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Robbie’s death sent me down a wine-soaked rabbit hole…

Dear readers, I’ve been away for a few weeks. When I say that I’ve been away, what I mean is that I haven’t been spending my holidays on a mattress on a Greek high street watching my hotel burn to the ground as a result of climate change, but rather, trying to avoid all forms of social media and news in a vain attempt to give my heart and soul a much-needed break.

The 24-hour news cycle can begin to resemble a fetid, apocalyptic vortex showcasing the inevitable demise of the human race, and at times, it’s good to take a step back from it and allow yourself to be deluded into thinking that everything’s going to be fine. Aided of course, by your substance of choice. Now that I’m firmly back in the twisted folds of it all, a few things caught my eye this week.

The Deputy Chairman of the Tory party, the former miner-turned-traitor, Lee Anderson, felt compelled to comment on the party’s latest wheeze on immigration and asylum. It’s basically to house people who are fleeing from war, hunger, torture, and death in a barge on the Dorset coast. The Bibby Stockholm has 222 rooms and the Government has said that it can accommodate 500 people.

Asylum seekers must stay on the barge if ordered to or they will be removed from the asylum system. Anderson, no doubt seeking to show that his elevation to the top of the Tory party is down to his unfettered intelligence and grasp of the geopolitical forces at play here, stated that if asylum seekers don’t like it, “they can fuck off back to France.”

No doubt Rishi Sunak approved Anderson’s elevation within the party, and it would appear that he has done so in an attempt to shore up support amongst the knuckle-dragging racists who dragged Brexit over the line in advance of the next general election. Sunak probably thinks that this makes the Tory party a broad church, but like most churches nowadays, it is empty, bereft of ideas, and preaching a message which alienates more people than it attracts.

To the Edinburgh Festival, and news that in some cases, residents and landlords were charging performers over £7,000 per month to rent a two-bedroomed flat in the city. Hotels also hiked their nightly rates for the duration of the festival to heights that are out of reach for most people. One “budget” hotel was charging £339 per night for two people sharing a room. Breakfast not included.

The Fringe Festival was created in 1947 as an alternative to the International Festival, and in order to bring art to as many people as possible whilst keeping it affordable. While organisers maintain that the ethos of the Fringe survives to this day, corporate and personal greed means that for the vast majority of people, it’s out of reach and most artists lose money in order to take part.

Just a thought – despite its class-based inaccessibility, Edinburgh Council still rakes in a vast amount of money during the festival. Could some of that money be used to build an artists’ hotel where performers could have limited stays throughout the year in order to cut their costs and provide affordable art to more people? Either that or greed wins and the festival will never shake off its elitist cloak.

Talking of artists, I was saddened to hear that Robbie Robertson, founding member of The Band, died recently. I was too young to enjoy them at their height, but like many others, sat open-jawed watching Martin Scorsese’s seminal concert film of their last gig, The Last Waltz.

Like all the best bands, all of the members had flaws and idiosyncrasies, coupled with incredible talent and a genuine love for what they were doing. In The Band’s case, this was creating songs which straddled rock, jazz, creole, and soul, and which in turn could have you dancing, laughing, thinking, and crying into a cold beer. Robbie’s death sent me down a wine-soaked rabbit hole on YouTube.

I watched The Band performing in The Last Waltz and choked back tears listening to Levon Helm and Richard Manuel’s voices, with Rick Danko not far behind. Classically trained Garth Hudson ripping up keyboards like a backwoods Jerry Lee Lewis, and Robbie, as ever, just looking effortlessly cool, playing guitar as if it was what he was built to do.

The news and social media can send you to the depths of despair, but when they do, best to open a bottle, find a rabbit hole, and fuck off back to everything that is a force for good in the world. ■



Despite its class-based inaccessibility, Edinburgh Council still rakes in a vast amount of money during the festival



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