When you say the word ‘Army’, what words come to mind? When you say the word ‘Soldier’, what image is conjured? We would be surprised, but delighted, if any of the following immediately sprung forth: artist, poet, actor or ballet dancer. Our tendency is to separate these character types and institutions as incompatible. And yet, the Army is brimming with creatives and creativity.
Three years ago, Lt Colonel Gordon MacKenzie (Reservist) and Major General Gary Deacon, set out on a path to bring these two worlds together. Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, a hot-bed of boundary pushing, reflection, story-telling and creative expression seemed like the perfect environment. Why not, the gentlemen pondered, bring a show or two to the Fringe? Consequently, Army @ The Fringe was born.
Since 2017 [email protected] has been bringing yearly shows, exhibitions and workshops to Edinburgh, for the Fringe goers. The aim is simply to tell the Army story, to express Army values and to start conversations about Army life. However, for obvious reasons, the fate of this year’s [email protected] was on the line.
Lt Colonel Wendy Faux (Reservist), Lead for Arts Engagement with the British Army said: “With the cancellation of this year’s Fringe, it would have been very easy to have cancelled our plans. That just wasn’t an option. In true military fashion, we needed to adapt and to overcome.”
Faux’s vision for this year’s activity quickly focussed on the online realm, shifting from a performance dominated program to introducing workshops. This year’s three week program offers presentations, workshops, screenings and much much more. From ‘Creating Atmosphere Through Music with Captain Ben Mason and Lance Sergeant Ian Shepherd’ to conversations with Román Baca, ex US Marine and Ballet Dancer, Faux’s program leaves few wanting.
Faux said, “If it opens up a conversation about life in the Army today, we can’t ask for much more.”
[email protected] enters its final week on Monday, 24 August. Whilst we’re sad that the Fringe isn’t physically with us in the Lowlands of Scotland this year, we’re pleased that more can join in because of the move online. So, if you’ve got WIFI and a spare hour or two, why not indulge in a moment of creative reflection, considering and conversing with one of the UK’s most notable and dare we say it, stereotyped organisations.