Guest Blog at Edfringe 2022: Russ Pollard: The taste of the fringe

We are delighted to welcome Russell Pollard as a guest blogger.

Watch his show trailer.

DAY 6 – 27th August 2022

Day 6 at the fringe – Renewed afresh

Last chance to see me is 14:00 today. The reality is that while I might do the fringe again, it will not be such a personal topic. This is it, the final hoorah, out in a blaze of glory. Its been nice to share my story and I hope people got something from it.

After running away from the fringe yesterday after my show due to an overwhelming panic that came from nowhere and with no reason, I am renewed today. Sitting on the beach at Portobello eating chips was just the ticket. I did for a second think I was being paranoid that some seagulls were watching me. It turned out they were, and it was not paranoia after all.

So today is my penultimate show. I have a few presales so at least some kind of audience. I am growing in how I tell this story and am thinking of trying something new today. Not sure that is a clever idea, but it is worth a punt. What have I got to lose?

My step into performing has been a steep learning curve. I am much happier out of the spotlight. I tell stories better in the pub, or at an open mic night with people only half listening. However, that storytelling frame of mind is with me today. I want to tell it the same way that you might in the pub. That might mess up my audio cues, my light cues, and my overall pacing but I feel it will be more engaging than staring at a script and telling my story from the page.

Later that day…

Well, I changed it up It felt better for me. My audience had a better response than in previous days. Although it was only 2 people. The question now is do I stay like this and risk it with the reviewer or do I stick to the script and read from the page?

I also filmed it today, which will be nice for prosperity. I am not sure what I will do with it down the line, but it is worth having.

I think I might have mentioned this early in the week. This is a one time thing, the fringe. It was a bucket list item. One time only. Well maybe I need to do it twice. Maybe I do have an idea for next year. Maybe I can find the money. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Who am I kidding I’m coming back? All I need is an idea and a fist full of courage. Maybe a show for kids something about monsters and their fear of duvets. Or maybe a show about storytelling like a ted talk but an ED(fringe) talk I’m not sure but I like the ideas. I would love to bring something big with a cast and scenery and all that jazz but that will have to wait till maybe year 3 or year 4 or 5. definitely in the first 10 years

I will do a post summing up my whole experience in the next week for people to have a look at. This week I have written between seeing shows, performing and generally doing the fringe the best way I could. With some time and distance who knows what I might come up with in the way of tips and trick for all those who will be First time at the fringe next year.

Stay safe, Speak soon,


DAY 5 – 26th August 2022

Day 5 at the fringe – Hangover – I mentioned that on day 3 I woke up with what felt like a hangover after ng the candle at both ends. Today, however, I woke up with an actual hangover. My show had been nearly full. Technically only press seats available. My friend who wrote the music for the show came to see it so we went for a pint. Then I went and watched a couple more shows, which were both fantastic. As I left the second show with plans to high tail it to a third, I tripped on a curb and nearly fell. As I regained my balance and composure, I came face to face with an old army friend. I had not seen him in 17 years, and without missing a beat, we picked up a conversation from where we had left it years before. So from the lows of no audience and feelings of loneliness on Tuesday, I left Wednesday with a whole heart and a belly full of booze. The magic of the fringe is real.

Today then. After a later start than the rest of the week, I made my daily trek from portobello to the city where in the morning I like to grab a coffee and sit in the peace of Greensides Infirmary Street bar. They have wifi so I can sort all my social media. Work on my PhD (or attempt to) and then settle for the day. I have 3 shows planned to watch today with a 4th but I think it will have to wait till tomorrow. I can only imagine the frustration of the press when they want to see several shows that are all scheduled for the same time.

I had 2 pre-sold tickets and was wondering what my audience might look like. I Had high hopes after yesterday. The stage was set for a mighty performance that is growing in confidence. The truth is that at points in my performance I cannot be confident as the writing comes from a time when I was small inside. Today my words overwhelmed me. I cried and had to take my breath. I wish I could act like that but it is too real to fake.

The Fringe is a strange old place for the affirmation of life. You see it all daily: hope, joy, fear, and disappointment. Shows on a wave that crashes down to earth and shows in ashes that rise like a pheonix. I’ve seen seasoned professionals choke and schoolchildren make the best shows at the fringe appear amateur in comparison.

My mental health did hit me a little today. I was anxious and overwhelmed. I took a bus to portobello and ate chips on the beach. Getting away from the madness of the fringe was lovely for the evening and I feel renewed and ready to finish my last 2 days in style.
Stay safe, speak soon,

DAY 4 – 25th August 2022

Week 3 feels like a festival in its own right. It’s not for the elitists who have spent thousands on accommodation. Then I spent even more time watching the big shows. Week 3 feels raw, punchy and for the underdogs. The bucket listers and the Day trippers and the working class arts lovers.

The full-run shows are flying high or cancelling all over the place. The new shows are eager for an audience. A bank holiday weekend combined with the end of the festival is fast approaching. There is an air of optimism floating over Edinburgh with the smell of litter adding the mystique of the fringe. Today was a better day and people came to see me. They even said they enjoyed it. I was nervous but not like the first time. This time it was about wanting people to like it. The first performance was about desperately holding onto the contents of my stomach and not vomiting on my audience due to nerves.

The Greenside Family came to see me today, which was a much-needed boost after yesterday. That is other performers at my group of venues. Maybe it was sympathy after yesterday but I will take it. An audience is an audience. My work is about helping people understand how mental health issues affect veterans. It’s good for the arts community to see that as they might be able to do something more engaging with it than me. You now only have 3 chances to see my show. Riddle court, 14:00 and it is on the Royal mile.

It’s only half an hour long and if you need a nap after lunch the room is lovely and dark. Towards the end of the show, I do a bit of a shout so that should wake you up nicely.

DAY THREE – 24th August 2022

Soak it all up Squeeze out every last drop. So now I’m in a position where I don’t know if I’m meant to soak it up or squeeze it out and that seems like a remarkably fitting metaphor for my fringe experience. The Juxtaposition of the two statements is perfect for the way things feel. I am trying to achieve too much, in too little time, with no money, while low on energy and nursing my ego due to the lack of an audience yesterday. I have watched 22 shows. Some amazing things. I’ve also watched some things where I want to drag the cast and crew outside and kick the hour back out of them (metaphorically, obviously, we don’t condone violence, but one show had me questioning that). While I am far from a reviewer and would never dare give a show stars. If you want something powerful and punchy go see “Chaos.” It’s at Greenside Infirmary street from 17:20 till Saturday. The young cast was great. It’s the first show I have watched where I did not check my watch. Obviously, also come see me at Riddle court from 14:00 till Saturday. That’s right, only 4 chances to catch this legend make a tit of himself. Remember Flack Jacket at the box office gives you 2for1 on tickets.

DAY TWO – 23rd August 2022

The day was quick yesterday and its now already 11:50 and my feet have not touched the ground. Ive seen shows ive tweaked my own and ive made friends and thats just the start of my experience. At the moment i am soaking it up and i realise i have so much to learn. In my head i am already talking about what i would do differently next time. The type of show i would bring and the fact i would not do it alone. In a city surrounded by millions of like minded people i am still finding the experience a little lonely.

Dont get me wrong its not a bad expereince but i would be better to be sharing it. Nothing about the fringe really makes sense. 3000+ shows and people are thinking this is the place to be. The place to launch their new work. It is madness. Yes people travel to see shows but it is so overwhelming with flyering everywhere. Advertising on every surface. You cant walk 10 meters without some other hopeful selling there show with a shiny flyer. All yellows and blues and reds. Gorish and classy. Everyone trying to stand out.

Yet even with the competition the support from fellow artists is amazing. Coming to see your shows. Offering support and advice and generally being the nicest people you will meet. SO, while for me this was all about delivering my show before i arrived it now feels more like being a member of a loving supportive family who all want eachother to succeed. That is priceless. Like i said yesterday my background is not in the arts its in the Army. WHile nothing will compare to the bonds made in combat the fringe is coming a very close second. Strangers forced together in a common goal. That is a beautiful thing,

Only 5 days left now to see me at 14:00 Riddles court. Clover Studio.

DAY ONE – 22nd August 2022

Chaos is everywhere and the bin strikes are adding to the post apocalyptic emotions spinning in my head. It is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.

The Taste of sweat and sand is a spoken word/poetry reading. This is day one of my fringe experience and my show is only running for 6 day. There are only 97 tickets left across the week.

How did I get here?

It all started with the story. I was in the Army. I was in the Royal Signals. I claim no glory or accolades and feel a fraud for my mental health issues on the whole. Coming to terms with with my past has been a roller coaster.

I told myself stories about my evil past, about being bad. Then I started to write. I wrote my stories down, in them, in the details of the days I found meaning and peace. Meaning never came from the chaos of a warzone. It came from the small insignificant fine detail of the moment. The feel of a trigger, the stitching on your body armour, the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of a dog barking. This all grounded me and found a truth that had been lost. I wrote my stories and the stories became poems and poetic prose, from that the show was formed.

I don’t have a background in the arts. I’m a working class lad working as a security guard. I have been told his story is important. (I’m not sure I agree but better minds than mine spoke those words so who am I to disagree). Here i am. Instead of a family holiday i am in edinburgh about to put on a show for the public.

It is me on the stage telling my truth. 14:00 from today Monday the 22nd till saturday the 27th. At Riddle’s court, clover studio. I will pour my heart from the page for 30 minutes. There are only 6 chances to see this so come along. It is my first time on a stage since I played sheep number 2 in the Padgate CofE primary school production of the nativity in 1983 so I’m a little out of my comfort zone.

If you have stuck this post out and fancy coming along. The Password “Flack Jacket” at the Greenside Box office will get you 2 for 1 tickets.

Stay safe, see you in the venue.The Taste of Sweat and Sand plays the Edinburgh Fringe 2022. Full booking details here.