Green Yonder Tours
I’m involved in two festivals. I’ve got a tiny little company called Greenyonder Tours where I do walking tours during the Fringe. For about twelve years I’ve run a tour called ‘Hidden Gardens of the Royal Mile’, it’s become quite a popular fixture. I also run a tour of the New Town and Princes Street Gardens.
Over the last few years, I’ve been asked by the Art Festival to do bespoke walking tours based around an annual theme that they’ve chosen for their Commissions Programme. I’ve got a particular interest in a man called Patrick Geddes (an influential sociologist, biologist and town planner). I run a tour on him and his work and that brought me to the attention of the Art Festival, as they had Geddes as the focus of their commissions programme that year. They were commissioning various works of art around Geddes’s ideas of green cities and they asked me to do a couple of bespoke walks for them.
What do you enjoy most about working for the festivals?
The thing I most enjoy about the Fringe is the license to do what I want to do. With so many thousands of people visiting, there’s bound to be some who are interested in my tour – it’s a great way of publicising myself and I also like the fact that you just don’t know who’ll turn up.
You get all sorts! Usually it’s inspiring and interesting and energising. In terms of the Art Festival, it’s got to be talking with the staff, they’re always buzzing with ideas, listening to other people’s ideas. They’re kindred spirits.
What is your favourite festival memory?
I like to see the Old Town as a living place, where real people still live and work. I do a ‘Hidden Gardens’ tour – it’s very much about people who just want to garden and make it nicer to live in, tending these small gardens in the available nooks and crannies.
Once I was waiting to pick people up for the tour – I was waiting in the high street and local man told me I was getting money for nothing and that there were no gardens on the Royal Mile. Visitors often know where these places are better than the locals! I think Edinburgh residents can do ourselves down, it’s quite amusing that visitors are much more upbeat about the Old Town than the locals.
What makes you proud to be a Festival City citizen?
I think a lot of us have found lockdown a time to reflect on how we’re living our life. I think the Festivals need to do the same. The Fringe programme is so much, nobody could possibly do it all. To live here and experience it every year – it can be upsetting for local people – I love the festivals and am proud to be part of them, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a rethink. I don’t have all the answers of course, but I think it’s a good thing people are having these conversations, especially about moving outside of the city centre. It’s become saturated, and lots of other parts of the city don’t benefit from the Festivals. Of course, I want them to continue but I want to make sure we retain our pride in taking part. As with anything it’s good to reassess, and it’s time for Edinburgh to have a rethink.