(g)Host City

(g) Host City
A Location Of Your Choice,
3 stars ***

SO I AM WALKING along Cumberland Street, with a woman’s voice ringing in my ears. The woman is the writer Hannah McGill, but the voice belongs also to the character at the centre of her short story Ragwort, about a woman returning to Edinburgh during Festival time, staying in a flat in Cumberland Street, and trying to deal with the messy ending of a relationship, played out in that street. I’ve already walked Drummond Place and Great King Street, listening to Jim Colquhoun’s vividly explicit accounts of encounters with Edinburgh prostitutes, in the voice of a latterday Thomas De Quincey; and in half an hour, I’ll be at the canal basin in Fountainbridge, listening to the story of an old, frustrated wartime love played out against a city landscape radically changed by new urban development, yet still just recognisable, to those who once danced in the shuttered and decaying palais next to the bar called Cargo.

This is the experience of (g)Host city, an album of about twenty short audio stories or experiences curated by Edinburgh-based theatre artist Laura Cameron Lewis, available for download from a website called virtualfestival.org, and then yours to play in the locations suggested by your writers, or anywhere else you choose. It’s in the nature of a multi-authored project like this one that the quality of the contributions, often voiced by their own authors, tend to vary.

Yet at its best – in McGill’s hard-edged Cumberland Street story, Kirstin Innes’s Fountainbridge journey, Momus’s surreal reimaginings of the destinations of famous Edinburgh bus routes, Kieran Hurley’s fine piece fo St. Anthony’s Chapel in Holyrood Park, or some of Christopher Collier’s wordless soundscapes, dotted around the city – (g)Host city offers a remarkable experience, available to you on your phone or i-pod at any time, as you criss-cross the Festival city. The range of young Scottish writers involved is impressive, the sense of place and history is palpable. Go to the top of Calton Hill, listen to Jenny Lindsay’s short poem Edinburgh – “Atop a hill, you burn the flame of new religion, old superstition….” – and you’ll catch the sense of a generation of writers who, wherever they’re going, now have the deepest understanding of one of the cities from which they come.

Joyce McMillan
Until 4 September
p. 265


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