In a year of devastation for Scotland’s festivals, Paisley producer Jordan Blackwood is taking a leading role in keeping alive the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

He has been a key figure in creating, programming and hosting three weeks of online live-from-home performances, screenings, live readings, workshops and discussions under the banner of Army@TheVirtualFringe.

When Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the world’s largest arts event, the military had to call off its annual Army@TheFringe events. Run in association with Summerhall it normally sees the historic Hepburn House drill hall transformed into a venue hosting shows and exhibitions that encourage debate about life in and out of uniform. 

But they rapidly regrouped and called on Jordan, a freelance producer and director, to help them go digital. Together they have put together a programme of more than 40 free events from 10 to 30 August.

Jordan said: “We all agreed that it was hugely important to find ways to help keep the spirit of the Fringe alive – both for audiences and for everyone in the performing arts.

“Going digital allowed us to carry on working with some of the artists and companies whose shows had been selected for this year’s Army@TheFringe.

“The hope is that we can actually reach a wider audience by going digital and it will act as a showcase to attract people to visit Scotland and the Fringe next year.”

The different format has meant that all sorts of people from military and civilian life have been drafted in to contribute.

Among them is Paisley FM DJ and military husband Chris Keen who will be presenting an entertainment-packed Army@TheVirtualFringe Variety Night at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 26 August.

One of the main aims of Army@TheVirtualFringe has been to help the performing arts sector rebuild.

Many workshops and discussions are being led by experienced professionals, including writers, directors, choreographers, singers, musicians, set designers, photographers, critics and PR professionals who will share their expertise and offer tips on bringing shows to Edinburgh – or any other festival.

Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Faux, the Army’s head of arts, said: “Army@TheFringe is all about working with artists to raise issues about life in the Army and wider society. 

“Jordan did a brilliant job of producing our 2019 event and has followed it up with an inspiring and enjoyable online programme for 2020.

“We are really glad to have been able to have been able to respond swiftly and effectively to the pandemic by rethinking our plans and going digital. 

“With so many people facing difficult times, and the arts having been hit so badly, it’s been a chance for us to help fill a little of the gap left by the loss of this year’s Fringe and to offer some support to performers.”

– Ends –

Notes for editors

About Army@TheFringe

  • Army@TheFringe was established to present a diverse programme of performances that tell stories of life in and out of uniform.
  • It normally takes place at Hepburn House, an historic Army drill hall in Edinburgh’s New Town, which offers a variety of performance spaces, a relaxed and comfortable Mess Bar plus an Army Tuckshop.

Shows from past years

Army@TheFringe has a track record of presenting bold, high quality, independently produced performance art. Highlights last year included:

  • Dead Equal: All-female opera performed by three world-class sopranos telling the forgotten true story of Flora Sandes, heroine of the Allied frontline in World War I.  
  • The Happiness Project: Queer theatre looking at the need for non-sexual physical contact in a digital age.  
  • Unicorns, Almost: Owen Sheers’ play about the poet Keith Douglas and his Faustian pact with war. Initially as an audio experience and then as a live performance.

The 2018 dance theatre production The Troth, from the Akademi, (★★★★★ Broadway Baby, ★★★★ Herald) won Herald Angel and Lustrum awards with its portrayal of the experiences of South Asian soldiers on the Western Front in World War I.

In 2017 5 Soldiers, from the Rosie Kay Dance Company, achieved huge critical acclaim with a string of ★★★★ and ★★★★★ reviews and went on to enjoy major national and international success.

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For media information about Army@TheFringe contact Matthew Shelley at SFPR on 07786704299 or Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.Org