All Back to Bowie’s

David Greig

Stand in the Square

From 01 August 2014 to 24 August 2014

Rating: *****

Review by Philip Fisher

August in Edinburgh is usually characterised by the ephemeral but, despite its title, All Back to Bowie's is a refreshingly intellectual hour that takes the serious seriously and changes theme and cast on a daily basis.

Curated by playwright David Greig, it is designed to allow the competing groups, including big hitters like the country’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, to air opinions about the Scottish Independence referendum before an eager public.

The general views of visitors can best be gauged by the proliferation of Yes badges on show (do No badges exist?).

The event on 5 August, the day of the first televised debate, went under the title "Bevan Tried to Change the Nation—Whatever Happened to Britain" and was compered by Julia Taudevin.

After a warm-up song from Wounded Knee (Drew Wright to his family), David Torrance, a nay-sayer, presented the daily "Wee Provocation" reminding us that Britain existed long before the Act of Union in 1707 and will endure whatever happens on 18 September.

This led into a panel discussion chaired by Peter (Janis Joplin: Full Tilt) Arnott, which involved the views of

  • James Robertson - Novelist
  • Isobel Lindsay - Veteran campaigner and CND leader
  • David Torrance - Writer
  • Andrew Tickell - Lawyer and Constitutional Scholar
  • Neal Ascherson - Journalist and Author or many books incuding Stone Voices about this topic

The general tenor was in favour of independence, as much as anything because Britain has ceased to serve any purpose for Scots. The question that was hardly addressed was whether it means anything to anybody anywhere in 2014?

The most heated issue was whether Britain's heyday came post-war as the Welfare State and NHS changed society or is that just another facet of a successful union that goes back centuries?

Slam Poet Jim Monaghan from Cumnock then entertained with two razor sharp samples that advertised his wares perfectly and presented a view on Scottish identity as cogently as anything else said in the hour, while a Cairene view was also presented.

For anyone that has limited understanding of the issues in the hot political potato that is Scottish Independence, one or more visits to All Back to Bowie's should be compulsory during a visit to the Fringe in this potentially momentous year.

The full line up can be seen on the show’s web site.