The small Back Room at St Brides was the venue for the three-strong Edinburgh women’s a-cappella group, Stairheid Gossip. It is not clear how long they have been singing together, but they have gained a reputation for singing about social justice, performing regularly at events promoting human rights, peace and women's politics. They have roots in Scottish folk music and their wide repertoire includes traditional and contemporary songs. The songs they choose are ‘celebrations of the lives of everyday folk - in love, work, conflict and peace.’
The programme for this Fringe show ranged through work by Ewan McVicar, Sheena Wellington, Dick Gaughan’s beautiful Both Sides the Tweed, Velvet Underground, Ewan McColl, several old and unattributed traditional Scots songs and, very impressively, Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit.
They made a casual entrance in folk club style and set the tone for their good natured brand of performing seeming to work well together in a democratic and non- competitive way in keeping with their ideals. They included the weel kent couthy nursery song Ally Bally Bee that was sung by the biddable audience split into sections to sing in rounds. The end result sounded pretty good and was probably quite pleasing for the participants.
The three women come across as cheery and bright but the style is not raw enough for my taste although the audience was appreciative. Maybe I have just seen so many exciting and challenging shows this Fringe, but to my untutored ear, the worthy women’s songs about jute mills and witches, working people and high ideals sounded the same and rather anodyne. There was a sassiness missing that is needed to make it more than just pleasant listening despite the laudable messages in their choice of songs.
Event: 27 August