There was a lot of queueing at the BBC’s Leith Special Fringe Show – at times it felt like Ryan Air with smiles. Queuing to validate our free tickets we whiled away the time playing Spot the Leither. According to the programme notes Mark Steel would be playing to an audience of born and bred Leithers which amused the couple in front of us. “Leith via Toronto,” and behind, “We’re from Luton.”
But after all Leith is a state of mind isn’t it? And there’s Mary and Ally and Gordon and Matt and Nick and Phil and Johnny and Tania…and many more of us who qualified for the blue stickers handed out to the minority of true blue Leithers crammed into café seating at the front of the big blue BBC tent in Potterow.
Of course it’s curmudgeonly to moan. It was a good night with something of a works outing atmosphere: Leithers on a night out on the town – and not a drop of rain. Music and booze flowed in the beer garden. But there was an oddly restrained vibe inside the tent. No heckling no matter how hard the comedian tried.
Or as our friend Gordon Peters put it, “The audience was more like Edinburgh than Leith. Imagine what it might have been like in the Dockers Club!”
Even so, apologising for dragging Leith into Edinburgh, Mark Steel did his best to conjure up the spirit of the capital city’s edgy neighbour. He and his researcher had done a good job, touring Leith, and visiting the libraries to dig up legends and true stories (trams and Trainspotting, Hibs and heartbroken fans, Proclaimers, Port O Leith, and the pub with the puma). Plus a special shout for Leith Walk’s unbeatable, unchained local shops. “What stroke of genius inspired Borland’s mix of darts and televisions?”
Good stories, then, and star performances from VIP guests like Mary Moriarty (did you hear that one about the guy who stripped off in her Port O Leith? When she asked him to at least put his knickers on he obliged by putting them on his head). And yon young Rebel Ink who recalled the early days when they infused the rebellious writers’ publication with LSD and placed it in Menzies magazine rack (“Menzies sells LSD”).
Steel himself made nice irreverent fun of Britannia. And Prince Philip’s bladder. “That’s never going to get in”. he told the audience.
We’ll see tonight when the edited recording of Mark Steels in Town is aired on BBC Radio 4 at 6.30pm.