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Edinburgh, Adam Paxon and the Trenches of World War One

Edinburgh in August is probably one of my favourite places to be. The Festival Fringe that envelopes the place for most of the month is incomparable in its scope and energy.

I first came here when I was 18, all starry eyed and inspired by a report on the festival that I’d seen years before. The city made an indelible impression and before long I was totally smitten. That early infatuation has mellowed a little over the years and I’m now deeply fond of it and make a bi-annual pilgrimage up here every other summer for the festival.

Of course, The Fringe is mostly about the theatre and comedy but there’s art, craft, books, films and dance all hidden away here too. Every room is a venue and the best parts of any trip are always the things that you find by accident, the show that you overhear a recommendation for while you’re queuing for tea or the thing that you see on impulse.

One of the first great discoveries of this trip for me was the Dovecot Studios. I was actually there for a show – the brilliant ‘Elsie and Mairi go to War’, a dramatisation of the lives of two women who drove ambulances and nursed on the frontlines of the First World War. It was deeply evocative and very well put together by historian Diane Atkinson, the women’s personalities really shone through though I felt like the hour long show only scratched the surface of their circumstances – I may have to read the book to get to know them a little better.

Star of the Show: Gorgeous Neckpiece from Adam Paxon

Elsewhere in this beautiful, creative space was an exhibition of Adam Paxon’s work (Matter 5). Upon seeing it through the gallery door the set up put me immediately in mind of Andy Goldsworthy. Pieces of work were suspended in the air on nylon cords and surrounded by cages of nylon thread, weighted with pebbles. It formed an impressive sight from afar (though strangely raw and unprocessed against Adam’s work) and also gave a handy protective barrier to the work, without the sterile presence of glass.

The pebble barrier hanging around Adam Paxons work at Dovecot Studios

The work itself was typically colourful, a test of the properties of acrylic and looking at it made you wonder how such vivid little sea beasties can survive for so long out of the water. The whole show had a beautifully playful feel to it, willing the pieces to be alive and daring you to wear them. I wanted them to move, hung suspended in their little bubbles in the cool gallery space.

Adam Paxon's work suspended in the air at Dovecot Studios

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