Serving soldiers and veterans of recent conflicts who are involved in the arts are bringing their experiences of peace, war, discrimination, healing and military life to Army@TheVirtualFringe.

All have perspectives, expertise and insights they hope to share with the public and with the arts community as it looks to an uncertain future in the post-pandemic world. 

The online event replaces Army@TheFringe (staged in association with Summerhall) which sees the historic Hepburn House drill hall transformed into an Edinburgh Fringe venue hosting shows and exhibitions encouraging debate about life in and out of uniform. 

The final programme has now been unveiled and offers more than 40 free films, live-from-home performances, workshops, rehearsed readings and discussions from 10-30 August.

Contributors come from all walks of life and include some with past or present military backgrounds. Among them are:

  • Román Baca: A classically trained ballet dancer who joined the US Marines and served in Iraq as a machine-gunner and fire-team leader in Falluja. He then co-founded Exit12 Dance Company which tells veterans’ stories to increase cross-cultural understanding and heal divisions. He also works with victims of war and civilians across the world.
  • Andee Birkett: An accomplished musician and singer, bass guitarist, double bass player, clarinettist and vocalist who toured with shows and performers – including Toyah Wilcox – before joining the Army where she is a Lance Corporal in the Band of the Royal Welsh Guards and plays at major royal events.
  • Harry Parker: In 2009 Harry lost his legs in an IED explosion when serving in Afghanistan. He is now an artist and author – his first book Anatomy of a Soldier was widely acclaimed. Harry will talk about writing from lived experience.
  • Ben Mason: Director of Music of the Band of the Grenadier Guards – possibly the most famous military band in the world. Captain Mason, who has also composed for theatre, will discuss using music to create atmosphere and evoke emotion.
  • Wendy Faux: Lieutenant Colonel Faux, the Army’s head of arts, will discuss opportunities for performers to be part of Army@TheFringe in future years.
  • Connor Deakin: A saxophonist and clarinettist who followed his sister into the Army and is now a Lance Sergeant in the Band of the Grenadier Guards.
  • James Wharton: Whose autobiography Out In The Army is being turned into a play for Army@TheFringe. James was the first openly gay member of the Army to feature on the front cover of Soldier magazine.
  • Rebecca Brown: The first female soldier to win Army Photographer of the Year.
  • Phil Spencer (pictured): Former Royal Marine, now a filmmaker, looks at making short films.

Wendy Faux said: “There is a long and close relationship between the Army and the arts. This year Army@TheVirtualFringe is offering the arts community and the public the chance to share the knowledge, work and expertise of some phenomenally talented veterans and serving soldiers.

“They include people who create music for major national events and veterans whose lives have been changed forever by conflict or who have helped change attitudes to LGBTQI+ rights. Others have used their talents to bring the most powerful of human experiences to audiences – encouraging debate and mutual understanding.”

Ben Mason, a professional conductor and composer in the British Army who directs music at state events, including the Trooping the Colour, and who also wrote incidental music for the Farnham Maltings play The Man Who Left is Not the Man Who Came Home, said: “Music is one of the most powerful ways to evoke emotion – whether it’s for a national event like The Queen’s Birthday Parade or inside a theatre.

“I’m really looking forward to taking part in Army@TheVirtualFringe and talking to people about all the possibilities there are for enhancing shows they create for the Fringe, or elsewhere, by making the most of music.

“And I’m also really looking forward to being part of the audience for Andee and Connor’s events – I’ve known them both for a number of years and they are not only hugely talented but are great fun as well.”

Emma Mawdsley, Head of Collections at the National Army Museum and Patrick Baty, historian and curator of The Artists Rifles, will also take part in a discussion of the role of contemporary artists and their links to military history.

Themes covered in Army@TheVirtualFringe workshops will extend from telling stories without text to the use of film and photography, the process of making shows in different contexts and theatre design for the Fringe.

  • Pictures have been distributed with this release – a wider selection is available from this DropBox link or on request https://bit.ly/32sKLaz

 – Ends –

Notes for editors

About Army@TheFringe

  • See attached programme for the line-up or visit our website. Army@TheVirtualFringe events are free but places need to be reserved in advance at www.Army@TheFringe.org.
  • Further pictures are available from DropBox https://bit.ly/2BYIt8f or on request.
  • 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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Website: www.Armyatthefringe.org

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