The official Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations culminated in a wondrous free event that turned the Old Town into a giant living gameboard and all participants became ‘explorers’ – spinning a wheel to get a map to our next land of discovery where we would be rewarded with art and music representing a region of Scotland. As an added bonus, if you made it back to Home:Land by 5pm, and completed a ‘landing card’ you were in a draw to win a £2014 trip around Scotland – did I mention this was all free??
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Planners provided locals and toursist with 2 great community based, outdoors options to banish that hangover and welcome the New Year in a more healthy way. One was the ‘Loony Dook’ – a charity swim in the icy Forth River, or a walking game around the Old Town. We chose the Game :D. To start the game we had to find our way to Home:Land – at the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. The event started at noon – we arrived at 12:30 and found a line so long it snaked all the way down the great hall, looped around the next room –
back up the whole length of the great hall, did a loop-to-loop around the next gallery – and snaked back to the middle of the hall where small white pedestals with a large colourful spinning compass would give us clues to our next destination.
It only took about 20 minutes to reach the front of line and take our turn at the podium – I let my hubby spin the wheel – around it went, finally landing on …………………. 4!! Our guide handed us a beautiful little postcard with a ‘regional flag’ on one side and a map to our destination on the other – ‘Lau:Land’ at the Assembly Roxy. I’ve been to the Roxy a few times for fringe shows so I led the way – we were off!!
The Roxy was a church with a hall and bar on the ground floor and a small theatre upstairs. It was quite crowded when we arrived – the bar and hall were rammed but a show was starting upstairs so off we went. We snuck in between songs and found a drummer and a harpist on stage. The music was beautiful, the singing enchanting – making old celtic songs about misery and lost love sound uplifting. There were so many more venues to find, and only a few hours to do so, but we stayed til the end of the performance.
Each venue had a podium and wheel so as we left we took another spin to find our next destination………….lucky 7 – Lobster:Land!! The map on this card led us to City Art Centre. We arrived 15 minutes before the next act, King Creosote, was about to take the stage. We decided to spin the wheel now as it would be busy when the event was over – we also decided to have a wee ‘cheat’. We both took a turn – that way we would have 2 cards and could plan the next stop based on location. I got an 8 and the hubby a 2. The man next to us in line saw our cards and excitedly told us that 8, New:Found:Land, was right around the corner and was AMAZING!! Our plan was decided and we were now ushered up the lift to Level 5…… Lobster:Land. I think the interior designers were a couple of Salty Sea Dogs, who decked out the room in nets, lobster traps and oil skins. We found a seat up front and didn’t have long to wait for King Creosote on accordian, accompanied by fiddles, bass, and acoustic guitar. This was very different to the first act, with lively folk tunes and banter.
Venue 8 – New:Found:Land at Old St Paul’s. I have NEVER noticed this tall, thin church wedged between two steep, stepped closes but that’s what I love about these sort of events – seeing behind closed doors into new worlds. Again there was a line out the door but within a few minutes we were in the long, tall hall way which was actually a stone staircase.
When we got to the top of the stairs we were quietly let into the dark church, guided by a small, intense glow coming from the middle of the room. Hundred of candles were massed together – providing the only lighting. A circle of musicians (the Found Collection) surrounded the candles. We took a seat and soaked in the atmosphere – the flickering lights and the surreal music seemed to hypnotize us all. We stood or sat, totally chilled out – losing all sense of time. I suddenly realised they were only letting more people in as others left and although I could have happily sat there all afternooon – I woke my hubby from his trance and we tiptoed out, spinning the wheel and collecting 2 more cards as we left.
We now had a few cards to choose from so we could make a plan – so based on location – our next stop was …….. 2 – Wander:Land at St. Giles Cathedral. The Cathedral is so big that it could swallow hundreds of adventurers!! There was no que but the crowds inside made it hard to get a good view of the artistic, dance/physical theatre show that was already in progress. I’m not sure what it was, but it seemed to involve 2000 sheets of crumbled white sheets of paper which all the kids enjoyed playing about in. We got a wee peak of the show – dancers in white rolling on the floor throwing paper at eachother. Then we caught a glimpse of the ‘Lord of the Paper’ – standing high above the others, robed in white sheeting….
Time was ticking on so off to venue 1…….High:Land at the the Assembly Checkpoint – another fringe venue. The bar was full, the events were changing over and the free artisan beer from Ullapool was all gone so we got our last cards and quickly moved along to what was our favorite venue from last year’s ‘Roll the Dice’ event.
Venue 5…………….Shet:Land at Greyfriars Kirk. Set inside one of the most haunted, spooky, eerie graveyards it’s hard to believe how warm, cozy and inviting it is inside the Kirk. Maybe its the soft cream walls or the wooden floors (most churches have cold stone floors) or the lighting. Whatever it was, everyone felt welcomed – instead of rows of chairs, tables were set up and there was tea, coffee and cakes to be purchased.
It was getting close to the end and even though we had a few more places to visit we decided to stay put here and listen to fiddles of the Shet:Land jam session that was taking place on the stage. Large screens behind the stage played video scenes of Shet:Land adding to the strong feeling of Scottish Island pride.
We were all warm and dry and settled when the event finished – just before 4pm. The game was supposed to go until 4:30 so we thought we had enough time to check out another venue. Close by was Venue 6……Shadow:Land at The Hub. We dashed over only to find that they too had finished, but we were told that there was a Ceildh starting at the National Museum, with a live band to keep us entertained until the prize draw at 5:15. Back at the museum we had time for a warm bevvy, a cake and use of the toilets (its the little things that make all the difference). The band started, the ‘Caller’ gave instructions and the Ceildh was underway with loads of people taking part and even more happy to watch, clap their hands and stomp their feet.
At the end of the event, we didn’t win the big prize but we did visit 7 of the 9 venues, heard some amazing Scottish music and chatted with some lovely people while waiting in the lines. The quality of the entertainment was stellar, the organisation superb and the maps and cards were beautifully designed and crafted keepsakes.
And did I mention it was all free??? Even the Homecoming T-Shirts, handed to us as we left the museum!!
As we made our way back to the car (parked for free ALL DAY on George St.) we took one last look at the lights of Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland, thinking how lucky we were to live in such a great, inspiring city…..