Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh Fringe Festival’

The Hub as viewed from the Lawnmarket during t...

The Hub (Image via Wikipedia)

Harry Gooch and Jamie Macdonald

If you fancy doing something a little bit different this Festival, try The Edinburgh Comedy Tour.

Walking Heads is literally a hysterical walking tour of Edinburgh using your MP3 or Android / iPhone clamped to your lugs with buckets of laughter thrown in.

Starting at The Fringe Office, the tour takes you around loads of comedy haunts including the Royal Mile, the Assembly Halls and Bristo Square with wit, anecdotes and historical facts thrown in.

Your joke-drivers on the tour are Jamie Macdonald – the blind, accident prone historian and guide, along with his eyes for the day, Harry Gooch, who ‘has to help Jamie as part of his community service after being found guilty of a misjudged act of heroism.’

The surreal pair are ably enabled by top Scottish comedians, Bruce Morton and the divine Susan Morrison.  For example, Susan will crack you up with descriptions of Edinburgh’s Pubic Triangle and some of the colourful characters that can be found limbering up for The London Olympics 2012.

The ultimate destination is The Stand Comedy Club, in York Place, the comedy mecca for wise-crack-addicted audiences and their entertainment dealers of a comedic bent.

Edinburgh has been the launch pad of many a must-see comedian. They’ve all suffered and relished in the drollery and hoopla of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  In fact some of the venues have been fighting for official titles over who launched whose comedy career.

This is a comedy event / product / series that will tickle any amateur or professional comedy fan’s fancy.

In fact, it’s already won funding from the Scottish Enterprise Tourism Innovation Fund because Walking Heads promises to take people off the beaten track to reveal the true grit of the place.

Dougal Perman from Walking Heads comments:

“We’re very excited about launching our first downloadable walking tour during the Fringe. The Edinburgh Comedy Tour is quirky, funny and full of surprises so we’re starting as we mean to go on – introducing the character and personality that will make our tours stand out from the crowd.”

So if you happen upon some random tourists cackling away to themselves and pointing at odd statues and monuments across the city, you’ll understand they’ve been plugged into a brilliant new comedy tourism product.

Your Challenge

Know any other wicked walks and tours in Edinburgh?

Here’s a short list off the top of my head but I’m sure I’ve missed out a few:

  • The Edinburgh Photography Tour here, by a great guy and brilliant photographer, James Christie
  • The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour here
  • The Edinburgh Ghost Tour here (Auld Reekie Tours) and here (Mercat Tours) and here (Cadies & Witchery Tours)
  • The Edinburgh Trainspotting Tour here
  • The Edinburgh Rebus Tours here
I’ve not been on any.  Have you?  Any views?

Phelo, Loyiso & Zwai Bala

What do you get when you cross Opera with South African township, jazz, R&B & Afrikaaner hymns?

Why, none other than the fabulous Bala Brothers.  Three tenors who’ve got their groove on.  Comprising three black South African brothers – Zwai, Loyiso and Phelo – with charm and talent in uber abundance.

I first met Zwai when he was 19 on a scholarship to the Royal Academy for Musica and Drama studying classical music in Glasgow.  My boyfriend of only 10 weeks had been at school with Zwai in South Africa and desperately needed his best friend’s seal of approval.

Young Zwai

My boyfriend and I sat in the upstairs cafe at St James Centre in Edinburgh and I nervously prepared to impress Zwai with my knowledge of classical music, South Africa and charming banter.

Uncomfortably late, a young, light-skinned black guy appeared at the top of the escalator looking no older than 14. Small, skinny and a little bit twitchy, Zwai was not an impressive looking type of guy.

But then he started to speak.

For 3 hours, I cried my heart out with belly-rocking laughter.  Never in my life have I laughed as much, then or now.  This guy had the gift of telling stories that could last 25 minutes, filling in all the important details with colour and style, while leisurely teasing his doubled-up audience towards the conclusion.

Zwai Bala

Zwai, a bit older

Zwai told scary, hysterical stories about his recent circumcision in the South Africa bush with tribal elders; regaled us with his dismal failures at attracting girls and the priceless high-jinks both he and my boyfriend got up to as scholarship black boys in the all-white boarding school under apartheid.

That was my first experience of the picturesque oratory and humour of South Africans.  And when I think about it, that conversation on a sunny winter’s day in March 1995 made me fall in love with my future husband even more.

I had already fallen head over heels for the man, but now I was irrevocably smitten by his culture.


I didn’t see Zwai again for 8 years during which time he had carved out a meteoric career back in South Africa.  He started as a gospel singer, then with 2 other school friends, founded a group called TKZee to develop a new hip-hop, township sound called Kwaito.

By 1998, TKZee had become the fastest and biggest selling recording artists in South African history.  They quickly became household names not just in South Africa but across the continent.

At South Africa’s Opening Ceremony for the Fifa World Cup 2010, TKZee shared the stage with Hugh Masekela, R. Kelly and Shakira for the first global showcase of kwaito music.


Zwai’s vast repertoire of voice, piano, production and arrangement has made him one of the top producers and artists in South Africa’s music industry today.  He was recently a celebrity contestant on the first season of Strictly Come Dancing and when leaving Edinburgh, was jetting back to be a judge on ‘Popstars‘ – South Africa’s hit TV show equivalent of Pop Idol.

On hearing his wee brother Phelo at 15, sing Nessun Dorma, Zwai was inspired to develop a fresh sound for a new generation.  Persuading his middle brother, Loyiso, himself a Drackensberg graduate, to take time away from his high-profile R&B career, was a struggle.

But once the brothers had locked themselves into the recording studio for a few weeks, Loyiso realised there was something magical about the sounds they made.

Phelo, age 19

The Bala Brothers go back to their musical roots of passionate opera, swinging South African township, sonorous Afrikaans hymns and rocking out jazz.

During the show in Edinburgh, Zwai also went back to his story telling roots and wove the Bala Brothers’ personal journey through the troubled history of South Africa in his inimical fashion.

He drew the audience closer and more intensely to the beating heart of South Africa’s magical landscape, stories and sounds with his wicked wit and charm.

Bala Brothers

Zwai does not have any problems with attracting girls any more.  Quite the contrary.  Now that he’s married to one of South Africa’s most beautiful TV and radio stars, Melanie Bala, he has to beat them off with a stick.

Zwai Bala is a man of great courage, humour, heart and vision.  But most of all, Uncle Zwai is responsible for planting the joyful spirit and passionate soul of South Africa deep in my heart … and with the help of my husband, producing 5 beautiful children.

Ngiyabonga, baba.

The Bala Brothers performed to standing ovations and a packed house at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Princes Street Gardens on 9th and 16th August 2010.  And as special guests with the Soweto Gospel Choir for the first two weeks of the festival.  They also sang two acapela songs in the Leith FM studio that I’ll post up in a bit.

Watch them on YouTube:

TKZee singing Dlala Mapantsula (click straight through)

Loyiso singing Dali Wami

Bala Brothers singing Khumbula

Bala Brothers singing Strome Van Seen


Its not all laffs in the business of selling comedy.  Especially during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The population doubles, the atmosphere becomes mental continental, and the falling leaves of a trillion flyers are enough to make a grown environmentalist cry.

Bruce Fummey, a regular on Leith Tonight, and a huuuuge Ghana fan for South Africa’s World Cup, is going for an innovative pitch this year.  To stand out from the mauling marketing hawkers of the Royal Mile during the Festival time, Bruce has turned to Social Media for message relief.  Facebook, to be precise.

“This is my 6th year at The Fringe and, as a performer, I am under no illusions: it’s extremely tough to capture your potential audience’s attention. I am only one of 2,543 shows this year that are all being marketed simultaneously.”

“The reality is, I could spend thousands on marketing and it would still be a drop in the ocean. So I decided to turn the tables on the traditional ways of marketing and offer up my budget to those with the power to really spread the word” he continued.

Bruce is offering to GIVE AWAY his entire Fringe marketing budget to one of his Facebook fans that are helping him to spread the marketing message about his shows.

During his wickedly humorous interview on Leith FM‘s flagship arts and culture show, Leith Tonight on 16th June 2010, Bruce described the success to date. Bruce’s Facebook page, “Bruce Fummey Wants you to Win his £500 Marketing Budget” has already amassed an army of 704 fans from around the world, eager to win the cash and happy to spread the word.

The prize pot started at zero and with each fan added to the page, it rises by a penny.  Simple, but devastatingly effective.

“We’re really in this together. The more people my fans about the page, the bigger the prize pot grows.  It’s a win-win situation for both of us.  People get to hear about my shows and everyone increases the amount they can win” he said.

The winner will be selected by a live audience at Bruce’s final show at this year’s Fringe and will enjoy the £500 Bruce would have otherwise spent on more traditional forms of marketing such as advertising and printed materials.

Bruce’s show, “2012: The End of the World (It’s Not about the Olympics, Honest)” will run from 4th August 2010 at 8pm in The Beehive in Grassmarket. Tickets are available from Bruce will also be performing “About Nothing in Particular” at the Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival with shows at 10.00pm in the Laughing Horse @ The Counting House.

To be in with a chance of winning Bruce’s £500 marketing budget, visit