A Festival of Ideas
What a great title that is for a festival. In previous years I was only familiar with the Adam Smith Global Foundation lecture and based around world economics always seemed such a fairly learned and formal occasion. Last year the speaker was Ed Balls and whereas he was the former shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Harvard grad he reached new credibility by his appearances on Strictly. The 2018 speaker was Sandi Toksvig and while her political and public leanings have involved equality and feminist issues her humour is of the highest standard. A long standing panellist on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue going back to the Humphrey Lytteton days along with over ten years hosting News Quiz on Radio Four was one stream but on TV she reached new audiences on QI replacing the formidable Stephen Fry and latterly mainstream telly as the new host of Bake Off in its new Channel Five home. Her lecture sold out and was delivered in a way Adam Smith would have approved with a perfect balance of seriousness and comedy and delivered with visuals on screen.
It was a great opening in the wonderful setting of the Adam Smith Theatre auditorium.
Sandi’s appearance was surpassed in popularity however by the announcement that David Tennant was to appear in an audience with Arabella Weir – a headline act herself helped by the timely TV series Two Doors Down having ended its BBC Two run just a week earlier. Her assertiveness and humour made for an interesting encounter. Questions from the audience submitted beforehand showed a wide degree of topics from this international audience. David Tennant is a definitive ‘A’ list helped by his Broadchurch, Harry Potter and Dr Who roles, his friendly Scottish persona and his photogenic qualities. Indeed when he arrived on the red carpet the fan base were scrambling for autographs and selfies as he ran the gauntlet to his dressing room. His early afternoon appearance was to introduce his new movie You, Me and Him which is still to be released, so this was a Gala Screening complemented by strawberries and fizz afforded to the lucky sell-out audience. At K107FM we had an allocation of pairs of tickets so we ran a competition directed towards Facebook shares and this reached 6589 after just a few days.
Not having seen a brief about the film I was pleasantly surprised. It was well written, creatively edited and was produced by Tennant’s wife Georgia. She did say from the stage she hoped we would like it after she was introduced by Arabella Weir but oddly David said nothing. I thought that even a ‘hello everybody’ would have at least partly satisfied the many fans present who missed out in getting a ticket to his Audience show later that day. Ms Weir was not in the movie but introduced proceedings in her role as Creative Director and having seen the impressive long list and final line up must take huge credit for an impressive programme which would stand up anywhere in the UK. I knew this as being part of the organising group and being party to all of this
including my task of finding an actor in costume to be Adam Smith (Bob Brews) for a photo shoot complete with saxophone (courtesy of Willie Young) to show how ‘cool’ he was these days and to publicise the soul & funk show which was to close the festival. Did I get access to the stars to chat or interview? No, but with tight security due to presence of former PM Gordon Brown access would always be restricted. I did meet Kieran Hodgson and he thanked me for the radio interview. He had brought his 2016 sell out Fringe show to the Friday night slot. This was his comic observations about Lance (Armstrong) although his comic role in Two Doors Down ensures he is well known as a comic actor from the telly these days.
Daytime Saturday had lots of kids activities for free and of course the Adam Smith
Food Festival which was the best ever with an estimated 3000 attending. The Fife College atrium was packed all day long and great to see a waiting list of exhibitors with those attending displaying new products to sell and samples to try. On stage I saw Tom Pratt (Waterfront Restaurant) demonstrate his craft to a seated audience and displayed on the big screen for all to see. BBC Masterchef 2016 Gary Maclean was also to appear but what a missed opportunity not to have Sandi Toskvig here – if only to open the festival, cut the ribbon and get a press photo.
After a long two days the closing show was a theatre piece I wrote called What The Funk. This was the story of funk beginnings of Hammond organ up to the dance funk of today assisted by the visuals of the day, our eight piece house band Lights Out By Nine and narrated by actress Jacqueline Hannan. The room had just hosted the live streaming of the David Tennant audience show so there was no time for sound check or levels so it was a miracle it went so smooth. I only saw a few tech hitches but the sold out audience lapped it up making good use of the limited dance space. The band were also celebrating 30 years of performing and the second half of the show was their own material and was the best yet. The three piece brass section led by saxophonist George Morrison excelled and the soul sounds shook the old rafters in the hall. The festival for 2018 had come to a close and as we all departed a dusting of snow made for a very atmospheric theatre exterior into the cold Saturday night.
The Festival of Ideas was organised by Adam Smith Global Foundation in association with Fife Cultural Trust, Fife Council, Fife College, Kirkcaldy4All and media partners Fife Free Press & k107FM.