ANGUS DODDS ON SPOOF TOURS ; 6 APRIL 2024

 

Being a chartered town planner has given Angus a strong sense of place, and in developing his Spoof Tours of Edinburgh his purpose has been to satisfy his customers' desire for meaningful entertainment.

 

History can be where you want it to be - why should not the treasures on display in the Royal Scots Club be imagined as having been left by Catherine the Great or Ivan the Terrible? Observing mainstream tour guides practising their craft provided the inspiration for an alternative that might inspire locals and others seeking to refresh their awareness of our heritage.

 

Edinburgh's architecture impresses by the forcefulness of its contrasting styles, but the history with which it is associated can be frankly a little underwhelming. For example, what is one to make of a plaque which offers the information that William Edmondstone Aytoun 1813-1865 was born here?

 

It was stand-up comic Arthur Smith who led Edinburgh's first alternative walking tours, and Angus was also able to take inspiration from Reuben William's Bullshit London and from claims made in Belgrade about improbable visitors to the Serbian capital. Angus came to 3 important conclusions: that he must be funny;, that the truth is massively overrated; and that walking and looking at things is nice.

 

Getting him into the mood to devise a programme of alternative tours entitled EDITburgh, was a sign next to The Mitre that the "Mary Queen of Scots probably drank here", while it was helpful to read on a plaque that Lionel Richie owned a property on Blair Street. He devised the contents of what should be top down in his poshness pyramid :

·         contact with Royalty

·         know how to find Kay's Bar

·         a holiday place in the East Neuk

·         goes to the rugby

·         university degree

 

In contrast to other comparable cities, much of Edinburgh's history came late - for example ours was only Scotland's fourth university. Yet while other places set the pace in that century by becoming famous for a single modern innovation, eg Chalon-sur-Saone for the world's first photograph in 1827, Edinburgh used the time to make itself look more antiquated. Despite a political centre, this 19th Century wave of development means that Edinburgh's grand old’ buildings are surprisingly commercial in origin - banks and hotels - and on closer examination some are pure pastiche. Everything is not what it seems - parts of the New Town are older than some of the Old Town - and the Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 prompted a reinterpretation of our inheritance. 

 

The scene was thus set for a post-pandemic reworking in which our greatest era became a uniquely Scottish hangover and its hero Adam Smith(the Father of Home Economics) is remembered also as an ancestor of Delia . Scott-land by Stewart Kelly gave Angus a comfort zone that as long as the Scottish hi(story) was compelling the facts would never be allowed to get in the way of a satisfying understanding. It was Walter Scott who invented the Scottish tourist, his choreography of George IV's 1822 visit that put us on the road to eventual overtourism. It is his swashbuckling tales of derring-do which inspired the Jaunt, and the gift shops that followed

 

If there can be a debate as to whether Boudicca lies buried below the Harry Potter platform at Kings Cross, then why should not a Clearance Store testify to the fate of the Highlands, and the High Street's offer of The Scottish Experience embrace a good soaking in a simulated gale, with midges and the performance of the Scottish football team thrown in for good measure?

 

Angus’s programme of walking and running tours can be found at https://www.editburgh.com/