Doors Open Day 2017

Doors Open Day Edinburgh is an annual event which gives the public the chance to explore some of the city’s most interesting spaces. The Arthur Conan Doyle Centre will be participating in Doors Open Day, welcoming visitors in to show them around, give guided tours of the building and explain the Centre’s cultural, historical and architectural significance.

Visit us at the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, 25 Palmerston Place, Edinburgh on the 23rd and 24th September.

Arthur Conan Doyle – The Spiritualist: Fringe Review

This week we’ve seen our many Edinburgh Fringe shows kick off and get well under way at the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre. Among the variety of performances we’re hosting at the centre, our very own Chair, Ann Treherne was back with her show, “Arthur Conan Doyle – The Spiritualist” for the fifth year running.

The hour-long talk, hosted in the beautiful Sanctuary of the Centre, also used to hold Spiritualist Church services, gives a fascinating insight into Doyle’s life outwith the Sherlock aspects we are all so familiar with. Taking truths from letters Doyle himself wrote, Ann debunks myths which are commonly miss-told in various biographies and looks into his connection with Spiritualism. Joining the dots between his early life in Edinburgh, amazing adventures to the North Pole and various places he made home around the UK right up to his death, unearthing facts and anecdotes along the way.

Ann Treherne

Arthur Conan Doyle is arguably most famous for his creation of Sherlock Holmes and the fictional world which surrounds him, but Ann Treherne leads us more into his own personal interests and endeavours. Ann’s talk is a fantastic balance of interest with humour, exploring Conan Doyle’s personal beliefs with an open mind. You’ll leave the centre with your head packed full of stories and interesting snippets of information and questions, about all those coincidences! Definitely a worth-while show to attend!

You can catch Arthur Conan Doyle – The Spiritualist on August 15th, 17th or 22nd. Book ticket online here.

 

Edinburgh Fringe: If Only: An Audience with Rudyard Kipling

With Edinburgh Fringe 2017 well and truly in swing, we’ve had several shows on at the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre and look forward to hosting more in the next two weeks.

An exciting upcoming one act play about Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling will be on stage at the Centre for five performances, 23-27th August.

‘If Only: An Audience with Rudyard Kipling’, by Lynn Pegler, explores his extraordinary life and devastating personal consequences of World War One. The Nobel Literature Prize winner is famous for writing the nation’s favourite poem ‘If’ – which will feature along with other popular poems and stories woven into the one hour stage show.

Lynn said: “We are particularly thrilled to bring this production to the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre as the two authors were apparently good friends. Kipling actually invited Conan Doyle to stay with him in America when he was living in Vermont. It appears that Conan Doyle taught him to play golf in the snow – by painting the golf balls red!

“I originally wrote the show for a festival of authors staged in Liverpool’s splendid grade one listed St George’s Hall in March. The more I delved into Kipling’s fascinating itinerant life, the more it became apparent that he suffered a series of major regrets – hence the title.

“I am delighted to say the previews have gone down a storm and we are very much looking forward to performing the show in this beautiful Victorian building which has so many associations for both great writers.”

‘If Only: An Audience with Rudyard Kipling’, performed in costume by Matt Jones and Lynn Pegler, will be on stage at 12 noon daily from Wednesday 23 to Sunday 27 August at the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, 25 Palmerston Place, EH12 5AP. Venue 290, near Haymarket.

Tickets are priced £8 (£7) and are available from the Fringe Box Office online or on 0131 226 0000.

FRINGE SPOTLIGHT – Arthur Conan Doyle – The Spiritualist

Our fifth and final ‘Fringe Spotlight’ blog post is all about our very own Ann Treherne, Chair of The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre’s show – Arthur Conan Doyle – The Spiritualist. You can buy tickets from the official Fringe website HERE. We’ve asked Ann a few questions to let our audience know a little about the show and what inspired her.

Can you please tell us a little more about your show?

As part of the Edinburgh’s world famous Fringe, the show focusses on Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in Edinburgh which is not a commonly portrayed part of his life and Is sadly often forgotten. The show talks about his growing up in Edinburgh, living out his school years here and attending Edinburgh University, where he met Dr Joseph Bell – the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.

What made you become so interested in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his connection with spiritualism?

Arthur Conan Doyle was a fascinating man. He lived life to the fullest – in fact, how one man fitted so much into one lifetime is quite amazing. He exceled in a number of fields – not just writing but in sports and history and was also a champion for social causes. As well as all of his other exploits, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the worlds foremost spokesman on spiritualism. To answer your question – I just find him an overall very captivating character.

You’ve brought your show about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the Fringe for the last 4 years and these have all been sell-out shows – well done! What’s different about this year’s show?

The main difference is in the name of the show and its emphasis on spiritualism. The last four years, the title didn’t allude to the spiritual aspect of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and what I’d be talking about in the show and from feedback I realised this was something people were keen to learn about. It just made sense to make sure I was appealing to those interested in finding out more about the spiritual side of things.

We know your show is specifically connected to the Dir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre. Can you please let us know more about the history of the building and the link?

We named the building The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre as a tribute in regards to his contributions towards spiritualism. We also thought it was appropriate as there is no fitting commemoration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Edinburgh – his birthplace – other than a Sherlock Holmes statue. Naming such a grand building after a man with such a legacy seemed to fit right into place.

Book your tickets for Arthur Conan Doyle – The Spiritualist on the official Fringe website now.

Book review: “The man who would be Sherlock- the real life adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle”

“The Man who would be Sherlock- the real life adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle” by Christopher Sandford.

Special Offer for cusomers of the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre:
To buy your copy of The Man Who Would be Sherlock (RRP £20), for just £16.00 including free p&p to one UK address only, please telephone: 01256 302699, and quote code: MG3

A century after his fame was at its peak, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and his relationship with his enduring creation –Sherlock Holmes- is receiving new and fascinating attention. It was long assumed that Doyle’s Edinburgh medical mentor Dr Joseph Bell was the template for the character of Holmes. Doyle hinted as much himself but in this new meticulously researched book Christopher Sandford points out that Bell wrote a letter to his protégé in which he said “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it,” an opinion shared by Doyle’s son Adrian.

Sandford’s book not only backs up this assertion, it brings to light dozens of real-life cases in which Conan Doyle was invited to examine crimes. Many he actually solved, and in others cases he became a zealous campaigner against a miscarriage of justice. Perhaps the best known of these are the cases of George Edalji, (the son of an Anglo-Indian vicar in the west country, who was sent to prison on flimsy evidence for mutilating cattle), and the immigrant Oscar Slater, sentenced to death for the brutal murder of a spinster in Glasgow. In both cases his efforts won a pardon for the men but championing justice is not the best way of making friends. The Edalji case was prosecuted by the chief of police in the area, the Hon. Captain George Anson with whom Conan Doyle conducted a bitter correspondent over years and led Anson to question his sanity. His passion for justice often over-ruled a quest for popularity. Slater initially hailed Doyle as his saviour but after his acquittal refused to use his compensation to recompense those who had contributed to his defence. When Doyle took a poor view of this, the relationship soured.

Doyle’s passion for scientific method was equalled by his sense of honour and justice, especially if a lady was involved. The facets of many of the real-life cases cited by Sandford in this book seem to found their way into the Sherlock stories in one way or another. Typical is the case of Adolph Beck who was twice arrested and convicted of theft and Doyle was able to show that mistaken identity and sloppy police-work were at fault, plus the judicial and political establishment closing ranks. The portrait of the blundering Lestrade in the Holmes stories is a gentle version of the actual incompetence he uncovered in this and several other cases.

Doyle looked, and in some respects acted, like an Imperialist figure who fought in the Boer War. He was a teetotaller (perhaps because of his father’s death from alcoholism), devoted to his mother, and educated at a Jesuit public school (paid for by his uncle in Holland). But behind the military moustache was a radical heart. He turned against the creedal conservatism of Catholicism and used his A-list celebrity to joust with the Establishment rather than embrace it. He wrote “The sad truth is that officialdom in England stands solid together and when you are forced to attack it, you need not expect justice, but rather you are up against an avowed Trade Union, the members of which are not going to act the blackleg to each other, and which subordinates the public interest to a false idea of loyalty.”

Despite these views Doyle mixed with the great and the good. He received a knighthood in 1902 and was made deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey. His fame and career prospered, and he played cricket with top names like W.G. Grace, and co-wrote a play with fellow-Scot James Barrie which was scathingly reviewed by George Bernard Shaw. Both he and H.G. Wells became Doyle’s adversaries, both men held socialist views which were more sympathetic to socialism than Doyle. Among his other friends were the prominent scientists and literary figures who founded the Society for Psychical research. Spiritualism was an enduring interest since the 1890s and became for Doyle an alternative religion (and some would say, an obsession in the decade prior to his death in 1930 at the age of 70). Sandford rightly points out that his involvement with Spiritualism was not the death of his son Kingsley (who died of influenza which recovering from war wounds). The prodigious research by this author reveals the energy of Doyle as a letter writer and campaigner alongside a thriving career as a writer. Christopher Sandford has already given us “Houdini and Conan Doyle: friends of genius; deadly rivals” (which seeded a rather fanciful television series) and the latter chapters of this book take up the sad tale of how the warm relationship between the two men cooled as both men came to take polarised views over the paranormal.

One senses that Christopher Sandford has more sympathy with Houdini when writing about this last decade in Conan Doyle’s life but his portrait of the latter’s character is one of warmth and personal charisma. This may explain why some of Sir Arthur’s less credible utterances (eg. in support of the Cottingley fairies) did not totally undermine the public affection in which he was held.

Doyle may be said to have popularised not only scientific forensic methods but also those involving the use of psychics in criminal investigation. He was involved, for example, in using a psychic to determine the fate of Agatha Christie who mysteriously disappeared in 1926. Doyle was asked for his help by Surry police. Using a glove belonging to Agatha, a medium named Horace Leaf was engaged by Doyle, who determined the name ‘Agatha’ and that she would soon be found alive (which she duly was).

In 1888 , Dr Joseph Bell and Doyle both looked at the evidence in the infamous Jack the Ripper case. Both men separately wrote down the name of their preferred suspect (of which many were flying around , including the Prince of Wales) and put these in sealed envelopes. When they were opened later they both contained the same name (James K Stephen, an Old Etonian and tutor of the Prince’s son, who died in an insane asylum in 1892.

Christopher Sandford has catalogued these and an amazing number of real-life cases undertaken by ‘Sherlock Doyle’ many of which were hitherto little known such as the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels. Did the Great War turn Conan Doyle into a ‘moonstruck visionary, credulous and incapable of seeing clearly’? The author quotes the detective writer and respected biographer of Doyle, John Dickson Carr, who believed that Doyle’s achievements as a military historian and his practical contributions in areas such as the improved design of body armour and adoption of tactics to counter U-boats were hardly the neurotic ravings of a religious maniac. “He may have been right about Spiritualism or he may have been wrong, but nobody can say he was far wrong about anything less”, Carr wrote.

Arthur Conan Doyle emerges from these pages more likeable, more admirable and more talented than many realised. It demonstrates that Sherlock was part of Doyle’s own personality, one which combined a passion for scientific enquiry with an equal passion for honour and justice.

Stewart Lamont, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre Trustee, July 2107

FRINGE SPOTLIGHT – Unquiet Spirits

Unquiet SpiritsOur next Fringe Spotlight is on Bonnie MacBird. We asked Bonnie some questions on what to look forward to during her Fringe Show. You can buy tickets for Bonnie’s show HERE

1. Is this your first time at the Fringe, and what are you most looking forward to?This will be my second visit to Fringe, and first time as a performer, though I’ve visited Edinburgh many times. My partner in the show, Charlie MacLean lives in Edinburgh. I’m looking forward to both our performances but also attending as many shows as I can, especially the Oxford and Cambridge comedy teams.

2. Can you tell us a bit about the show, and what we can expect?
Whisky expert Charles McLean will speak about the rise of the whisky business at the end of the nineteenth century, how the phylloxera epidemic which nearly decimated the French vineyards played a part, and how whisky moved from being a drink for hunters in the field to something savoured in fine establishments everywhere from fine hotels to the houses of Parliament. Bonnie MacBird will talk about Sherlock Holmes and his relationship with spirits, both liquid and supernatural, and read from her new Sherlock Holmes novel, UNQUIET SPIRITS, a gothic thriller which takes place in London, the French Riviera, and the Highlands of Scotland in the grand and haunted estate of a Scots whisky baron. Attendees will receive a piece of shortbread and those over 18 will receive a small sample of whisky.

3. What was your inspiration for the show?
Scotland, Edinburgh, whisky, ghosts, and Sherlock Holmes, all of which come together in this presentation. The show is based around the new novel UNQUIET SPIRITS, A Sherlock Holmes Adventure, July 2017 HarperCollins. Edinburgh is featured in the story, particularly Fettes, where it is possible that Sherlock Holmes attended for one year in his youth, as did another great fictional hero, James Bond.

4. What drew you to perform your show in our Sherlock Holmes Tearoom, and is the venue a significant part of the performance?
Absolutely! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his later years was fascinated with spiritualism and ghosts, and the venue itself is reputed to be haunted. UNQUIET SPIRITS, the new Sherlock Holmes adventure is written in emulation of that great writer…and part of it takes place in Scotland in a haunted castle – Unlike his creator, Sherlock Holmes did not believe in ghosts, but there is more than one kind of haunting and the Great Detective has to face a ghost from his own past before he can unravel the mystery which faces him. Your tearoom evokes both Holmes and the subject of ghosts and is perfect!! 

FRINGE SPOTLIGHT – Migrant Sisters

Our third ‘Fringe Spotlight’ instalment is from Jeanette Hill, writer of ‘Migrant Sisters’, a play that tackles Brexit.

Migrant Sisters ask we don’t blame them in the wake of Brexit at this year’s Fringe.

Sisters Theatre Company presents

Migrant Sisters

By Jeanette Hill

Brand new Sisters Theatre Company are set to make their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut with a play that looks at the ups and downs of Brexit and the various perspectives of migrants living in the UK. It also features original funky folk music from Edinburgh musician Martina Canon-Ball and her Irish, Scots and Polish band.

 The play takes a serious, yet humorous, look at Brexit, as well as the current and historical issues of migration and how they have been treated over generations. Migrant Sisters shines a light on the working and housing conditions described by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, which encourage local populations to lash out against new arrivals, but also on the empty hills and glens that Alex Salmond described when he explained why Scots had a different approach to migration. Different ages of women from divergent backgrounds share experiences and consider why these things are happening again in this politically relevant debut.

Talking about why she created the show, playwright Jeanette Hill says, “I’ve always been interested in political drama since being a working-class girl in Lanarkshire and being blown away by the 7:84 Company, but though I’m approaching 60, in the current political climate, I felt the time was right to bring Migrant Sisters to the stage.

The play examines the post-Brexit effects of increases in attacks on people who came to the UK to work, study or be with their families and research for the play included talks with NHS staff from Spain and Romania, but also local populations working in other fields, such as contract cleaners, who have experienced the effects of free movement of labour on their already hard working conditions.  Many of the latter actually voted Leave and their thoughts have informed the work. There is a lot of debate around Brexit of course, but Migrant Sisters takes this research and attempts to portray very real argument in an entertaining way.

Sisters Theatre Company intends to focus on new writing from women of divergent backgrounds and ages. It takes a collaborative approach incorporating real experiences to hopefully achieve authenticity in its performances. Its work will include serious themes but hopefully always tackled with humour and tolerance. Both feminist and left wing, the company believes we are living in times too difficult for the world not to take a stance and aims to provide the audience with new theatre which is entertaining, thought-provoking and steeped in music which both charms an audience but also offers hope.

The company began with Bernie Barrett and Jeanette Hill who had a comedy duo. Bernie has a keen interest in Irish women’s history, including those in her own family who emigrated to America. A comedian who takes a gentle approach to left-wing politics, she was the perfect fit for Jeanette’s work.  Ana and Ingrid joined the company with great enthusiasm, as well as their own history and experience of migration; with them came the Eastern European, Spanish, Mexican and Jewish experiences. An Edinburgh musician, the magnificent Martina Canon-Ball will write and perform the music with her band comprised of a Scots/Irish fiddler and a Polish drummer.  A truly international company.

FRINGE SPOTLIGHT – Vote 100 – Alice Hawkins – Suffragette

Suffragettes

The second fringe show in our ‘Fringe Spotlight’ blog series is Peter Barratt’s, who is performing in the Fringe for the first time with his show ‘Vote 100 – Alive Hawkins – Suffragette’. Take a look at the interview here. You can buy tickets for the show HERE 

Can you tell us a bit about your show and your inspiration for it?

My show is a passionate and ultimately uplifting account of my suffragette great-grandmother’s campaign for the right to vote over a 100 years ago. Alice, a shoe machinist by trade, wanted equal pay for women but came to realize after years of lawful campaigning that, without the vote, women had very limited ability to make positive change in their lives.

I first learnt of Alice as a young boy when my grandfather would tell me of his mother Alice and of how he would often go on the suffragette marches with her. Women’s history in the making and granddad was there! Actress and ‘sister suffragette’ Ruth Pownall will be supporting me with readings from Alice’s own notes of the day, including her prison diary and a very moving and personal letter from Emily Pankhurst.

Will this be your first time performing at The Fringe, and if so what are you most looking forward to?

This is my first time performing at the Fringe, I am a management accountant by profession! Whilst I have spoken of Alice’s life to many audiences, my only acting claim to fame to date is being invited by Director Sarah Gavron to be an extra in the recent film ‘Suffragette’. Also I am looking forward to showing the audience the fantastic memorabilia that once belonged to Alice and still with the family to this day. The power point images of her hunger strike medal, arrest warrant and more give the talk true and outstanding provenance. There are also some surprises for the audience as well, such as the unwavering support of her husband Alfred.

You first gave this talk at the UK Parliament last year, how do you think the audience will differ?

I am very much hoping that the audience will reflect the international diversity of the Fringe and perhaps will be the key difference from those who came to hear my talk at the UK Parliament last year, as part of Women’s History Month. Whilst the Fringe audience may be from many countries, the issue of placing value on the right to vote and women’s rights will be a common bond with all.

In this day and age, how relevant and important do you believe this story, and that of the Suffragettes, to be?

Alice campaigned for women’s rights a 100 years ago and many of those issues are still with us today, primarily for Alice being equal pay and working conditions. I believe many hearing her story will see the parallels and relevance with current campaigns for improving the rights of women. Importantly as the UK approaches the centenary of women’s suffrage here in the UK early next year, it will be not only be a time of commemoration but also reflection on the injustices we still have in the world today.

FRINGE SPOTLIGHT – Alastair Savage

Alastair SavageOur first Fringe Spotlight is on Alastair Savage, who is returning to the centre, after several successful shows. Here is a snippet of what to expect at Alastair’s show. You can buy tickets for Alastair’s show HERE

   1. Can you tell us a bit about your show?                                                                 The show is a celebration of the Scottish fiddle tradition, the tradition is now centuries old and the music featured in the concerts includes a mixture of great tunes by people like Niel Gow ( Niel spelt correctly!) from the 18th century and James Scott Skinner from the 19th century alongside a tribute to the melodies associated with Rabbie Burns songs. The concerts focus on the music from an album called ‘Alone With History’ that I released last year recorded at Crathie Kirk in Aberdeenshire. Also the concerts look at the geographical connections of the melodies including tunes from the islands of Scotland and possibly melodies from Ireland and America.                                                                                       

       2. What can audiences expect?                                                                                    I like to keep the concerts reasonably informal, I chat in between numbers to give some info about the melodies I’m playing and also I intend to give the audience members a complimentary glass of wine when they arrive to enjoy whilst they listen!

       3. What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?                           I always enjoy the atmosphere in Edinburgh, the mix of tourists and Scots alike, being part of a big festival where lots of other artists are performing and the chance to focus on one city for a sustained period of time.

       4.You’re returning to the centre after several successful shows – what is it about this venue that keeps you returning to perform?                                          The Helen Duncan room is a great room acoustically for the fiddle, the building is the old St. Mary’s Music School headquarters so music has resounded in the space for generations. It’s nice to continue that tradition. When the centre decided to hold more events a few years ago I was part of the opening concert featuring instruments made from a tree associated with Arthur Conan Doyle. The staircase makes it a characterful entrance hall for visitors to the venue and the friendly welcome I’ve had from Iain and Ann in past years makes it a pleasant place to return to.

FRINGE SHOWS 2017

edfringeThe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre is delighted to be host to a range of Fringe shows this August. We will be doing Fringe Spotlights on several of our shows over the coming weeks, so have a look at what they are offering and book up your tickets fast before they sell out!

We are Venue 290 – look us up!

The wonderful shows this year are –

Alistair Savage – Alone With History Alastair Savage

Alex O’Donnell

Arthur Conan Doyle – The SpiritualistArthur Conan Doyle Fringe

The D-Day Dodgers: An Attempt to Write a Wrong 

Freshlings

If Only: An Audience With Rudyard Kipling

Michele Durante

Migrant SistersMigrant Sisters

Parable of Lysistrata

Unquiet Spirits – Whisky, Ghosts and Sherlock Holmes
Unquiet Spirits

Vote 100 – Alice Hawkins – SuffragetteSuffragettes