multitude of colours and expressions to process.

I take them off and let the space melt as things shift and the landscape blurs,

An oil painting, alive but just slightly out of reach,

as I watch it from my cosy spot

just in the warmth of this coffee shop


A random day, hiding in a coffee shop as the rain poured outside after getting very soggy flyering

My sock is wet after I stepped in a puddle,

So I steal a few precious moments in a Costa near Princes Street for a cup of tea

Hoping that I’ll feel less soggy soon.

I have a nice conversation with an older woman who I sit next to in the busy cafe,

She asks me what I’ve been doing in Edinburgh,

Then she tells me about the travelling she’s been doing since she became widowed

And when she leaves I can’t help but smile.

I check my phone to a message from a flyering friend and the promise of flyering alongside each other next year hangs in the air in the typed farewells.

I feel kind of hidden away and anonymous in this busy room, a bit above street level where I know I’ll bump into no one I know.

Yet, unexpectedly, the opportunity for friendly exchanges and connections is still there,

It makes me love this city even more.


Wed 22nd Aug – After seeing Even Hotter (and seeing several other empowering feminist pieces of theatre over the last week e.g. Dressed by This Egg and Its True, Its True, Its True by Breach Theatre)

Dancing on a stage, I feel dazed and dazzled, giddy, giggly, shaky but sensational. Connected and part of a community in this theatre space, liberated, loving myself, my body and those around me. I feel keen to text my friends to tell them how beautiful they are, I turn to Polly and tell her this too.

I see a performer onstage telling me how she doesn’t always feel comfortable in her own body and I think how can she think that? I think about the times that I am not so kind to myself, but they leave me with the message that we are all worthy and should celebrate who we are. I think that should remember this feeling, of accepting and loving myself. I also feel warm reflecting on the gorgeous friends in my life, the things they add to it and the warm happy memories I’ve had so far this month. From picnics at sunset up Arthurs seat, eating crepes and laughing in George square, nights out, catching up or making new friends. I reflect on this as I glide home in high spirits and the streets of Edinburgh blur away as I continue chatting to Polly on the phone.

I see It’s True, wincing and shaking as she pulls her hands from a bucket of gold glittering ‘blood’ which becomes the focal point of all our attentions, a metaphor for the pain and ill treatment of women. It hurts to see that and tears prick in my eyes, its hurts to see how wrong this is and to think that whilst times have somewhat moved on, there’s still things I recognise and feel relevant for today. By the time I leave though I feel I have learnt something, I feel educated and empowered, happy that people are making theatre like this.

I breathe deeply trying to hold back tears in dressed.  I respect their honesty and the beautiful moments of female friendships and support. I feel thankful to them for sharing their insecurities and fear, but also for giving some hope in showing resilience and the ability to rebuild.  Strangely, it was everything I needed to hear but didn’t know I did and I left understanding and feeling understood, but also not knowing what to do with myself for a little while, processing all these emotions. Several images stick in my mind, which I hope I never forget, the final image that I connect to most is where one of the performers begins dancing, a new sense of feeling relaxed and comfortable is there in the way she moves and her smile, it reminds me of how freeing and joyful I find dance to be.

And overall I feel happy with how these pieces make me feel, they all created safe spaces and I now feel proud of how empowered I feel and ready to challenge and believe in myself. And so I write a post on twitter about how work like this exemplifies that whether or not you think theatre can change the world, that at the very least it has the power to change individuals worlds and change the way they view themselves. Because theatre has had this effect on me and galvanises me to express my own views and talk about the things I feel passionate about.


27th Aug – Final show/full day, a morning walk up Arthur’s Seat

It’s my final day in Edinburgh, a city which now feels like home, a hub of creativity now intrinsically intertwined with my life.  I sit here, not quite at the top of Arthur’s seat as I discovered it was far too windy to write up there and like the city the wind is wrapping around me, through my hair and in my bones.

I look over the expanse of the city, admiring the details of the buildings fitting together in a jigsaw. I feel refreshed, free and seemingly in this moment of calm I can’t help but feel undeniably and simply me. I think about what me is, me once a little girl now undoubtedly an adult, sometimes anxious but often capable, passionate and creative. Then here in these minutes whilst cliched I feel kind of at one with nature, on the edge of a world of potential.

Edinburgh is now imprinted in my memory and in turn, my memories are scattered around the city; left in cafes, in theatre spaces, on street corners, up here; an art gallery of my memories throughout a city which is quickly becoming a significant part of my life. Although that does make it sound slightly pretentious it’s really just life and looking back like this makes me appreciate all that I’ve experienced and learnt so far, feel excited for the future. So in a silly way sitting here and is just another one of them beautiful life affirming moments.


28th Aug – 11:30 A bit into the journey back home

And I sit on my suitcase on the train home,
Letting Edinburgh roll off my shoulders,
Shrugging the Fringe off.
Watching trees, fields and buildings flurry past through the panes of the doors.
Perhaps that makes it sound more idyllic that it truly is but I lean against the side of the train,
tired though slightly warmed by the sweet sounds of songs from Electrolyte (one of my fav shows and the Maimuna Memon has some of her music on soundcloud)
and I leave the lovely Ed Fringe Bubble that I’ve been cocooned in for the last month.
And as that wrapping unfurls I know I’ll be back for many years to come,
but for now I guess this concludes my very first fringe
and what a great one its been.

Natalie Ann Hillman 2018
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