everything else is just noise summer

everything else is just noise

DaMarcus Beasley

Diamond geezer
The international footballer on his jewellery line, Twitter and the World Cup

Smart but casual
Clothing etiquette for dummies

Dogs dinner

David Ramsden’s recipe for restaurant success

Funny money

Comedy as a career: why it’s no laughing matter

style4travel4food and drink4culture4play4careers
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everything else is just
Intercepting the independent Edinburgh magazine market with a fresh offering of up-close and intimate interviews, capital conversations, style, travel, and cultural musings – buzz talks to the City’s twenty-somethings. Say hello to your new seasonal pick-me-up.
Editors Gráinne Byrne, Nick Eardley Deputy editors Shane de Barra, Anna Fenton, David Henderson Production editors Clare Charles Roderick McHardy Lindsay Sharp Design editors Katrin Adam Gráinne Devine Features editors Julia Bruce, Emma Cameron, Matthew Nelson, Kaye Nicolson Sub editors Miriam Armstrong, Lain Chan, Heather Donald, Rebecca Gordon, Stephanie McCormick, Matthew Smith Staff writers Catherine Henderson, Amy Sutherland, Wendy Wan Online editors Ross Haig, Ganesh Nagarajan, Una Purdie, Luke Rajczuk PA Laurann de Verteuil Sales manager Tracy Norris Advertising and distribution Fiona Burns, Edwin Mashongayika, Patricia Pereira, Neil Stewart, Niketa Smith With thanks to Kathleen Morgan, Derek Allan, David McCluskey Picture editor Lindsay Brown


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buzz summer 2010 |



Golden game – DaMarcus Beasley Comedy queen – Karen Koren Ethical travel A new life – Olivia Giles Fertility time bomb 10 16 20 24 28

The art of ‘biz cas’ Sneaks ‘n’ peeps 32 35

City focus Scottish hostel chic 36 38

food and drink
Top dog – David Ramsden Shaken or stirred? Cupcake heaven 40 44 45

Roxy house rules – Rupert Thomson Isle of Lewis filmmaking – Mike Day On the road – Pat Coll Scottish gems 46 48 50 52



DaMarcus Beasley talks football and jewellery
Gender-bending fitness Olympic obstacles – Eilidh Childs 54 56


Comedy Careers Green Industries Networking 58 61 62


buzz magazine is produced by MA Journalism and MSc Publishing students from the School of Arts and Creative Industries, Edinburgh Napier University. The views and opinions in this publication are not necessarily those of the School of Arts and Creative Industries, Edinburgh Napier University.

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Printed by: Woods of Perth Ltd

30/03/2010 15:13

Status updates

Check my

We bring you some of the best in online statuses

Bill Bailey’s house is on fire. He has 30 seconds to save his most treasured possession. What would the comedian have at the top of his list

Today is the best Tuesday I’ve had all week
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I drink Diet Coke so i can eat regular cake
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30/03/2010 15:13


When you post something on facebook and you have to click “Read more” to read your post, that means you talk too much
Comment Like

I accidentally said “LOL” today. I think I deserve to be shot
Comment Like

I used to update my status everyday, but now I only do it once a week and I don’t know whether to feel good or stupid about it
Comment Like

People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs
Comment Like

At the cinema, which arm rest is your’s?
Comment Like

Although it contravenes all safety regulations, assuming you’ve got all the living things – the wife and the child, the dogs, birds, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chameleons and fish – I’d probably save a photograph of my wife and I on our wedding day. It was taken on an island in Indonesia, in those thin and distant days before digital cameras and I only have one or two copies of it.
Check out Bill Bailey’s Bird Watching Bonanza Thursdays at 9pm on Sky1 | Image: courtesy of Sky

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the best local…


The British are renowned for being tea lovers, so where can you find the best cuppa in Edinburgh?
Above left: a quirky old fashioned treat, hidden charm Anteaques Above centre: heavenly funky and tea cosy cute all at the same time Loopy Lorna’s Above right: city slickers can enjoy a central cup of chai in Eteaket
Images: Katrin Adam

Below right: afternoon tea cakes and sandwiches at the Balmoral hotel
Image: Balmoral Hotel Edinburgh

Unique Neighbourhood Treasure Anteaques, 17 Clerk Street 0131 667 8466 Owner Cedric Maynard serves tea amidst an array of antiques of all ages, but it’s by no means just a small side income. Upon request he can tell you the secret of every single tea on the extensive menu and his attentive and friendly personality is part of the charm of Anteaques. The selection of scones and cakes is small but delicious, and served in a way your grandmother would be proud of. Tucked away in the back of this little shop you’re in a quiet haven away from the noise of Clerk Street, and if you like the mismatched old-fashioned cups, saucers and plates on your table you can buy them right there on the spot. It’s an odd concept but incredibly warm and welcoming. Home Blended Heaven Loopy Lorna’s Tea House, 370-372 Morningside Road 0131 447 9217 This cosy, bustling wee place offers a wide selection of tasty specially blended teas in lovely old fashioned china

teacups. There is so much attention to detail in the décor, with funky wallpaper mixed with clouds and butterflies painted on the ceiling. Everything is homemade from the huge array of delicious looking (and tasting) cakes to the individual tea cosies that range from knitted flowers to fluffy owls. The staff are friendly, helpful and really reflect the personal feel of Loopy Lorna’s. They are also happy to top up the teapots when you are running low, which is always a bonus. Cool City Chic Eteaket, 41A Frederick Street 0131 226 2982 Eteaket offers a fresh, modern feel and is the tea version of a coffee shop. It is bright and spacious but has a very social atmosphere. There is an extensive tea menu that is divided into essential, select and rare teas. It also offers a selection of flavoured teas with steamed milk to create long drinks. A nice touch is that when the tea arrives you are provided with a set of egg timers indicating how long the tea will take to brew with a timer each for light, medium and strong.

Best of the rest

If coffee is more your thing try one of these delightful caffeine temples
Old Town Charm The Bakehouse, 46 Victoria Street 0131 557 1157 The Bakehouse must be the café that epitomises Edinburgh. On the bend of Victoria Street you step into a tiny room barely the width of a doorway that is dominated by a bar full of the finest baked goods and a corkscrew staircase that would happily feature in a childhood fairy tale. Carrying your order upstairs to a small room ‘decorated’ with bare stone and an ancient wooden floor, it is hard not to feel at home. The mood compliments the exquisite coffee and rich treats, making The Bakehouse a gem in the heart of the Old Town. Crowning Cake Glory Falko Konditorei and Feinbäckerei, 185 Bruntsfield Place 0131 656 0763, Falko is a bread heaven. The selection of German sourdoughs and pretzels is delicious and the coffee offers a solid selection between cappuccino and white coffee. But you have to try the cakes to understand why Falko is magnificent. The German tradition is an afternoon treat of coffee and cake, so rather than being a dessert and therefore dependent on a full meal, a piece of cake becomes a stand-alone meal. Dig into the famous Sacher torte or berry truffle cake, a simple piece of lemon tarte or some crumbly fruity number to see for yourself. Falko is not about the coffee, but about the experience. For that much needed sugar rush, a caffeine boost (the coffee is strong) and that little piece of expat German Lebensart, Falko is perfect. Clare Charles, Katrin Adam

If you want to treat your gran try afternoon tea at The Sheraton, Festival Square or The Balmoral, Princes Street. Both offer luxurious selections of cakes and sandwiches with a good classic cuppa. Or if you like a tea party with a kick try the Roseleaf on Sandport Place with their ‘Mad Hatter Tea Parties’ including Pot-tails (cocktails in teapots) or Kitsch on Bernard Street with their ‘Bubbly tea’ – afternoon tea with champagne substitute.

Way Out West

If you happen to be in Glasgow pop into relaxing Tchai-Ovna, Otago Lane for your choice of 80 different teas in pots of various shapes and sizes.

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buzz summer 2010 |


Secret passion


Wimbledon wannabe Colin Fleming fulfils a boyhood dream this summer

to watch

I appeared on Celebrity Mastermind recently and my specialist subject was Dallas

Image: supplied by Andrew Sinclair

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Image: Ace Magazine

John Higgins MBE, 36 from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, is the current Snooker World Champion and provisional world number one. I became hooked [on Dallas] after just two or three episodes, mainly because of Victoria Principal and the other beautiful women on the programme…not JR and Bobby! It’s just one of those things. Most evenings, when I was young, I played football with my friends until my mum called time at around about eight o’clock. On Wednesday nights at that time Dallas was on TV and I used to watch it whilst having my supper. I do get teased for my secret passion, I appeared on Celebrity Mastermind recently and my specialist subject was Dallas – I got a lot of text messages after that and I’m sure I’ll get more after this! I’m often asked ‘Who shot JR?’ and the answer is Kristin Shepard, his sister-in-law; he was shot a few times, but Kristin, played by Mary Crosby, was revealed in an episode called Who Done It. David Henderson

As the days grow longer, and the skirts shorter, we can almost sense the sweet summer tang of strawberries and cream in anticipation of Britain’s greatest sporting tradition. Wimbledon’s tennis tournament is not only famous for its courtside refreshments and daring fashion endeavours – this year sees the return of one of Scotland’s greatest tennis successes, Andy Murray, and it is inspiring to hear that another Scottish star in the making will be hoping for glory. In November 2008 Colin Fleming, aged 26, teamed up with doubles partner Ken Skupski, and after progressing through the levels of professional tournaments, the triumphant partnership took two ATP titles at the end of last year. “I’ve been interested in tennis for as long as I can remember” says Fleming. “When I was young I played for the enjoyment and always wanted to improve, and it was only when I reached 18 or 19, at Stirling University, that I started to look into playing professionally.” Now a first-class graduate, Fleming has seen his lifestyle change dramatically, in a short time. “My career has been split in two with playing professionally for two years before returning to university and starting to play professionally again.” Even as a full-time student, dedication

to the game did not waver. “At university I was still training a lot towards my tennis both on and off court but now I don’t have the additional studying on top so I can really give my tennis everything I’ve got.” Each year Fleming gains more insight and experience into the game that he loves, and although his professional tennis career may have been put on pause for a couple years, it is not a decision that he regrets. “I’m very proud to have my degree to fall back on and feel it has helped me mature mentally and keep things in perspective in what is at times a surreal life” he says. “I wish I had the maturity and outlook I have now in my first two years of playing professionally but am glad to have it now and feel like I’ve got a lot of good years ahead of me!” The honour and excitement that comes with playing at Wimbledon is clear to Fleming. With grass his preferred terrain, he is looking forward to the tournament more than ever. “All four of the Grand Slams are special tournaments and Wimbledon is the most special of all. You can really feel the tradition and history that comes with the tournament and it’s particularly special to play there as a Brit and have the crowd behind you. “I can’t wait for Wimbledon every year!” Julia Bruce

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interview damarcus beasley features feature


bling King
He designs his own jewellery range and shares a dressing room with Scottish football’s finest. What more could DaMarcus Beasley possibly want? How about the World Cup?

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interview damarcus beasley



lesson in style: “I love the Miami ring: it’s funky, it’s a little bit urban. I hope people get into black diamonds more. The Diva ring is my favourite women’s piece: it’s classy, goes with night attire and works during the day.” DaMarcus Beasley utters these words as if describing one of his moments of artistry in the beautiful game; with the ball at his feet, the little winger is an artist. This is no dressing room banter, though. He means business. The USA international and Rangers FC player is fashioning an accessory career as a jewellery designer and has his own collection of diamond encrusted designer fashion. It makes a change from the familiar pub-owning footballer cliché. A hell of a change. “I always had a knack for jewellery,” he explains. “When I was young and got my first contract as a professional, I went out and bought a necklace – a gold one. I’ve always been into it and what could be better than having my own collection?” Beasley is famous in the blood-andthunder world of the Scottish Premier League, where a diamond is the shape of a midfield formation. Beas, as he likes to be called, laughs when asked if he is football’s king of bling, “I wouldn’t go that far but the name has a nice ring to it. I’m doing something I enjoy and it takes my mind off football.” Beasley looks at home in the showroom of The Diamond Studio in Glasgow’s Argyll Arcade. The arcade was Scotland’s first shopping mall, built in 1827 to sell diamonds to the wealthy merchants of the Empire’s second city. Outside, the mono-blocked pedestrian precinct of Buchanan Street is home to the major fashion labels – The DaMarcus Collection has joined the high street elite. In a city that likes footballers to be as hard as Beasley’s diamonds, few would believe a “fitba” player would consider this sideline. “This is completely different – clean cut,” Beasley acknowledges with a glint in his eye or maybe the twinkle comes from his gleaming diamond earring. “I didn’t go to college, I turned pro straight out of high school, so I’ve no background in it. I guess I’m just a creative person. I know what I like and I have a good idea what people will buy.” You wonder what Scottish football

legends like Bill Shankly, Jock Stein or Sir Matt Busby would make of Beasley’s passion. Not a bloody lot. The closest they got to diamonds was the coal they all mined in the collieries of Lanarkshire or Ayrshire. It’s a different world. Football has certainly changed. Beasley was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1982. His elder brother Jamar was a teammate at Chicago Fire but since then Beasley has been globetrotting solo. Proudly independent, he happily spends time in another area not associated with footballers – the kitchen. “I’ve lived on my own since I was 17 and I’ve become a good cook,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “People may be surprised to hear that I can do that but I cook almost every day and I’m taking classes in Glasgow to get better. I’m like chef Beasley.” Like most American sports stars, Beasley is media savvy. Many Scottish footballers give journalists short shrift; he is unusually accommodating, sharing his thoughts on Twitter. For most of his teammates, social networking means a pint with the lads after training; Beasley has embraced the media phenomenon, giving followers daily updates. “It’s a fun thing,” he says. “People like to know what you are doing, what you’re up to. At first I was against it but you get into it and you find yourself itching to find out what people are saying about their daily lives and how they are doing… I’m following a couple of celebrities and a couple of friends. Right now I’m mostly following singers like Bow Wow, P Diddy, Ashton Kutcher and Ochocinco [Chad Javon], a wide receiver for Cincinnati. I guess some people are interested in reading what I’m doing.”

Above: beadle’s about – Rangers’ DaMarcus Beasley enjoys some old firm banter with the ceremonial beadles in Glasgow’s jewellery quarter
Image: Yoshi Kametani

I’ve always had a knack for jewellery…what could be better than having my own collection?

Tweet dreams are made of this for fans and journalists – but not for Rangers’ veteran manager, Walter Smith. Beasley’s boss at the Glasgow club is old school and prefers to keep the media at arm’s length. The thought of players spouting opinions on life and football deepens the lines around Smith’s already furrowed brow. “I get a lot of stick for Twitter, sometimes from the gaffer,” admits Beasley. Smith took a dim view of the time Beasley posted an uncomplimentary joke about Rangers’ bitter rivals, Celtic. “I didn’t know what it meant,” says the footballer in his defence. “I re-tweeted from someone else who’d sent it to me. I got a lot of stick for that in the papers and I wasn’t happy about that.” When Beasley’s car was petrol bombed outside his home in the west end of Glasgow, it made big news on

both sides of the Atlantic. It raised safety concerns but he reassured fans with a Tweet: “Someone blew up my car today. Thanks again for ALL the messages and kind words. But, yeah, I’m doing ok and in the market for a new car! LOL.” Rangers told Beasley not to discuss the fire attack and he won’t disobey orders. If the incident unsettled him, he hides it well. The boy from Indiana seems at home on the mean streets of Glasgow, which proved inhospitable for other high-profile footballers, including ex-Celtic player Neil Lennon. Beasley’s Rangers and US teammate, Maurice Edu – also African American – claimed on Twitter he was the victim of racism when leaving Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium last year. Edu tweeted: “Not sure what hurt more: result last night or being racially abused by [a] couple of our own fans.”

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buzz summer 2010 |

interview damarcus beasley


Beasley says he hasn’t experienced racism in Scotland but endured chanting from rival fans during a European in Montenegro. “Not bad” is his description of life for an African American in Glasgow. “I have had no racial differences in Scotland. It was unlucky that Mo had something after a game – it could have been a Rangers supporter, it may not have been. It’s a shame that can still happen in football. “There aren’t a lot of African Americans in this country but at the same time I feel comfortable. I’ve made a lot of friends and the Scottish people have made me feel very welcome from the beginning, although I couldn’t understand most of

Winning football’s crown jewels is generally viewed as being beyond a nation that calls football “soccer”. Beasley has an American dream. “I was a kid growing up when we got our league, the MLS. I was 14 at the time it was founded and I remember that the talk back then [in 1996] was about 2010 being America’s year to win the World Cup… our projected year to peak.” His eyes sparkle at the suggestion. Beasley appreciates the media value of participating in the world’s most watched sports event. When America plays England, Beasley hopes the global audience will boost his – and his collection’s – profile. 

32 nations travel; only one will leave South Africa with football’s greatest prize  The hosts kick-off the 19th World Cup finals against Mexico (June 11), the final is one month and 60 games later  Bookmakers favourites: Brazil and Spain (joint favourites)  Beasley’s pick: Spain  “There are so many great nations that can win the World Cup but I really like Spain and their type of football and I think they’ll go in with confidence being reigning European Champions.”  Beasley’s World Cup Diary  June 12 v England: Rustenburg – Group C favourites  June 18 v Slovenia: Johannesburg – the former Yugoslav Republic beat Russia in play-off  June 23 v Algeria: Tshwane/Pretoria – Beasley faces Rangers teammate Madjid Bougherra  Beasley on England: “You are playing against some of the best players in the world that you normally only see on TV. I was lucky because I played against a lot of them when I was at Manchester City. That’ll be the most watched game because it’s England. Everybody around the world knows their players.”  Beasley on Algeria: “I had a feeling we’d get drawn together. Madjid Bougherra is a good friend of mine at Rangers and we speak about it every day.”

World Cup gems

The talk was of 2010 being America’s year
them and I still have a hard time doing that. Scotland is a place I’ll always come back and visit.” If DaMarcus Beasley leaves Scotland, it’ll be for football reasons; he may not get a new contract because Lloyds Bank is pressurising Rangers executives to reduce debt levels; the size of the playing squad is likely to shrink along with the budget. Beasley, in typically American style, sees opportunity in the uncertainty. “It’s a huge summer for me,” he says. “I may stay and I may move on. I have a lot of ‘ifs’ at the moment but good ‘ifs’ if I stay fit.” His fitness, or lack of it, could influence Rangers’ decision. Beasley has suffered a sequence of injuries including a serious knee ligament tear on a frozen pitch in Stuttgart, while playing in the Champions League. This summer, though, he has a global stage to showcase his skills. Beasley will go for gold in the World Cup in South Africa. “I’m pushing to get there for myself,” says the player, who has already played in two finals. “It also would be great for the jewellery business. We launched in Glasgow and my biggest goal is to crack America. My marketing team are working overtime, talking to different stores and events to get it out there and go for a big push in summer. I’m really confident and excited about the opportunity for my collection.”

Opposite page: diamond geezer – Beasley with his collection
Image: Yoshi Kametani

Far right: the leftfielder in action
Image: Glasgow Rangers

“It’s big – not as big as the John Terrys or Ashley Coles of England, but we have a really strong fan base and people in the States now love soccer,” he says. “Kids all know me and other internationals like Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu – guys who’ve been around for a while – and I hope that profile will tie in with the jewellery.” Beasley insists his business is not reliant on on-field results to be a winner: “I want the jewellery to stand out on its own without the help of the football element. I want people to walk into a store and say ‘that’s a nice piece of jewellery’, even though they don’t know me.” He is the first footballer with a jewellery collection – this diamond geezer has got one up on the marketing phenomenon that is England’s icon, a certain Goldenballs. Beasley examines a silver pendant using a jewellers’ magnifying glass, “This is called ‘Rising Star’ – I like the ladieswear in the collection.” He glances at his designer watch (diamond encrusted, naturally) and announces, “Hey, boss, I gotta go,” adding with a smirk, “I’m judging a modelling competition.” He strides through the arcade, his style and celebrity turning heads, pausing to tease the mall’s footmen, Tam and Wullie, about their top hats and how their team, Celtic, is behind Rangers. Back to the real world for DaMarcus Beasley. David Henderson

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interview karen koren


Laughter lines

From Bill Bailey to Dylan Moran, Karen Koren was behind some of British comedy’s greatest breakthroughs. So now she’s 60, what next?


’ve been in the office of Karen Koren for little more than two minutes before I hear her yell. “Sharon!” She is looking for her make-up. Not to impress me I’m disappointed to learn but to impress the people awaiting her in Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms later on in the evening when her Gilded Balloon Comedy Circuit rides into town. “Sharon!” she bellows again. It’s something she continues to do for the duration of our time together. Every time the master calls, the Sharon in question sets coolly and efficiently to the task she’s entrusted with – rooting out a photograph for yours truly on this occasion. The scene is reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne’s television antics but the constant summoning of Sharon is the only parallel with the ageing rock star’s life. I fidget with the pesky voice recorder I have brought to the interview – for some reason the blasted thing won’t work. “Just put it down,” Koren says slightly irritated. I do as I’m told and voila, by some gift of divine intervention it works. My host simply smiles. For 25 years Koren has been an institution in her native Edinburgh – a capital icon and cultural behemoth. Her influence on the comedy industry, not simply confined to the city or indeed to Scotland, has in that time spread throughout the UK and beyond. Koren is comedy and comedy Koren, woman and concept inextricably linked.

Her office overlooking Edinburgh’s Elm Row is a hall of fame in which she is the common dominator linking the inhabitants. Pictures of household names such as Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran, Jimmy Carr and Flight of the Conchords adorn almost every inch of white space. They are her former pupils, long since graduated but forever part of her exclusive alumni of comic genius. The Gilded Balloon which Koren founded in 1986 was where they found their calling. It provided a launch pad for their careers. The little remaining white space seems to await the next star student patiently. While many a comic wannabe sets out from a young age to make a successful living in the comedy industry, Koren came at it in a roundabout way. She didn’t know life would lead her down this particular path. Born in the Blackhall area of the city, she moved to London in her late teens to pursue a career in dance but returned home shortly after she fell pregnant, aged 19. “I was dancing, he [the father] was in a band – it was all very show-bizzy. All that finished once I had the baby. Then I worked in dental nursing, hairdressing, I was a scalp specialist for a while, went to college and did a secretarial course.” Looking at the woman it’s hard to imagine her arranging strands of housewives’ hair into individual curls then shoving them under a hairdryer for hours on end, before engrossing herself in an issue of Take a Break. It’s too staid, and Koren and staid don’t mix.

Koren was and remains glamorous. She shows me pictures of herself as a young 20-something and heck was she a beauty. Tall, blonde, good skin and born to Norwegian parents, she lived up to the Scandinavian stereotype of good looks. Coupled with a vibrant persona she finds difficult to contain, she was never going to follow a generic career path. Working as a personal assistant in the Norwegian Consulate General brought some stability for a time but it had its limitations, certainly when it came to creativity. “I think I had to start working for myself, it was the only way to go” she says. “There was no creativity at all and there was nobody doing comedy at all in Scotland when I started apart from maybe Billy Connolly.” Before long an opportunity presented itself and Koren sailed carefully into uncharted waters which in retrospect was a fairly simple transition. “I had friends in London who were in drama college and who got into the alternative comedy scene down there which started in a strip club in Soho. We all went on a day trip one Easter Sunday in the early eighties and got very very drunk and they told me I had to open a place in Edinburgh for them to perform – so I did.” As she describes those tentative early years in the business the names she drops quickly raise an eyebrow. “Mike Myers? As in Wayne’s World?” I stammer awkwardly. “Yes, yes,” she responds sharply, taken

aback by my surprise. “But I didn’t know he was Scottish.” “No, but he studied in Glasgow and did a festival with us, lovely guy. Yes he was very nice,” she says with a girlish grin. I move on. By 1988 Koren had taken over at the helm of the Gilded Balloon. From her base in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh she recruited the best talent she could muster, eager to make a success of it, and her venue. My mistake is to refer to the success of the Gilded Balloon in the past tense: “What was the main success of it?” I ask. “What was the success?” she barks, “We’re still going you know!” I retreat, squirming uncomfortably in my seat – she laughs, probably picking up that I’m yet to recover from my voice recorder induced trauma at the start of the interview. She introduced Late ‘n’ Live, a 1-5 am comedy show that still runs for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Popular with the public and comedians alike, it was the foundation of her success. “The main thing that gave us [Gilded Balloon] our reputation was Late ‘n’ Live. It was loud and quite dangerous with a lot of great comperes over the years; people from Frank Skinner to Mark Lamarr, everybody in the business has done it at some point. It gave us our reputation, you would see comedy you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Comics came to watch and heckle other comics, it was their kind of venue.”

Opposite page: in the spotlight – Koren dreams a dream at the Gilded Balloon
Image: Steve Ullathorne

Above left: Teviot Row House, the Gilded Balloon’s current Fringe venue
Image: Gilded Balloon

Above right: beauty in black – an 18-year-old Koren contemplates what life will bring
Image: Karen Koren

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buzz summer 2010 |

interview karen koren


From humble beginnings, the Koren effect was to snowball. She formed successful double-acts such as Mr Trellis and Phil Kay, and over a period of around 17 years, turned her venue into a viable enterprise. “For the first year our turnover was £27k, just a small studio with 11 shows a day and then we went up to 150 shows a day and a turnover of nearly £2 million during the festival.” Koren also underwent a massive transformation. From a single parent getting by, she grew into one of the most influential figures in British show business. She was proud of her achievements and had a right to be. The young woman who departed Edinburgh for the bright lights of London years earlier had ironically found the life she craved in the place she least expected to – home. While home was kind to her, it was also to be cruel. In December 2002 the fruits of her hard labour quite literally went up in flames as the worst fire in Edinburgh’s modern history swept through the Cowgate. Koren’s prized venue was decimated and unwanted media attention centred on her. “I was shoved in front of the media because it was the biggest fire in living memory in Edinburgh. Sky News and all these people were down on the street filming and I had to speak to just about every single news agency the day after the fire.” She looks into the distance for a moment with a melancholy smile, possibly reminiscing on times past with bitter sweetness. The cassette in the voice recorder needs flipped. It makes a shrill sound similar to a fire alarm. “Jesus we’re not burning again are we?” she exclaims amusingly. I make a balls of flipping the cassette. “What on earth have you done? Can’t you manage? We need to get this fixed – Sharon?”

I am just an insecure wee girl. But I like people and comedy

Problem solved. Losing a lifetime’s work may be enough to break the spirit of a lesser person but Koren has never been prone to surrendering in the face of adversity. It was a case of starting over – new risks, new overheads, new bloody venue. In July 2002 she launched the Gilded Balloon Two in Teviot, one of Edinburgh University’s Unions. They had always wanted her to move in so the partnership was mutually beneficial, but starting over again was a huge risk. Is Karen Koren still on a quest to uncover the holy grails of comic talent or has she always been just a risk junkie seeking a fix? “Well if I told you the truth you’d go, ‘Oh, that’s a load of bull.’” “Try me,” I reply, coaxing her to elaborate. At the age of 11 she lost her father and had to adjust to a testing way of life. Her mother, then aged 34, was pregnant and relied heavily on her young daughter. Koren became the shepherd of the flock. It moulded her outlook on life. Known across the industry as something of a mother figure to her prospective stars, nurturing the person as well as the talent, early life had shaped her. “I’m a single parent,” she explains. “I’ve always been on my own. My father died in a car accident when I was 11 and from that day on everything changed and I had to go by myself. I found that out the hard way and I think that’s what it’s all about. “I’m comforted by risk. It’s really really wrong especially at my age, because I really don’t want it any more but my whole life has been a risk. I managed to get my son into a fee-paying school and got them [the school] to pay the fees, that’s what I’m like. It’s all been a challenge all the time so actually it’s not been money that worries me all that much – except once or twice a year when I’m worried about how we’re going to survive – but it’s all relative and living life on a knife-edge is how it’s always been.” It’s difficult not to warm to a person so honest. Sure she can be abrasive, but she has a maternal and caring instinct that belies her tough exterior. She is also wonderfully childlike in her excitement and enthusiasm for life, reaffirmed since celebrating her 60th birthday recently. She may have learnt

harsh lessons in life but she is still the little girl who never grew up. She has no intention of retiring soon – the very thought of it repulses her. Using the oldest cliché in the showbiz notebook, she insists the show will go on. “I care about comedy and I care about the talent. I won’t be wrapping anything up. What I will be doing is making sure that the business is alive and well and I have good people around me.” She wants to explore pastures new. She’s been doing it all her life – it wouldn’t make sense for her to stop now. But what is left for her to do in the comedy game? “Oh, there are loads of things,” she exclaims wide-eyed with childish glee. “I have to do some television. I’d like to produce something myself and I think I have a good eye. Artistically I could do something, but I don’t know what – although I am working with a TV company at the moment and put in some ideas.” Watched over by numerous

famous faces on the wall, she seems somewhat prepared for the next question: “So are you going to be seeing any of your old friends while working on this television project of yours?” “Maybe, watch this space as they say.” She refuses to elaborate but her body language suggests she will be. Sharon is looking agitated: Koren is going to be late for her engagement at the Voodoo Rooms, a nearby club. Time to wrap up but not before one last question: “What’s it like being an Edinburgh and indeed Scottish cultural icon?” “Ha, that’s absolute nonsense,” she declares with the loudest laugh of the evening. Many believe the contrary. “Well that’s lovely, but God almighty, I mean I’m just an insecure wee girl. But I like people and I like comedy. I’m not gone on the finance side of things but I’m also too good at picking on my own faults so actually, yeah you’re right, I’m a cultural icon.” Koren scampers off with Sharon intent on enhancing that status.
Shane de Barra

Above: you sexy thing – Koren joins the Chippendales onstage at the Gilded Balloon
Image: Steve Ullathorne

buzz mag prf15.indd 18-19

30/03/2010 15:13


buzz summer 2010

report voluntourism



t’s harder than you think, hammering a nail into a wooden board. I didn’t expect it to be so difficult – I thought it was one of those rudimentary tasks like spreading butter or opening a door. But it takes a modicum of skill and a reasonable level of hand eye coordination; I have neither. And it’s harder still when the inhabitants of a Cambodian village have gathered to watch and laugh at your incompetence. In high school the spice rack I assembled in craft and design class looked like a victim of Cubism. I can barely assemble flat pack furniture and have no practical skills to speak of. Casting these obvious limitations aside, a growing number of people like me have chosen to take a less conventional holiday and volunteer in the developing world. This type of travel is known as “voluntourism” and it’s something that Britain’s post Live Aid society has embraced. On the surface it would seem that this trend is beneficial to all parties. But as I shift sand, saw wood and massacre nail heads in the Cambodian heat I find myself wondering what I’m giving and who is really gaining from it. There is a peculiar silence in the Cambodian jungle, no tangible noise, just a primal hum that reverberates inside your skull. But it’s a silence that is routinely punctured. Feral blasts of bad dance music are piped from distant boom boxes. A foul mouthed lizard sporadically squawks something that sounds like it could be profane. Trees shake, mangoes drop. And there is also the input and appraisals of the locals we are trying to build a house for. I’m hunched over a nail head making occasional contact with my hammer, sweating profusely. The nail is getting increasingly warped and mangled and with every misplaced stroke the chances of it ever being firmly embedded in wood are diminishing. A local builder crouches next to me, smiles and in a departure from his usual garbled, murky English says something crystalline in meaning: “Matt no good.” He’s right of course. I wield a hammer with the guile and composure of a sexually aggravated chimp. What must these people think? There are three of us; tall, skinny, pale men from a land of skyscrapers and suspension bridges who couldn’t even rustle up a wooden hut between them. The locals do all of the skilled

Is voluntourism

just humanitarian holidaying
Volunteering in developing countries is becoming the gap-year craze. Matthew Nelson tells his tale

30/03/2010 15:14

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report voluntourism


Opposite page top left: local children gathered to watch incompent Westerners Opposite page top right: the new home takes shape Opposite page bottom: leaving our mark Previous page: a sceptical village elder watches the progress of the building work
Images: Matthew Nelson

work: the heavy lifting, the intricate joinery, and they even peel the mangoes for us. We shovel sand, retreat to the shade, drink water and huddle there for fear of dehydration. They say that this is the developing world but I find myself wondering who looks more developed now. One of the most common criticisms of voluntourism is that it is developing a new form of colonialism. The Voluntary Services Overseas charity has warned that some schemes are “increasingly catering to the needs of volunteers, rather than the communities they claim to support.” I can see that when these projects pander to the egos of participants potentially exploitative relationships may evolve. But I’m the Man Friday of this bunch. I’m the one being enlightened: “So this is how you saw in a straight line…that’s how you count to five in Cambodian…and eating this unripe banana will give me diarrhoea.” I’m even dressed up in the local garments. I’m wearing what may look to the untrained eye like a skirt, but it’s actually something the Khmer call a Krama and it’s invaluable attire in an environment that requires a lot of stooping and squatting. Despite the frock I haven’t felt so certain that I possess all of the male chromosomes for quite some time. There is something liberating about trying to hammer nails, sawing squint and rubbing oil all over wooden struts for unexplained reasons. I have calluses, regions of my body that had lain dormant for years now ache, the back of my neck is sunburnt but I’m all the better for it. You might be asking yourself why on earth anyone would abandon swimming pools, daiquiris and an air conditioned room in favour of a mosquito net and calloused hands. It’s a question I ask myself too. I suppose that there must come a time in some people’s lives when they feel the urge to channel their inner Bono and grandstand their philanthropy. It makes me wonder whether people participate in these volunteer schemes for the good of others, or the good of their own egos. If Dr Freud were to take a couple of moments to dismantle my psyche I would hope that he would find a desire to help. But then he might also find a reservoir of middle class guilt, a need to be seen as charitable and the

sneaking suspicion that this would make great copy. Perhaps it doesn’t matter either way. The opportunity to dig a well in Mongolia allows the post-modern traveller to experience something that Thomas Cook package holidays can’t provide and it gives valuable aid to the host community. Phil Starling is such a philanthropist that his given name is embedded in the word. Phil heads up Make a Difference (MaD), the scheme that I’m volunteering with. I ask him if any of the people who participate in projects like his do so without the purest of intentions. “There are volunteers who are on a mission to discover who they are and they want to find out what they are about,” he replies. “Sometimes it’s their first trip abroad and we end up becoming a psychological centre for counselling and we just don’t have time for that.” This has led to MaD adopting a more rigorous approach to volunteer recruitment. Starling tells me that because of some bad experiences with volunteers MaD now turns down as many as 60% of all applicants. While most volunteers have been willing to contribute with what little expertise that they have, apparently some have used the project as an expensive photo opportunity. Starling says some just “pose for pictures”. They were there to hammer in a nail then get a photograph and most of the time they didn’t even turn up to the project.” This kind of behaviour raises fears that, in some cases, volunteers may be more concerned with the spectacle of poverty, and their staged role in relieving it, than providing any tangible aid. Post-modern travellers have come a long way from the days of caravans and communal toilets – now they have no such luxuries. It’s a curious symptom of this generation’s awareness of its own wealth and stability that it now feels guilty about having such things; guilty enough to eschew pampered beach holidays in favour of paying to do something that seems a lot like community service in this country. But the beauty of these projects is that, when implemented correctly, everyone is a winner. I will leave here safe in the knowledge that I have taken something more worthwhile than a suntan from the experience, and the people waving goodbye can go home to a new house.

buzz mag prf15.indd 22-23

30/03/2010 15:14

interview olivia giles


“ right

I support the

I can see a point where I might say I don’t want to do this any more
She rebuilt her life after losing four limbs to meningitis. She gives hope to others with her charity 500 Miles. So why would Olivia Giles consider assisted suicide?


s Olivia Giles opens the door to her south Edinburgh home, her determined and confident stride belies the fact that it’s only thanks to two prosthetic limbs that she is walking at all. Yet it’s neither her walk nor the lack of hands that catch your attention, rather the engaging smile, bouncing carefree curls and sparkling eyes. Giles comes across as smart, intelligent and wise beyond her 44 years. The first two traits were no doubt honed during her years as a successful Edinburgh lawyer – rising swiftly in the ranks, she was a partner of a law firm at 30 and was seen in legal circles as a rising star. Wisdom though is probably rooted in what life has delivered in the last eight years – becoming a quadruple amputee and at the same time a personal inspiration to many. Expertly manoeuvring the two newest members of the household – cats Lara and Oscar from the kitchen table, her physical dexterity cannot fail to impress. But it’s Giles’s mental agility which makes the biggest impression: she seems unshackled by any mental scars which could so easily have affected the rest of her life. So what has enabled her to move on with a new life in such a positive way? “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone” was an often repeated mantra of Giles’s grandmother and it’s this early influence that Giles attributes to her take on life since all four limbs were amputated in 2002. “I was seen as a successful lawyer before but in reality I was constantly trying to prove my worth. Now I’m no longer afraid to be myself, after all what is the worst thing that could happen?” she says leaning back in her office chair, “it’s my show now and that gives me a fantastic feeling of liberation.” It was on a February morning in 2002 when Giles’s life took a dramatic turn. Showing flu-like symptoms she was seen by a locum GP who missed the signs of meningitis; a fast moving and often fatal infection causing blood vessels to haemorrhage, the circulation system to stop working and gangrene to set in. Early symptoms are easily confused with an everyday virus and this happened in Giles’s case – with valuable treatment time being lost.


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interview olivia giles features feature


Giles came round on a hospital bed a month later, all four limbs heavily bandaged and raw sores crisscrossing her body from where skin grafts had been taken to cover her newly formed stumps. With consciousness of her surroundings gradually taking shape Giles’s inner strength and mental capacity took over: “I remember trying to hold a cup of water and a nurse saying I couldn’t because I’d ‘got no hands’. Within that statement a seed of reality was sown but at the same time I thought, ‘of course I’ve got hands – they’re in the bandages’. As I looked around my visitors I knew I could ask them to explain what had happened to me – but I also knew I wasn’t ready for the answers they might give me. Ultimately I was in 100% self preservation mode.” Subconsciously she was preparing for what was to come. Her nights were filled with dreams of running, of inexplicably cold feet which couldn’t be warmed. Asking for the additional support of a hospital psychologist Giles began to slowly accept what had happened. “In the end unwrapping the bandages, layer by layer, down to the gauze, seeing the shape of my stumps, the colour of the wounds – allowed for a gradual realisation,” she says. “Limb by limb until in the end in the bath, still not allowing myself to look at my legs. I looked at the ceiling, at the tiles and then my eyes gradually lowered to my left leg and the total reality of the situation.”

Giles’s first major breakthrough at the hospital was being given her makeshift prosthetic legs and with them the understanding that her knees could bear her weight. Her life then could begin again, albeit taking a very different direction. “As I looked in the mirror, able to stand again, I thought ‘yes – I know her’. This was the first time since regaining consciousness I allowed myself to cry, not with pity but with hope and the certainty that I’d walk out of there.” Giles’s face lights up as she recalls learning to walk again. “This was a life affirming, joyous, optimistic time, almost like being born again and going through an accelerated childhood. Everything was getting better. Yes, I’d never wear high heels again, half my clothes needed to go to the local charity shop, but everything was cushioned by the fact that I was alive and thankful to be walking.” Since 2007 her principal focus has been ‘500 miles’, a charity which has established clinics in Malawi and Zambia to make and fit prosthetics for amputees. Still in its infancy, ‘500 miles’ has already established three centres, producing double the number of prosthetics than originally planned. Previously the country’s amputees were faced with the challenge of prosthetics for only those who could afford them and a supply line which in no way met demand. Giles is all too aware of the good fortune of being an amputee in Scotland, where the best care and state of the art prosthetics are available.

It’s apparent that Giles’s positive demeanour is set within a grounded reality. “When I think of my future I know it will be tough. Being old could be horrendous” she says. “I don’t know how long my knees will continue to bear my weight. That’s why I support the current campaign on the right to die. I can see a point where I might say I don’t want to do this any more and I should have that right. But the bottom line right now is that I could have so easily died when I was 36, and since then I’ve had eight years of a fantastic life.” Giles has few regrets – ultimately her life is focused on opening doors and with them new opportunities but she does talk briefly of her frustrations. In particular looking back to her old life as a busy lawyer, with a work-life balance that often didn’t allow her to enjoy the opportunities that were there for the taking, Giles reflects, “I didn’t climb all the Munros when I could. One beautiful sunny June weekend when I stayed at the computer working instead of taking the chance to climb the Inaccessible

Pinnacle on Skye with friends, looking back I can see how out of balance life was.” She has no sooner voiced this regret than she is moving on to talk about her plans to build more clinics in Malawi and her concerns for creating the best possible level of sustainability for the project. It’s clear that Giles doesn’t do anything in life by halves – total focus and dogged commitment is part of her personal DNA. Reflecting on the goals she has reached over the last eight years, along with the countless achievements and the lives and attitudes she has positively affected it’s hard not to look forward to hearing more about the seemingly inaccessible pinnacles this determined and assured woman will continue to scale. More details on the 500 miles charity for amputees and other disabled people in Zimbabwe and Malawi can be found online at
Catherine Henderson

Opposite page: Olivia in the office of her south Edinburgh home.
Image: Yoshi Kametani

Above left: Giles in Malawi at one of three new clinics set up by her charity.
Image: BBC

Above right: Giles with her Doctor of Laws degree at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
Image: Herald & Times Group

The bottom line right now is that I could have so easily died when I was 36, and since then I’ve had eight years of a fantastic life

30/03/2010 15:14

buzz mag prf15.indd 26-27


buzz summer 2010 |

report fertility MOT


Starting a family later can affect your chances of conceiving. But how do you know if your biological hourglass is running empty?
ith changing demographics meaning more couples are trying for children later in life, issues over fertility are no laughing matter. It is a startling new statistic that as many as 20% of women are leaving starting a family until after the age of 35. The average age for married couples trying for a baby has exceeded 30 for the first time and many people are remaining single well into their 30s. Meanwhile, there is still a lack of awareness about the facts surrounding both male and female fertility. So why are couples leaving it later to marry and start a family? “I’m having far too much fun to settle down yet” says Helen, a 33 year old freelance business consultant, who speaks for many women her age. “My current lifestyle just isn’t compatible with having a family. I’ve worked hard to build a successful career and my husband and I just want to enjoy ourselves still.” Others, whether they want to settle down or not, haven’t met the partner of their dreams. Fiona, a 35 year old solicitor told us: “I’ve always assumed that one day I’d have a family, but the fact is that while I’ve had a couple of long term relationships, I still haven’t met the man I want to settle down with. I am quite pro-active about trying to meet someone. I date pretty regularly and am not too proud to do online dating from time to time, but it’s just not easy to find Mr Right.” Many women in their 30s who do intend to have children one day, are deaf to the ticking of their biological clocks – confident that they have plenty of time before they need to worry about having children. “I know lots of women in their late 30s and even into their 40s who are having children. That’s just not too old anymore” says Helen. She is right in some ways, but the reality is that many of those women are having their children thanks to IVF treatment. Does that


worry Helen? “Not really. If I ever do decide I want children, then I’ve earned enough money over the years to be able to afford IVF if I really have to.” In fact, for many, it takes several expensive cycles of IVF before they are successful, and for many more, they find they simply cannot conceive and have just left it too late. Dr Mark Hamilton of Aberdeen’s maternity hospital describes a “widespread misapprehension” about the success rate of fertility treatments. The chances of success dip sharply with age: from 31% for women aged under 35, to below 5% among those over 41. But it takes two to make a baby and so it is important to question the role of men in infertility issues. 9% of men in the UK suffer from infertility (this amounts to over 2.5 million) and according to fertility expert Professor Richard Anderson of the Centre for Reproductive Biology at Edinburgh University, male infertility accounts for more than a third of fertility problems. Not only that, but the quality and numbers of sperm that a man produces appear to have declined over the past 30 years. Men are, statistically, becoming less fertile. Why? Some experts say that sperm counts have fallen by over half on average thanks to lifestyle factors like alcohol and drugs as well as sedentary lifestyles, obesity, laptops on men’s laps which heat up their scrotums, pesticides and female hormones in the water supply from the urine of women on the contraceptive pill. Men too can check their fertility but many are put off by the thought of having to go to a clinic and produce a sperm sample. Luckily for them, there is a test available over the counter from Boots the Chemist that can determine whether further investigation is advisable. But few men even consider that fertility will be an issue for them. David is 33 years old and has been married to Rachel for three years.

fertility MOT

Time for a

30/03/2010 15:14

buzz mag prf15.indd 28-29

report fertility MOT


They decided to delay starting a family until he came home from serving in the British army in Iraq. But after a year of trying, they visited the doctor for advice. To David’s shock, tests showed that his fertility, or lack of it, were at the root of the problem. “I just assumed it wouldn’t be me. I don’t know why – I suppose it’s not often you hear of male infertility. It seems quite arrogant now to assume that it would be Rachel who had the problem. I literally went into the doctor’s appointment to collect the results prepared to comfort and sympathise with Rachel but it was me who needed the emotional support. If I’m honest, I felt like my manhood was in question. I was absolutely gutted.” Fortunately, David and Rachel are receiving help to conceive and they are hopeful that they will soon have a family. Professor Anderson explains that “there is no definitive study to show the causes of male infertility. Age does not seem to be a factor in the way that it is for women, but it is the combination of each partner’s fertility that will dictate their ability to conceive. It’s not a black and white situation.” There is no treatment for men with low sperm counts, but their chances of fathering a child can depend on the relative fertility of their female partner and this can be assisted by IVF treatments. Of course, the effectiveness of that treatment will be affected by the usual factors, including the age of the woman. There are a number of other barriers that are not always considered when planning a late family. Waiting lists for IVF (in vitro fertilisation) in NHS Lothians are the worst in Scotland at a startling 3 years, compared to the Borders where there is no waiting list at all. There is a post code lottery for fertility treatment with each health board setting different parameters for those eligible. NHS Lothians currently offers 2 cycles of IVF per couple but that is available only to those who have been in a stable relationship for 12 months, the woman must be under 38 years of age at the start of treatment, neither partner can have been sterilised previously and they must have no children living at home, including adopted children. So, free IVF simply isn’t there for everyone.

It’s worth noting that a Tory think tank headed up by Tory candidate Julia Manning recently recommended removing all funding for IVF in order to cut costs within the NHS, should they come to power at the next election. Of course, the Scottish Parliament retains the power to make its own decisions over NHS funding, but the danger of removing funding is very real given the current shrinkage of the public funding purse. Years of trying to start a family and facing the emotional turmoil of repeated failure can have a devastating effect on a couple’s relationship, with financial stress being one of the biggest problems. Repeated attempts at IVF can become prohibitively expensive (one course costs on average between £4,000 and £8,000). So can Fertility MOTs help those who know they want to have a family one day? While the test can’t guarantee you will be fertile indefinitely, it can certainly act as a wake up call for many couples, according to Professor Bill Ledger, a fertility expert at Sheffield University. He advocates that all women should take the test by the time they are 30 years old. His critics argue that a positive fertility test might lull couples into a false sense of security, making them think they still have plenty of time, whereas in fact, the test is only valid for a year – the fertility of a couple could change at any time, sometimes rapidly. Dr Hamish Wallace of Edinburgh University and Professor Thomas Kelsey of St Andrews University released their research findings in January 2010 estimating that for 95% of women by the age of 30 their facility to produce eggs has dropped to only 12% and by the age of 40 years only 3% remains. Laura, 37, from Edinburgh took the test largely out of curiosity, finding that she still is producing plenty of healthy eggs and should have no problems conceiving, for the moment at least. However, she admits that the process was a ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ moment. “I think when you’ve got two fertility experts sitting there telling you that you must get a move on and if you want to have a child, do it sooner rather than later, it has made me think OK, it’s great I’m fertile now – the

situation could change but maybe I do need to do something about it now”. This is exactly the reaction that Professor Ledger is hoping the test will provoke. Parenthood is certainly not for everyone, but Professor Ledger is quick to defend the test. He explained that it is there for anyone who wants to use it and insists that the medical profession is not trying to suggest that all women must have babies – they’re merely saying that if they do, it would be very wise to think about trying sooner, not later, if they want to avoid the pain and distress of not being able to conceive at all. The very fact that men and women are delaying starting a family is a reflection of bigger changes in society. Our grandparents had their children in their early 20s. Our own parents generally started their family in their mid to late 20s, and today, that has risen to the 30s. People can choose not to have a family at all, or they can control exactly when they plan to start trying for a family. What they cannot control is the inevitable biological clock from ticking. It might be time to promote a second message that encourages both men and women to take their fertility seriously and to make no assumptions. After all, many infertility issues can be helped by medical intervention, as long as it isn’t left too late.

Previous page: is your biological clock ticking? Opposite page top: leaving it later can lead to increased worry Opposite page bottom: up to 1 in 10 men in the UK suffer from infertility
Images: istockphoto

For 95% of women by the age of 30 their facility to produce eggs has dropped to only 12%
As Professor Ledger concludes: “It’s just an unfortunate reality of the world in which we now live, the lifestyle that people adopt, the pressures on women to get through university, have a good career, make money, contribute to the joint income – there’s a lot of complicated social issues, but clearly the pressures on people in our lifetime are to defer bringing children into the world…but you can’t beat the biology!” Tracy Norris  

buzz mag prf15.indd 30-31

30/03/2010 15:14


style dresing down days


Dressing down days
Anna Fenton and Wendy Wan address the classic conundrum of

‘business casual’
recognise that it’s not as formal as business dress, but you still have to be smart.” Finlayson emphasises the importance of tailoring in any outfit: “Chinos and loose shirts are not a good look. If you wore the same outfit but well tailored, it would immediately look better” she says. “When you remove the jacket and tie, then what you’ve got left has to look smart.” And colour schemes can be another way of maintaining the balance; lighter colours help make an outfit seem less formal. “Dark colours are basically more authoritative; think of the black suits and the white shirts worn by the police” adds Finlayson. “You don’t want that high a contrast. Lighter colours can appear less official, but you can still choose the same kinds of clothes.” This will vary between environments and it is essential to remember your situation. A traditional company’s interpretation is going to be very different from a younger, more modern, equivalent. With these tips in mind, we look at a few key styles that will help equip you for dealing with the business casual conundrum. Men In line with Finlayson’s advice, although ‘business casual’ gestures towards a more casual look, this does not mean that jeans and t-shirts are allowed, regardless of how comfortable you may find them. However, a smart jumper




The idea of formal business wear evokes visions of jackets and ties for men and power suits for women. But what about ‘business casual’; the ambiguous, oxymoronic phrase that causes wardrobe malfunctions across the country? Succeed in nurturing this look, and the office will be your oyster. Fail, and you could become the clothing pariah of your workplace. Karen Finlayson, company director of Renideo style consultancy, has some handy hints on how to adapt your wardrobe. “The first word in ‘business casual’, is business, and I don’t think many people actually remember that. They immediately hear casual and think: ‘this means I have to look really relaxed’. So first and foremost

or shirt will not fail to impress, whilst trousers with a wool mix are ideal. Wool is breathable, comfortable and does not crease easily, yet is smart enough for work and can be worn with something as simple as a jumper or a shirt. A solid coloured shirt is easy to wear, especially if the colour is muted. If opting for a printed shirt, outlandish patterns can be overwhelming. Stripes, on the other hand, can be more approachable. There are many different outfits that could meet the standard of your company, and still allow you to be fashionable. The best thing about ‘business casual’ is you no longer need to feel stifled everyday in a suit and tie. But there are a few rules to bear in mind. As you are dressing for work, you want your superiors and co-workers to treat you professionally. Stick to a few classic pieces; a v-neck jumper or a simple shirt will keep you on the right side of business casual. Don’t be afraid to add some colour to your outfit, just remember to err towards the conservative side. Women Those who have their own sense of style tend to find a company dress code oppressive, and casting off the shackles of a stiff collar and heels in the workplace can be a liberating experience. For others, treading the treacherous lines between smart and casual can be daunting, and it can be difficult to spot the difference between work and after-work
Main Image: Sainsbury’s Tu Clothing

clothes. Business casual for women is not as clear-cut as for men, but many of the same guidelines do apply. Finding the right shirt can really set the tone of an outfit. As Finlayson suggests, a lighter colour can be less formal. Look for patterns, and don’t be afraid to experiment with colours. Bear in mind, the best colour in the world is the one that you look good in. Generally, denim is only acceptable where it is dark or black and form-fitting. Although leggings are everywhere this season, in most cases they are too relaxed. The modern shift dress is chic, feminine and neat, making it ideal for this look. Smart, yet understated and feminine, it is a serious sort of dress – think of Audrey Hepburn in her timeless Givenchy black shift in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Worn well, a shift can look polished, refined and can take you from the workplace to after work drinks. Think of accessorising a tunic or a shift dress with a simple waist belt for a modern twist to a timeless classic. And less is more when it comes to accessories at work. As Coco Chanel once said; “always take off one thing before you leave the house.” Finally, no matter how formal or casual your work atmosphere is, it’s important to feel good in the clothes you’re in. Although wearing your personality on your sleeve can be inappropriate in the more extravagant cases, your clothes should compliment your personality, not drown it out.

1 Military 2 in 1 shirt dress £40 Jane Norman

2 Pure cotton bold stripe shirt £25 Marks and Spencer

3 V-neck cotton jumper £15 Marks and Spencer

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30/03/2010 15:14


style get that style


Flight of the
Get retrospective this summer and channel your inner Maverick

Womens Colourful Aviators | £5 | George at Asda 3 Pilot Sunglasses with pouch | £1.50 | Primark 4 Diamantë Trim Aviators | £12 | Jane Norman 5 White Sunglasses Criminal | £10 | House of Fraser 6 Mens Sunglasses | £12 | Next
Image: Mark Hassler,


River Island Sunglasses | £14.99 | River Island


Sole creator
If the shoe fits, wear it. Then put your name on it
You are unique. A one-off. A snowflake. An original. And now you can have the shoes to prove it. Customising trainers has come a long way from the days when scrawling your initials in felt tip pen was considered a design overhaul. Now all of the major footwear companies offer easy access to simple customisation programmes. The Nike iD [] site allows users to tinker with set templates and tart up their Air Force Ones with never before seen colour-ways. Puma offers a Mongolian shoe BBQ service that lets you cook up the perfect plimsole from a menu of materials and colours. So you can kiss your Chuck Taylors and your Air Jordans goodbye. Now your shoes can really say something about you: your own name, your initials or a suitable alias. They say that the eyes are the true window to the soul. They are wrong – your feet define you, a point proven by celebrities. Kanye West was famously stylised as a black Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. One area where Kanye undoubtedly trumps the son of god is footwear. Jesus had to make do with sandals while Kanye kicks customs designed in collaboration with Louis Vuitton. Thankfully for those of us who are burdened with mortality, Kanye isn’t a selfish man – his shoes will be released to the general public in June. Paris Hilton is also muscling in on the action. Not content with having her own clothing and cosmetics lines she also has shoes specifically designed for her. Paris wears Star Sparkles, essentially a pair of standard Converse All Stars sprinkled with Swarovski crystals. If you are so inclined you can take things even further. The clever people at have designed a programme that allows you to scrawl your own artwork all over an innocent shoe. You can even upload pictures. What better way is there to tell your girlfriend you love her than to trample over her face all day?
Matthew Nelson

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travel budapest


Budapest Facts

Sitting astride the Danube river, Budapest is renowned for its architectural beauty, with baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau clusters around the city. Known as the ‘City of Spas’, it boasts over a dozen thermal baths supported by natural hot springs. With exceptional cheap food and drink, and buzzing nightlife, Hungary’s capital is forging itself another identity as the party city for the whole region. Sziget Festival Budapest is home to the renowned Sziget Festival, one of the biggest music and cultural festivals in Europe. The line-up this year includes Faithless, Iron Maiden, Muse and the Specials and boasts various other activities available such as belly dancing, bungee jumping and Hungarian lessons. The festival takes over the island of Obuda on the Danube and is held from 9-16th August this year.

Forget Paris

Hungary’s capital Budapest has all the trappings for a memorable city break – without the clichés
It usually happens about once a year. You’ve saved up all your hard-earned cash for a holiday, be it a mini-break or something more far-flung. But then crops up the dilemma of where to go? Perhaps you’ve already visited the more obvious destinations and fancy somewhere a bit different. Hungary’s thriving capital offers a little something for everyone and is comparable to Paris; remnants of its illustrious revolutionary history are nestled next to some sophisticated restaurants and bars. Budapest counts three World Heritage sites among its key attractions – the Banks of the Danube, Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue and its environs – and it is hard to find landscapes more beautiful than these. There is a current buzz amongst the eclectic streets of Budapest, which indicates a city on the rise; this is best seen in the thriving bar scene – particularly around the Liszt Ferenc Tér area – and gives it a younger, edgier feel than many of its rival European cities. Budapest now boasts restaurants that can truly claim to be haute cuisine. Mostly found around The Var, they include the glitzy Fortuna Restaurant, which has its own Champagne cellar. Further afield from the Buda more modest deals can be found including much choice in world restaurants as well as local Magyar cooking. The local cuisine is worth a try – based on centuries-old recipes and including paprikas, nokedli dumplings and goulash – Hungary’s national dish. Like most prominent European cities Budapest is home to many fine museums. Especially worth visiting are the Ludwig Museum of Modern Art and the Budapest History Museum, which is located in the atmospheric Buda Castle. The Great Synagogue is the largest in Europe and also has aJewish museum attached. During the summer months the Szechenyi Thermal Baths appeal for both bathing and a spot of spa pampering. If you are looking for a romantic treat then Budapest has a wide range of luxury hotels including the sophisticated art deco stylings of the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, and the New York Palace Boscolo Hotel with its designer New York Café or luxurious spa. However, if your purse-strings are a bit tighter, Budapest also offers several decent higher-end hostels from under £10 a night in with excellent city centre locations, such as the Aventura Boutique Hostel, the Blue Danube Hostel or the Baroque Hostel. Eastern Europe is still considerably cheaper than the West but prices are creeping up so it’s worth checking out as soon as possible. Easyjet, Ryanair and British Airways fly from several destinations in the UK and a direct flight from Glasgow can cost as little as £30. So the next time you’re wondering where to go with friends or a loved one look no further than Budapest – we love its buzz. Miriam Armstrong

Flights to Budapest Direct flights are twice weekly and depart from Glasgow (Prestwick) on Sundays and Wednesdays with Ryanair from £30 return. Flights from Edinburgh will involve a change, and tend to cost from £220 if booked in advance. Tourist Info  The Hungarian currency is forint (Ft).  July and August are the hottest months to visit Budapest with an average temperature of 26°C.  Budapest is amongst the most sun-rich cities in Europe, with up to 2,500 hours of sunshine throughout the year. Hotels  Atrium Fashion Hotel Rooms from £53  Hotel Normafa Rooms from £67  Art’otel Budapest, by Park Plaza Rooms from £99 Hotels mentioned in article:  Four Seasons Gresham Palace Rooms from £240  New York Palace Boscolo Hotel: palace/luxury-hotel-budapest.htm Rooms from £107

Above right: hot and steamy – the palatial Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Images: Budapest Tourist Info

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Images: Budapest Tourism Office

Above left: Budapest by night – view of Budapest Chain Bridge

30/03/2010 15:14


buzz summer 2010 |

travel hostelling


Backpack to the uture f
Biting back at a bedbug past – hostels have upped their game


ostelling in Scotland has come a long way in the last 20 years: there are now over sixty hostels, visited by around 500’000 travellers a year. Most now go by a hotel-like star system, with larger hostels offering private rooms, ensuite facilities and restaurants. Self-catering kitchens and laundries are also serious attractions to a wide range of visitors. Prices vary from a budget-friendly £10 a night to over £100. Variety is integral to the hostel brand; they have become the most flexible accommodation for every purse

and preference, from businessmen to couples, families to hen parties. Victor Bourne, the treasurer of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association agrees, “Hostelling has changed a lot lately, but we still face people’s old-fashioned and negative images of what hostels are like”. Daily chores and sleeping in freezing cold dormitories reside in the past, as do the stereotypical residents. However, hostels still retain their unique quality: the opportunity to socialise with people from all different walks of life. This is the main reason for staying in these weird and wonderful

places, and more people from different ages, lifestyles and backgrounds want to sample the hostel experience. Hostels have also raised their profile recently due to ‘The Hoscars’, the award ceremony for ‘hostel of the year’. Despite Scotland missing out on this prestigious award, our nation’s hostels have their own unique qualities. For example, Carbisdale Castle was built for the Duchess of Sutherland in 1906 and was once a royal refuge. The SYHA’s Loch Lomond hostel was built on the site of Robert the Bruce’s hunting lodge and their Melrose building is a Georgian mansion. A veteran hosteller said, “My own experience of hostelling in Scotland over the last 15 years has been varied – I stayed in modern hostels in the city, and small remote hostels in the Highlands and islands. Hostelling is a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world”. And hostelling in Scotland has the potential to provide a cultural and historical experience whilst the isolated highland hostels are an ideal alternative to camping; the walls will keep you safe from the man-eating midges! Some of Scotland’s exciting new hostels are right on our doorstep. Art Roch, a new hostel in the Grassmarket, exemplifies the quirky touches of Scottish hostelling. It sits on the site of the Flodden wall; historical sources say it housed the Jacobean army, and three hundred years ago it was a Salvation

Army hostel for destitute women. The interior tells a different story; the smell of fresh paint lingers in the air, the walls are covered with kitsch paintings and stenciled hearts, and random life size sheep statues are scattered here and there. If there was a hostel version of ‘changing rooms’ this would be it. Of course, if you live in Edinburgh you are unlikely to stay there, but it is definitely worth a visit. It’s also a good place to leave the in-laws if you’ve conveniently run out of space at yours. What’s more, if you mention you’re a buzz reader there’s a discount in it for you. Hostels are a safe, sure and diverse alternative to hotels. They give you that friendly homely feeling when far away, and closer to home you can rediscover areas with fresh perspective. Why travel the world when an extraordinary holiday is on your doorstep? Heather Donald

Opposite page: a cheeky smile from the friendly staff in Art Roch hostel Above left: kitsch hostel wall art Above right: come in from the dreich weather to the comfort of Art Roch Above bottom: the eclectic lounge area is a real talking point
Images: Lindsay Brown

Hostelling has changed a lot, but we still face people’s old-fashioned and negative images of what hostels are like

30/03/2010 15:15

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buzz summer 2010 |


After overcoming undiagnosed dyslexia, the occasionally quirky and volatile David Ramsden talks about his passion for food and surviving tough times


Opposite page: Ramsden, a full on personality dominating the Edinburgh restaurant scene.

here, for less than a tenner, can you eat a well constructed dish, accompanied by a glass of wine, savoured just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh’s oh so fashionable George Street? You’d have worn out a great deal of shoe leather to answer that question up until 2007 when David Ramsden opened The Dogs on Hanover Street. The restaurant has since been joined by fellow players in the Edinburgh Ramsden Empire, with Dogs Amore, Under Dogs and the new puppy on the block Sea Dogs. Ramsden is not a newcomer to the Edinburgh restaurant scene, previously earning his stripes at Fitz Henry in Leith. This position gained him a reputation (at times as mixed as a good salad) for fine dining. Yet a lack of finesse and charm in the front of house department – including frequent notable verbal outbursts – gave rise to a cacophony of barbed customer reviews. His next venture, Rogues, was to prove his nemesis. Hidden away in Edinburgh’s insurance quarter off Lothian Road, this venture stripped Ramsden of his restaurant stripes in the most brutal of ways, sliding into liquidation and causing a major personal rethink. Refreshingly honest in this PR-led age, Ramsden says of this experience, “When Rogues collapsed my life did

with it. I lost everything and it took three years to find a new direction.” That new direction has Ramsden’s personality stamped through it like a stick of rock. “I’m an extreme character, so I was never going to go for a middle pass.” Moving away from fine dining, which he now describes as an “elusive chalice”, Ramsden describes The Dogs as “anti-design, anti-style, anti-fuss and ultimately perfectly imperfect.” Ramsden himself could be described as perfectly imperfect; he puts his neurotic obsessive qualities at the heart of his current success and past failures. A school boy with undiagnosed (and at the time) unknown dyslexia, Ramsden saw this as his main motivation to getting into the restaurant trade at all, “I fluffed school – was let down by the school system. In many ways I was the detritus that it left behind. It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I was diagnosed as dyslexic.” Stick thin, he has a chiselled face and eyes that suggest an inner manic drive. This tunnel vision that has no doubt supported Ramsden during his re-immersion into the choppy waters of the restaurant business at a time when other restaurateurs were being savagely culled by a recession labelled the worst since the Second World War. Ramsden still gets emotional when he talks of the collapse of Rogues.

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Main image: Lesley Jones

30/03/2010 15:15


buzz summer 2010 |

food and drink david ramsden


He says with an audible intake of breath, “When Rogues failed I was devastated – that restaurant was the culmination of everything I had learnt in the restaurant business and I’d failed. At 50 years old, it was a difficult time to learn I’d been on a hiding to nothing. I ended up in therapy, completely lost. When Rogues went down my conviction and my belief systems went with it, working in the other restaurants was a way of finding new stimuli. I had to keep looking for a new direction.” Ramsden admits that a major part of his reason for keeping going at that time was his wife, artist and designer Roz McKnight, who he calls his life and his support. When reasons to keep going were as sparse as truffles in a forest his dogs also proved to be faithful allies. “Naming the restaurant The Dogs is an acknowledgement to the role my dogs played in those years.” He says, “they were always glad to see me, needed to be taken for walks, never questioned my self worth – to them I was never a loser.”

Read Ramsden’s customer reviews online and you’ll quickly see that his experience hasn’t culled his personality. “I never read my own press” he says. I have little patience for people judging my personality. I’m an emotional person, that comes out in my restaurants. I celebrate my emotions and at the end of the day I’d rather be loved or be hated than be bland.” Ultimately, opening when the economy was stripped down to the bone, it appears that The Dogs had timing on its side – ostentation was no longer on the menu and with slimmed down bank accounts, back to basics and good, honest food was increasingly being considered “de rigueur”. As the age of bling departs more ventures like The Dogs, which bring good food at an economical price along with a level of honesty on a plate, is the kind of imperfect perfection many diners will be looking for.
Catherine Henderson

Dyslexia – a gift to be valued?
Some of the characteristics often attributed to people with dyslexia include creativity, adaptability, high energy levels, multitasking ability, resourcefulness, willingness to take risks and the ability to hyper-focus. It’s not difficult to find other successful dyslexics. A host of the world’s bestknown celebrities and businessmen are believed to suffer from the condition, as well as Nobel Laureates and Harvard academics. Some famous names linked with dyslexia include:  Richard Branson  Robbie Williams  Noel Gallagher  John Lennon  Walt Disney  Henry Ford

the dogs The original member of Ramsden’s restaurant family, centrally located with good value food and wine. 110 Hanover Street, EH2 1DR 0131 220 1208

Entrepreneurial spirit 

David Ramsden’s parsley and roast mushroom risotto serves 6 
300g Arborio rice  1l light vegetable stock  2 shallots, finely diced  1 clove garlic, finely chopped  100ml white wine  150g butter  100g freshly grated parmesan  olive oil  2 dsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley  150g mixed mushrooms (including button, flat cap and chestnut) Bring stock to boil. Roast mushrooms in a very hot oven until golden brown. Cool and slice. Saute onion and garlic in the olive oil and 50g of the butter. Season. Add the rice and mix well. When the rice is hot to the touch, add the white wine and cook until absorbed by the rice. Add a ladle of hot stock and stir until absorbed. Repeat until the rice is cooked al dente. When the rice is nearly cooked, add the roast mushrooms. Stir in the chopped parsley and remove from the heat. Mix in the remaining butter and parmesan and mix well. Check seasoning and serve. amore dogs Neighbour to its predecessor, offering an Italian twist to the original formula. 104 Hanover Street, EH2 1DR 0131 220 5155

seadogs New addition to the pack opened in February – serves seafood and vegetarian dishes only. 43 Rose Street, EH2 2NH 0131 225 8028

In a recent report from the Cass Business School, 35% of entrepreneurs in America identified themselves as dyslexic. The author of the report described dyslexics as “extraordinarily creative” in overcoming the problems associated with starting a business. Statistics from Britain suggest that dyslexics make up a smaller proportion of entrepreneurs in the UK – around 20%. Just 5% of the population are dyslexic, but double this number could suffer from some element of the condition. The Cass study points to dyslexics’ delegation strengths, oral communication and problem solving skills as important in their success in the business world. There are many combinations of symptoms that can be labelled dyslexia. No two people who have dyslexia will have the same set of symptoms, but many find working with spoken words challenging, whilst others suffer from problems with short-term memory, sequencing and organisation. These contribute to the spelling problems often association with the condition. Contrary to common perceptions, dyslexia is not just about reversing numbers and letters and only 30% of dyslexic people suffer from this form.

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Images: Katrin Adam

30/03/2010 15:15


buzz summer 2010 |

food shaken



We teamed up with Bond No.9 to provide you with some refreshing delights for the coming summer months so you don’t have venture out of the comfort of your own home to enjoy the cocktail experience.
Below: weird and wonderful treats in Edinburgh’s cocktail scene
Image: supplied by Bramble

buzz favourites
1. Moscow Mule 
    50ml vodka 25ml fresh lime 15ml sugar syrup (gomme) dash Angostura bitters Top ginger beer

Shane de Barra muses our martini mindsets and waxes mixologically on Edinburgh’s cocktail culture
Not too long ago basic cocktails such as martinis and cosmopolitans were seen as exotic, and for the most part, beyond the reach of our wallets. They conjured images of beautiful Russian vixens seductively chewing martini-drenched olives while locked in a battle of wits with Mr. Bond. As much status symbols as tasty tipples, many aspired to drink them even if they could not afford them. In recent times things have changed; we’re all connoisseurs of the nicer things in life. Go back ten years and who would have thought Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White would be household names. Programmes such as Come Dine with Me and The F Word have brought the culinary world into the mainstream. The net result is a demand for the finer things in life; we want them and we’ll pay for them. With popularity comes a desire for experimentation. While once we were content to satisfy our thirst with a simple screwdriver (one measure vodka and a dash of OJ), today our taste buds are a little more demanding, we want daiquiris, margaritas, and we want them frozen. Bar staff across Edinburgh are evolving with the times to satisfy our thirst. While once bar work consisted of merely pulling a pint or measuring a dram, today the trade knows no boundaries. Today’s cocktail bar is a veritable hub of innovation and creation; bartenders now resemble Heston Blumenthal, armed with blowtorches and liquid nitrogen to livenup your beverages. Mixologists, as they like to be known, may not share the status of Ramsey & Co, but they can certainly compete in terms of innovation. Take a trip to one of Edinburgh’s fine cocktail bars like Bond No9 in Leith or Bramble of Queen St, and you’ll find the drinks list as mind-boggling to the taste buds as the complex menu of a Michelin star restaurant.

To Serve: 12oz highball glass, lime wedge garnish Method: Shake all ingredients together, except the ginger beer. Strain and top with ginger beer. (Can be built in the glass also if no shaker but not as nice)

Sweet obsessions
From the famous setting of Magnolia Bakery in New York, to your local Starbucks, these tiny bites of joy are everywhere. There has, however, been a slight update since the 1950’s – they are no longer labelled as fairy cakes. In all different colours and flavours, a cupcake is the perfect treat to go with your afternoon cup of tea – earl grey tea leaves only please, none of your conventional teabag nonsense. Perhaps it is the unstable vibe produced by Britain’s economy spiralling out of control, or maybe just an ache for a simpler time, but there is no denying that retro is back. Boxsets of 24 and the latest iPhones have been swapped for The Secret Garden, notelets and all things Cath Kidston. The cupcake era has returned and Nichola Reith, owner of cupcake business Velvet Kitchen in Glasgow, was quick to identify and act upon the growing craze. Inspired three years ago whilst in New York with her two sisters, Reith discovered her love for cupcakes. “I was obsessed with eating them, and it was then I realised there was nothing quite like it in Scotland and I had always had the notion of starting my own business.” Reith explains that even the traditional wedding cake is being replaced by old fashioned cake stands piled high with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate swirls, decorated tastefully by edible silver dragons. The best part is you don’t need to travel all the way to New York to indulge in this tasty new trend. Simply look out your favourite floral tea dress, recover your tatty copy of Wuthering Heights and kick back with a cupcake. Julia Bruce
Image: Velvet Kitchen

2. Honeyed Cardamom Rickey 
50ml gin  4 fresh cardamom pods  teaspoon runny honey  25ml fresh lime  12.5ml sugar syrup (gomme)  Top soda water To serve: 12oz highball glass, lime wedge and cardamom garnish Method: Muddle the cardamom in a shaker/glass then shake all ingredients together, except the soda. Strain and top with soda water. (Can be built in the glass also if no shaker but not as nice)

3. The Witchery (Bond No9 original) 
50ml saffron gin (can be bought or recipe to make below)  6-8 fresh mint leaves  12.5ml fresh lemon  12.5ml sugar syrup (gomme)  Top Champagne To serve: Sling ideally or 12oz highball glass Method: Stir the mint and gin on crushed ice in a glass, add lemon and sugar syrup. Top up with more crushed ice until the glass is 4/5 full, stir then top with champagne. Finish with a stack of crushed ice and mint sprig. To make saffron gin: add 2 teaspoons saffron to 700ml bottle of gin. Leave to infuse for 24 hours then strain out the saffron.

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buzz summer 2010 |

culture resurrection


Former editor of The Skinny, Rupert Thomson aims to revive Edinburgh’s art scene and is praying for success

Opposite page: Rupert Thomson enjoying the lo-fi charms of the Roxy Bar
Image: Lindsay Brown

ndergoing something of a cultural revival, The Roxy Art House is bringing in a new age for Edinburgh’s arts scene. Community charity Edinburgh University Settlement’s latest purchase, and former home to much-loved independent music outfit The Bowery, the 19th century church is about to become the city’s latest year-round, internationally recognised arts centre. In charge of proceedings, artistic director Rupert Thomson is, without doubt, a busy man. A former editor of The Skinny, the 27-year-old cut his teeth forging the free culture magazine’s identity, much to the delight of Scotland’s creative population. But is Thomson, who’s been part of the magazine since leaving university, ready for a task of The Roxy’s scale? “It was a big decision to leave The Skinny.” He admits. “But at the same time it feels like this is a chance to build something that’s going to be more directly creative and more my own thing.” Also co-founder of independent music-download site Ten Tracks, there’s no questioning Thomson’s indie-music kudos. His grassroots connections with the music scene are evidenced in The Roxy’s indigenous line-up, kicking off with the likes of rock troupe Death Star 4 and Edinburgh blues band Doc Rodent. He’s quick to promote the venue’s diversity; “We’re looking to make it a music venue for people who are into niche forms of music but across the spectrum. And make it, yeah, the most exciting wee venue in Edinburgh. “I think commissioning artwork that would be an integral part of the building would be a really strong aspect of what we could do here” he explains. Eluding full-on competition from low-key gig spots like Sneaky Pete’s and Cabaret Voltaire, Thomson’s plan to turn The Roxy into an ‘internationally recognised arts venue’ may be what sets it apart. “You would be properly paying local artists to do something that would be part of the fabric of something which would be a real meeting point for creative people.” Hoping to preserve the multisensory appeal of The Roxy’s recent Hidden Door festival, a weekend-long mixed-media arts event, Thomson


intends on fully exploiting the church’s complex interior. The inspired use of hidden passageways and secret stages to accommodate artists might also, according to Thomson, give it the edge over its successful west coast counterparts, “One of the ways we could distinguish ourselves from Glasgow venues like the Arches and the Tramway is in the nature of the building we’re in, as well as being just a different city. Rather than being post-industrial, this is post-religious,” he suggests. “We’re a decommissioned church, and I think that’s quite fitting for Edinburgh as Edinburgh in the 21st century is looking to promote creativity in a postfaith environment, so that’s hopefully some of the sort of theory that will play into what goes on curatorially here.” Despite Thomson’s laudable effort, there’s no denying the closure of The Roxy’s much-loved predecessor, The Bowery, hit something of a bum note with its loyal community. Only one year into its residence in the building, the breakaway arts venue had become a regular haunt for Edinburgh’s indie kids, none of whom were ready to lose their personal, lo-fi space. But Thomson is in no rush to make changes. With a user-friendly attitude toward programming similar to previous owners, he’s determined to maintain the modest environment they lovingly nurtured; “We’re going to build a stage and we’re also going to invest in some of the latest, most high tech, but also environmentally friendly lights,” he says. “But although the specifications will go up considerably, the look and feel of it shouldn’t change too much, because it’s got that great atmosphere – peeling paint, and arty designs on the wall.” Taking on board The Roxy’s reputation as well as its sprawling dimensions, Rupert Thomson has a lot to prove. But there’s no doubt the fledgling artistic director has the gusto for the job. When asked what he expects the daunting project will achieve, he’s reassuringly enthusiastic; “There’s just a gap in the cultural market in general for events that are just a little bit different,” he claims. “Ideas-led creativity could do with a champion. And I hope The Roxy can serve as a focus for that.” Rebecca Gordon

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buzz summer 2010 |

culture one fine day


Opposite page: his window to the world – personal experience informs all of Day’s work. Right: top gear – Day taught himself the rudiments of filmmaking by reading books.

One fine day…
n a top floor flat high above the din of Edinburgh city centre, Mike Day sits in his friend’s living room as light pours in through a bay window. He reclines into the sofa with his fingers knotted on his lap; his feet are resting on the long wooden coffee table in front of him, his eyes stare at the ceiling. I can only imagine what is running through his head. Day is in the process of editing his first film, The Guga Hunters of Ness, so it is no surprise that he has a lot on his mind. He has only recently turned 30, but listening to him talk is like reading a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and Ian Fleming combined: tales of battling waves and tempestuous winds, yacht racing from Tasmania to Sydney, shooting pictures in Jerusalem – my mind boggles as he tells me how he got started in film. While working as a lawyer in London, he decided he would swap the court room for the editing room. “I made three short films and they all got into film festivals; that spurred me on to develop one of the three, a documentary on a crofter in Skye called The Last Crofter. That film got into Cambridge Super8 Film Festival; it was

Mike Day takes time out from editing his first feature length film to talk about giving up his career as a lawyer to pursue his first love and tell the tale of a remote island’s tradition

shot in super 8mm film and the sound was recorded on an iPod. It was a fairly steep learning curve and I learned never to do that again. I got an HD camera and went and tried to remake it. In the meantime whenever I came home from work I was studying the reading list from film schools, editing and writing, every hour I could. It got to the point where I had to give up one of the two, so I resigned as a lawyer. I left London, moved onto a boat and sailed around the west coast for three months, which is when I found the story of the guga hunters.” For two weeks of every year, ten men from Ness (an isolated village in the North of Lewis) sail for 18 hours to the remote rock of Sula Sgeir to hunt the guga – a young gannet. The hunters kill 2000 birds and take them back to Ness to share out between the villagers. To the people of Ness – a village with a population of less than one thousand – the guga is a delicacy and a form of cultural affirmation. As Scotland’s landscape changes, small symbolic practices on islands such as Sula Sgeir are in danger of being forgotten as old traditions die out. Running concurrently with the story of change in a remote Scottish village is the epic story of Day’s own battle to preserve the guga hunt on film; the trip was a serious test of his endurance. “Our typical filming day started at about 4am. We would sail to Sula Sgier to where the hunters were and I would get ashore for about six and film them; the day would end when the light finished. We would then get back, download the day’s footage, have dinner about midnight and get to our bunks at about 1am and then get up again at 3.30am to start all over again. I didn’t sleep for more than five minutes at a time for about four days during the final section of it and before that I’m not sure how much I really slept either.” He was privileged to finally taste the precious guga on the second Sunday he was on the island. “The hunters wait until then to have their guga, because they don’t work on a Sunday. To eat a guga you take a slab of blubber and skin, a piece of meat and then a piece of potato and eat with your

Images: Colin Macdonald

hands and then wash it down with a glass of milk; that’s the traditional way to eat it. The hunters actually mix it with Chicken Tonight and also make Chinese dishes and curry out of it. There is a great recipe that says ‘put a large stone in the pot with the guga and boil it until the stone is tender and then throw away the guga and eat the stone.’ It says a lot about the way some people say it tastes.” Although Day’s life has been diverse to say the least, he is fascinated by marginalised groups, whether it be the guga hunters of Ness battling to preserve a dying tradition or the crofter who faces losing the only way of life he has known. This interest is evident again in his most recent project. “I am working on a feature script at the moment; and I was also commissioned by the Lexi cinema in London to make a series of films. They are a social enterprise and they give 100% of their profits to a village called Lynedoch in South Africa which is run by the Sustainability Institute.” It’s obvious now why he enjoys lounging on the sofa so much; it’s a luxury his packed schedule doesn’t afford him often. At the beginning of the interview he appeared to have a lot in his mind. Not every man can share his mind with an audience and maintain their interest, but something tells me that the world is about to get very interested in Mike Day.
Neil Stewart

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buzz summer 2010 |

culture pat coll


Keep on

Making tracks and making music go hand in hand for Pat Coll

only after my mum told me she was born in that very hospital and her mom had worked there as a nurse. It felt very special. I’m looking forward to going back.” He smiles. Of his first two years in NYC he says: “It felt good to connect with that matriarchal, American side of myself after really connecting through my father’s Scots-Irish side in the UK. “The feeling I started having in New York was that my muse and creativity eventually send me into a state of exile, whether I like it not. When I am alone, or feel that I am, I turn to my experiences and create.” In New York he discovered music to be the conduit of self-understanding, the breaker of the boundaries. “It occurred to me that creativity, is just that, and it will do whatever it takes to create the necessary conditions for creation. We don’t really have control over it.” His aptly named EP, The Exile, was released under his artistic name Reachout. “Reach for Short,” he smirks. It was launched with three parties in his “home towns’’ of New York, London and Edinburgh. Reflecting on a cathartic production process he says: “Finding home within myself and wherever I go – I was getting the exile out of my system. I felt these songs came from a point of isolation and that the title encapsulated that.’’ So, what about the next journey? “I plan to produce an EP called The Restless Native featuring tracks that I produced for other artists, and to continue having fun with the live shows.”
Gráinne Byrne


sinewy silhouette, all in leather; black eyed and warm skinned; he could be from anywhere. Born with an Irish forename in London 1974 – “the year of funk” – to a New Yorker and a Glaswegian, for Patrick Coll, life’s journey brought an intermittent battle of self-identity. Having left London at the age of four for Ayrshire, Coll related to his father’s roots. At 14, his move to Scotland’s capital saw him spend two decades fomenting his love of sound in the city’s vibrant music scene as a DJ, singer and producer, all the while trying to figure out where he fitted in best. He describes his journey as fugitive-like; always fighting to belong. His accent doesn’t help; a dulcet Glaswegian twang, despite never actually living there. A pilgrimage to New York in 2007 made Coll value his dual UK and US citizenship, and the perks of being able to switch between the two. “Growing up I didn’t really appreciate the advantage of dual nationality – I was just trying to fit in,” he says. “Now I realise that I’m very privileged to have a multicultural and multinational background.” Currently based in Brooklyn, Coll exudes contentment when talking about the City: “The urge to live there is overwhelming, although I’m the only one in my immediate family who feels that.” Of his impending return to Washington Heights, he gets lost in memories. “I lived there before and loved it. I used to go chill on the banks of the Hudson River near Columbia Hospital by the George Washington Bridge and felt very welcome. It was

zz e bu Coll th at on P Musical influences – “Brian Eno, Talking
Heads, The Beatles, lots of electro, lots of rock. David Bowie. Kate Bush, Beck, TV On The Radio…”
Opposite page: “Growing up I didn’t really appreciate the advantage of dual nationality – I was just trying to fit in”
Image: The Still Group 

Favourite view – “From the top of Arthur’s Seat.” Defining moment – “Finally finishing the Fly Baby album and having the release party in NY, as I’d always intended years prior. It felt really special but I’d like to think my defining moment is still on the horizon.”

Musical style – “It’s always evolving I feel, obviously Hip Hop will always be in the sound but I’d like to be known as an artist that has his own style.” Favourite book – “The Widow’s Son – Robert Anton Wilson”

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buzz summer 2010 |

culture feature


With every other magazine boasting the best new films, or the trendiest upcoming band of the minute, we here at buzz have decided to be reflective. Inspired by the culture of our Scottish homeland we have a few suggestions of some less-shouted about classics Red Road
A debut film by Andrea Arnold, Red Road is a claustrophobic portrait of modern life, exploring themes of reconciliation and revenge. It centres on Jackie, a CCTV worker observing the notorious Red Road council estate in the Barmulloch area of Glasgow. Her dedication to her job becomes a fixation when she spots a figure from her past and begins to follow him, resulting in inevitably taut confrontation. Like many modern Scottish films, Red Road films Glasgow from its grittiest, greyest angle but in Jackie you find a heroine so realistically determined and strong that the melancholy backdrop never overwhelms the film. The mystery aspect keeps viewers guessing until the end (who is the man and what has he done to Jackie?) and the stylish flair of dogma style sets the film apart from similar dramas. Andrea Arnold may have won plaudits for her recently released Fish Tank but it’s worth seeking out her debut work for a mesmerisingly detailed, but never clichéd, depiction of modern Scottish life.

Cocteau Twins
One of Scotland’s most intriguing bands, the Cocteau Twins consisted of lead vocalist Elizabeth Fraser and guitarist Robin Guthrie. Hailing from Grangemouth they had a string of successful albums in the 80s and 90s. Foremost to the band’s success were the ethereal vocals of Fraser, which despite sometimes being linguistically indistinguishable, were always understandable in conveying the pain and fragility of human emotions. But before you get worrying flashes

Why I kno don’t w thi s?
of Enya and Celtic Elves fear not; Cocteau Twins added bite as back up. Crunching 80s drum machines and brittle distorted guitars created a rich backdrop of sounds. Comparisons with Kate Bush were always inevitable, yet the band shared more similarities with their influences, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Birthday Present. To hear their sound at its most fully formed listen to 1990’s Heaven or Las Vegas.

The Trick is to Keep Breathing
When thinking of Scottish novels chances are you’ll be imagining misty mountains, brave ennobled patriots and savage yet romantic highland heroes. Our choice for a novel you might not have read – but probably should – is the antithesis of this. The debut novel by Janice Galloway, The Trick is to Keep Breathing was published to critical acclaim in 1989 and charts the breakdown of the main protagonist Joy after the death of her married lover. Galloway conveys the emotional anguish and isolation of Joy’s bereavement with sharp fragmented sentences and original subversions of splintered typography. This all sounds a bit heavy-going but the novel is kept from being merely morose by Galloway’s sharp wit. Amusing subcharacters and exploration of small pleasure in everyday monotony ensure a stark but rewarding read. Miriam Armstrong

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everything else is just noise


play gender swap feature play fitness


Blood, sweat and fears –

gender swap fitness
Kaye Nicolson and Matthew Nelson strip down to their shorts and t-shirts and go off in search of the ultimate gender bending alternative fitness workout
Matthew’s view Facebook is undoubtedly a treasure trove of tat; an anthology of the everyday musings of nitwits. It’s an idiot bandwagon that we have all willingly leapt on. Occasionally I scroll through my old status updates so that I can carefully plot the trajectory of my own regression. It’s also a handy way of charting my movements. A few weeks ago I did something that many of you may deem peculiar, my status read as follows: I went pole dancing today. Let me tell you that spinning round a metal pole legs akimbo is quite uncomfortable if you have the male equipment. Those of you with a traditional mindset might find this idea unsettling. But gender barriers are dissolving: more men are moisturising and tending to their unruly body hair. Why shouldn’t we trespass into feminine domains? If Kaye Nicolson can box (see opposite page) in her leisure time then I must be allowed to shimmy up and down metal pole without having to join the fire brigade. The mosaic of mental images that the words “pole dancing” summon are largely formed by seedy clubs and the Demi Moore film Striptease. I had never considered it to have any real health benefits. Also, I had never really thought of looking beyond the obvious displays of talent and admiring the athleticism and skill of the dancers. But I do now – pole dancing is a lot harder to do than it is to watch. Firstly there are certain mental barriers and inhibitions that need to be broken down. During my lesson at Fitness Chicks (the target clientele is hinted at in the title) instructor Sarah Munro tells me to grip my pole, stand on my tiptoes and wiggle my butt. The latter two are things that I have little experience of, and all three are things I feel very self conscious about doing in public. After a few minutes of looking like the Tin Man trying to freestyle I start to loosen up and soon I’m shaking my hindquarters like an arthritic J-Lo. In no time I’m spinning around the pole. This is harder than it looks and requires a certain amount of strength. Using your arms and legs as levers to spin yourself around a steel shaft is also slightly terrifying. I worry that I will thrust too hard and come unstuck; I have visions of myself flying off the pole and into a nearby wall. But these fears are unfounded, my vice like grip and general lack of explosive strength mean that I gently whirl round the pole before slowly slithering to the ground like an elderly sloth. The next day I have a variety of aches and pains. Some are from tired muscles in my arms and legs. Others are because I’m a man and so possess all of the relevant appendages that go with that. As I allude to in my Facebook status, pole dancing is painful if you have testicles. They also get in the way – I’m certain that I could have spun with far greater ease had I been without my manhood. So it looks like my pole dancing career may have been prematurely curtailed, and (given the nature of the injuries I suffered) my fertility with it.

Kaye’s view I have to admit that my party piece after a few drinks is to challenge my male friends to an arm wrestle. Ladylike I know; I’m not exactly well-known for being the epitome of feminine grace. But when Matt suggested that I try out a boxing fitness class I suddenly wasn’t as cocky – the thought of humiliating myself in a boxing ring certainly did not appeal. However, since he had suffered for the sake of a good article, leaving his male pride at the door to embark on a pole dancing class, I thought it was only fair to man up (so to speak) and join him for an ‘Ultimate Fitness’ lesson at the Edinburgh Boxing Academy. My expectations of a class full of menacing muscle men were thrown from the start, when I looked around to see a vast array of ages, fitness levels and experience in the room. Being one of only two girls in the class, I still worried that I would struggle to keep up, and embarrass myself by putting a muscle out. The intense warm up did nothing to inspire my confidence – and it was quite clear that worse was yet to come. But although the hour was incredibly challenging, it was also very fun, and I was relieved to see I was not alone in feeling pushed to the limit. Our cameraman Neil was on the sidelines capturing every strained facial expression

and the various profanities being muttered – all in all, not a recipe for attractive footage (although guaranteed to be entertaining!). When I was paired with Keith the instructor for some intensive exercises with a 5kg medicine ball, I was genuinely terrified; the guy is no man for slacking. I somehow managed to survive though, and his encouragement spurred me on when I thought I couldn’t take any more painful situp-lift-crunch combinations. Needless to say, I was in a lot of pain for a few days afterwards; it hurt to laugh let alone consider doing any other exercise. But as they say, no pain no gain – and I can’t think of a more full-on workout to improve your fitness levels. Contrary to many preconceptions, boxing is so much more than just throwing punches, and is suitable for a much wider variety of people – including the fairer sex. After the recent news that women’s boxing will finally become an Olympic sport, it couldn’t be a better time for girls to don some boxing gloves and try it out. And hopefully that will be the case – what better way to show off your girl power? For the moment, I’ll stick to my new pole dancing hobby, however I’d never say never to another boxing class. Maybe it would be the secret to finally winning an arm wrestle in the pub.

Above: the female of the species is more deadly than the male Opposite page: monkey man Matthew looking graceful on the pole
Images: Lindsay Brown

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play olympics 2012


The final hurdle

Eilidh Childs discusses the obstacles that stand between her and Olympic glory
he Winter Olympics are now behind us and British athletes are gearing up for the home run to London 2012. Chris Hoy’s remarkable 2008 performance, bringing home a magnificent three gold medals (the first British Olympian since 1908 to achieve such a feat), served to inspire many young Scots to make their own bids for Olympic glory. Eilidh Childs, 23, is a 400m hurdler and one of the leading lights in the Scottish sporting world, with her eye on Olympic glory. It’s a chilly Sunday afternoon in February when we meet Childs and her coach Stuart Hogg at their local club, Pitreavie near Dunfermline. “The school where I work as a PE teacher (Perth Grammar) has been really supportive and given me all the time that I need to compete. They know that I run and they know I’m an athlete, and they have been really flexible. I have an athletics club at the school and the kids ask me to show them how to hurdle. They’re really keen and interested.”

Olympics 2012
Childs is all too aware of her responsibilities as a role model to her pupils. When asked who inspires her she eagerly lists Chris Hoy as one of her own role models. Because he’s a superb athlete? Well yes, but also because he’s a fellow Hearts supporter, “and he’s just so rounded and humble about everything he’s achieved.” With a rigorous training schedule that only allows one day off per week she has learnt that she has to be an athlete all the time. “I need to eat the right things, go to bed at a sociable hour. The social life takes a back seat.” But Childs has a supportive family and a boyfriend who was himself an athlete until injury put paid to his own ambitions. “I just have to make sure I’ve always got my athletics head switched on,” she says – something she has learnt since transferring to her new coach Stuart Hogg a year and half ago. In the years she has been with him she has shed more than three kilos in weight, trains more effectively and has improved her performance times significantly.


Main image: Childs reflects on the challenge ahead Bottom left: Childs training with coach Stuart Hogg
Images: Yoshi Kametani

In 2009, she succeeded in pulling off her most successful season to date while working full time as a teacher, but now works just 2 days a week. As a ‘development athlete’ with UK Sport she has received funding to make this level of commitment feasible. “Before getting the funding I wasn’t really getting the recovery time I needed. The funding makes a huge difference – it means I can just concentrate on the training.” Childs started her athletic career as a cross country runner, but opted to race the 800m. It was her older sister who introduced her to the hurdles and prompted the realisation at the age of 17 that her long distance stamina combined with her hurdling ability made her the perfect athlete for the 400m hurdles. The European Championships in July in Barcelona is her first focus for 2010. Childs is hoping to beat her silver medal of last year and bring home a gold. Then there is a break over the summer until the Commonwealth Games in October in New Delhi. 2011 will focus on the European Championships once more and then, of course, the ultimate goal will be the London Olympics in 2012 and a place in the final. “It seems like ages away, and then I realise it’s not that long at all. It’s difficult not to get too ahead of myself and just take each day as it comes. It’s always there on my radar but I need to keep grounded.” The incentive of racing in front of a home crowd simply cannot be underestimated and certainly for Team GB, the pressure to perform will be tempered by the huge groundswell of support they can expect at every event in 2012. When I ask coach Stuart Hogg how he rates her chances he tells me that he never talks

about limits to what his athletes can achieve. “Eilidh’s got real guts. She’s tough and she’s determined and she’s got a strong heart.” When Childs competes at the Commonwealth Games, she does so as a Scottish athlete under the Saltire. As a member of Team GB at the Olympics, she would be competing under the Union Jack. As a proud Scot, how does she feel about that? “I love Scotland and I love competing for Scotland, but when I’m out there racing, I’m on my own and I’m racing for me. But I would love to be on that podium listening to The Flower of Scotland playing.” With the next Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow in 2014, the goal of winning a gold medal there, in front of a home crowd and hearing her national anthem play must be a huge motivation? “That would be ideal,” she says with a grin. Tracy Norris

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buzz summer 2010 |

careers money for fun


Money for fun?


You’re having a laugh
The Stand in Edinburgh weeks after his 17th birthday in 2008, two years later he is hot property in the stand-up circuit. “I always knew I wanted to be in comedy…I got my fifth year exam results back and they were awful, so we thought Uni clearly wasn’t an option. I decided I’d give it a shot.” Shadowing Scotland’s second most famous comedy export – Frankie Boyle – at the 2007 Fringe, the Fifer developed his material quickly before throwing himself onto the circuit. “There used to be so many middle aged comedians because they’d got to that stage in their life where they could think I’m going to give it a try, maybe their job wasn’t going so well. But standup is huge now. Just look at McIntyre’s road show. Kids are brought up with it.” Sloss is clearly a confident performer, and claims to have never seen nerves as a problem. Self belief is a trait that makes a comedian. Whether it’s a confidence that comes from reciting material over and over as in the youngster’s case, or the ability to convince your audience that you are good at what you do, being able to come across as a natural is a must. “Believing in yourself” is the best way to counter nerves, according to Ritchie. “A nervous comic makes a nervous audience and they will be less responsive.” Making your way in a new field is never easy, especially one where some of your counterparts will be most famous for tearing apart the personas of those in the public eye. Comedy has a reputation for being a cutthroat profession. The often thin line between success and failure leads many to presume that fellow comics are less than welcoming of new competition. Not so, says Sloss. “Before I got into it my mum had some friends in comedy who said everybody is really bitchy backstage. But they’re not; they’re lovely people. Yeah, you get c**ts, but you get c**ts

aughter, according to the saying, is the best medicine. From taking solace in your own misfortune, to removing the sting from a potentially awkward situation, comedy is seen by all but the most sullen as a way of letting off steam. From Shakespearean satire to the happy-chappy routine of Michael McIntyre, laughter has always helped us unwind. For many, however, the art of telling a good joke is much more than a recreational time-filler. As the grasp of comedy widens, encompassing more air time on television and radio, it is rapidly catapulting its most successful practitioners to meteoric heights. Comedy in the 21st century looks like rock ‘n’ roll did in the fifties. And just as the musical revolution of the mid 20th century saw those in their teens to late twenties try their hand at the most exciting money-spinner of the time, more are taking the prospect of a career in comedy seriously. Dr Chris Ritchie set up the UK’s first degree in comedy at Southampton Solent University four years ago. A seasoned comedian who studied post-war comedy for his PhD, Ritchie believes the simplicity of kick-starting a comedy career is one of the most endearing attributes of the trade. “Comedy is the only area of performance which has an open door. Film making, music, art and theatre all require ridiculous logics to make them happen. Stand-up requires you and a few jokes. Getting on the circuit is easy and the dedicated talent will win out.” This easy access is allowing an increasing number of relative youngsters to make a living out of being funny. From showcases at the Edinburgh Fringe to open-mic nights around the country, more and more baby-faced comics are taking to the stage. Rising star Daniel Sloss is a perfect example. Playing his first gig at

What does it take to be successful in the comedy world? buzz takes a look at the ups and downs of the increasingly popular world of stand-up careers

Opposite page: on top of the world – Daniel Sloss is climbing his way up the comedy ladder

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Images: Silvia Foteva

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buzz summer 2010 |

careers green jobs


in every job.” The less obvious competitor, the heckler, is something that most comedians seem to be unafraid of. Rather than being an obstacle to overcomein rowdy club gigs, Ritchie believes vocal cynics can be an asset: “When you are heckled it is the chance to go off script so it is a positive thing. You should have a couple of prepared responses ranging from mild to savage, but spontaneity is the best thing.

I think people assumed because I looked so young that if they heckled me I would break down and cry

Nick Eardley

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If you cannot respond wittily to a remark you shouldn’t be on stage.” And youth, according to Sloss, can be a distinct advantage. “I think people assumed because I looked so young that if they heckled me I would break down and cry. A lot of the time it’s hard to compose yourself when you’re being heckled because if it happens at the right moment it throws you completely off your train of thought…I’ve found there’s no way to emasculate a man better in front of his girlfriend than have a 19-year-old rip the shit out a thirty year old man.” Being young helps in other ways. The dedication needed to make your

name means, as with most performance careers, that an abundance of energy is a pre-requisite. “It is not just the domain of youth but it helps to start as young as possible,” says Ritchie. “It is tiring and it needs the stamina that younger folk have. A lot of comedians mellow as they get older and this is because of the energy levels required for continued performances.” Getting older is not the only problem. Time is a precious commodity, and constant travelling often leaves little time for anything else. Susan Calman, who abandoned her career as a lawyer to work in comedy in 2005, sees this as the central downfall. “The main issue is being away from home such a lot. I miss out on friends birthdays and have to make a conscious effort to fit people in. It can be quite lonely when you are on the road.” As it continues to be for emerging rock stars, alcohol is another tempting demon that comedians need to resist. “Comedy lives in bars and clubs, so the temptation to drink far too much is always there,” Ritchie says. And whilst Johnny Vegas may have made his name based on a near-paralytic act, it removes the control over the audience so central to a successful gig. “You have to be more sober than your audience to deal with them.” Comedy is now a “multi billion-dollar industry” highlights Ritchie, and you only have to think about Jonathan Ross to realise how lucrative a comedy career be. For those who can stay sober and thrive on the limelight, it is an increasingly attractive option. But there are, of course, a few ground rules to follow. “You need good business sense and to not piss anyone off on the way up,” says Ritchie. “Comedians who are difficult face difficult careers.” “Be smart; don’t turn down good gigs because of money. It will pay off eventually as does all hard work.” Although the medicine on offer is not the same as the life saving type that gives doctors their job satisfaction, the ability to have an audience eating out of your hand rings as true for comedy as it does for popular musicians, and dwarfs that of the average career. As in Jonathan Ross’ case, the pay can be huge. With just one caveat. You do need to be funny.

Green collar uprising
Lindsay Brown questions whether green is king in Scotland
Scotland is one of the few places on the globe that is packed with a combination of ecological resources which can – and in fact will – engender a compelling renewable energy industry. Policy-makers, scientists, and entrepreneurs are already striding forward to gracefully harness the country’s mighty natural resources; including her wind and waves. Solar and geothermal forces will also be used to generate economic and environmental benefits for the people of Scotland and for entrepreneurs around the globe, as the shortage of energy is a worldwide dilemma. The ebb and flow of the North Sea tide is just one type of power found off the coast of the Orkney Islands. “Last year Scotland passed a Climate Change Act which has been lauded around the world as being one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in connection with climate change,” says Shirley-Anne Somerville, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change Committee. More Local Jobs To synchronise with upcoming Scottish and European legislation, the City of Edinburgh and Midlothian councils have established the Zero Waste project, which aims to decrease household waste. Starting this spring it looks at private contractors’ proposals for a regenerative waste treatment facility in Midlothian. “The plant’s construction will start no sooner than 2015, yet it is estimated that 300 jobs in construction will be created at that time, and then an estimated 40 long-term operational jobs will follow,” says Kelly Murphy, the Communications Manager for the project. In January, the Crown Estate granted rights to Seagreen Wind Energy, a consortium made up by the companies SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy plc) and Fluor Ltd, to construct nearly 1000 wind turbines in Moray Firth and the Firth of Forth off the coast of Fife. The project will create up to 2000 green jobs in Fife alone by 2020. Greasy to Squeaky Clean A similarly-named company, SeaEnergy Renewables, is expected to partake in the building of a wind farm on the Moray Firth site. The company is a subsidiary of SeaEnergy plc, which is based in Aberdeen. Formally known as Ramco Energy PLS, the company decided to shift its investments away from oil and gas in order to focus solely on the offshore wind business. It’s ahead of the curve in transitioning to renewable energy. The oil and gas industries have taken on a bad reputation over the years, with environmental and wildlife activists admonishing them for their role in damaging the North Sea following nearly 50 years of oil exploitation. Everyday operations included setting off underwater explosions, dumping drill cuttings onto the sea bed, submerging chemical-coated rigs and pipelines into the sea, and flaring noise and light pollution into habitats. These offences are only in addition to the occasional accidental catastrophe, which have even claimed human lives. The emergence of green industries has succeeded in gathering immense public support. On Facebook, a group called “Put a wind farm in my backyard if you like, because I’m not an idiot” grew to almost 40,000 members by February. The group’s description includes a reproach to people who object to the sight of wind farms. It wryly remarks: “Oh no, we don’t want those turbines out there, they make a slight swishing noise, which disrupts the sound of the main road and ruins the view of the landfill site.” Clean energy will offer opportunities to engineers, ecologists, business managers, and more. For the latest list of green job openings, visit www.scottishrenewables. com and click on careers.

30/03/2010 15:15

Work it career success
In today’s impenetrable job market your social skills might hold the key to a career
For most of us ‘networking’ is more buzz kill than a buzzword. But with only 40% of today’s jobs advertised, the very act of rubbing elbows is an integral part of the job seeking process. Just where, when and how do you start hobnobbing though? The answers might be closer to home than you think… Using your friends is perhaps the easiest way to tap into the hidden jobs market. Having a network of acquaintances familiar with your abilities can provide a pipeline to a new career – whether helping to set up a placement at their own workplace or putting you in contact with a valuable connection. That said, networking is essentially about expanding connections, and broadening contacts can push your skills into new and desirable arenas. Personal interests say a lot about someone, so throwing yourself into a hobby can put you in touch with people on your wavelength, both professionally and socially. Janet Torley, founder of network group thesmallbusinessclub, is a firm believer in interests based networking; “If you like playing golf, contacts can be made during golf, if you’re a go-karting enthusiast, business can be done there. You just need a pile of business cards and a pair of ears.” To make life simpler, there are numerous services to facilitate group meetings based on interests. Meetup. com offers friendship at the end of a click, with local groups focusing on photography to sci-fi. As group organiser Alan Bradshaw has observed; “Sometimes people put the cart before the horse and think they can shortcut the important social stuff that needs to take place to generate trust, which is necessary before other forms of networking work.” Volunteering is a natural introduction to new relationships and can provide actual work experience. Take a glance at and you’ll find positions like web designing or teaching. And what’s more, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re one step closer to heaven. Rather than solely as a means of procrastination, online social networks like Facebook and MySpace also encourage joining groups and fanpages. The facility to create your own network means you can pinpoint exactly what kind of group you’re interested in building, and the people you want in it. Sites like Twitter will allow you to ‘follow’ attuned peers, as well as employers, some of whom post updates on up and coming employment opportunities, while uses social networking specifically for business purposes. Careers advisor Fiona Nicolson is well aware of the internet’s importance; “Online job hunting is becoming more and more popular. There’s a definite trend at the moment for the ‘hidden jobs market’ – there are much less openly advertised jobs.” So there we have it. Throw out your cocktail dress. Forget your sales pitch. The new networking’s social and you’re already a pro. Rebecca Gordon

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Above: networking events can be a good opportunity to make useful business contacts

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