I don't usually get nervous about much nowadays. I mean it's not as if I'm not used to being on a stage talking in front of an audience, but somehow appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe is somewhat different. I suppose I'm in fear of falling on my face and going back to London with my tail between my legs. Well, as I sit here writing this at 10.30 at night, I'm relieved to say the first two shows went really well, and from my discussions with the audiences afterwards, they all really enjoyed it.
My day started at 11.30 when I met Fin at the Gilded Balloon. Fin is the 18 year old son of a friend of mine, who lives in Edinburgh and is off to university at the end of this month. He's going to be helping me with flyering and also the pre show audience care.
We had a quick chat and then started handing out our flyers outside the Gilded Balloon in Bristo Square. Traffic was a bit light and consisted mainly of people handing out flyers for other shows. Fin suggested we headed down to the Royal Mile, so we spent an hour there. I met quite a few LBC listeners, but a lot of the footfall consisted of Chinese and Japanese tourists who didn't seem remotely interested in coming to see John McDonnell or Christopher Biggins. Who'd have thought.
It started spitting with rain so we headed back up to Bristo Square and did some more flyering. This time there were more people, quite a few of whom seemed to know who I was! By this time my red suit had arrived via courier (see yesterday's diary entry!) so I wore that. It's quite heavy linen and although it wasn't very sunny, it was still quite warm. Christ knows what pong this suit will give off by the time I head back south!
As four o'clock ticked ever closer, Sayeeda Warsi arrived and we chatted for some time as the show start loomed. My nerves dissipated somewhat, as I saw the audience queuing up. We only had 15 minutes between the end of the previous show and us starting. We have a simple set, which is just as well, consisting of a show banner, two chairs and a table. We started bang on time and the hour went by very quickly. I started off with an Ann Widdecombe anecdote and one from my candidate selection days, explained how the hour was going to work and then introduced my guest.
Sayeeda is a good talker and it really was a genuine coversation. I didn't pre-prepare questions, merely a few subject areas I wanted to cover. I managed to finish bang on time, after a brief quickfire Q&A, which was just as well, because apparently we get fined if we finish late, due to the next show starting very quickly after we finish. Had a quick chat with a few audience members, including a gentleman who had driven all the way from Glasgow purely to see me. Respect.
The 6pm show is in a different Gilded Balloon venue, around 200 yards away at the National Museum of Scotland. We scooted over there, but there was no sign of my two guests, Brandon Lewis and Eric Pickles. I was reassured that their arrival is imminent. My living nightmare is that a guest doesn't turn up and I end up having a conversation with myself!
Again, the conversation flowed naturally and both Brandon and Eric gave some really good insights into their careers and what it's like being at the top table of politics. At the end I asked a couple of people if they thought the balance was right between the light and the serious. A female audience member told me she only came because her boyfriend wanted to go, but she found the conversation fascinating. I don't think she was making it up, either.
I thought about going out for dinner but in the end came back to my student digs (!) and have spent the evening catching up on emails and compiling a list of other people's shows that I'd like to see over the next ten days.
Tomorrow it's Johnny Mercer at 4pm and Le McCluskey at 6pm. Tickets still available!