Be Seen in the Deen: Aberdeen Comedy Festival & Nuart
Cutting-edge street art and chucklesome comedy come to Aberdeen this autumn – here's what's in store
If you thought Aberdeen was all blinding granite and massive, ungodly seagulls then think again. The Granite City is being put back on the map, in part, due to a series of projects from Aberdeen Inspired. The growing success of the Aberdeen Comedy Festival and outdoor street art extravaganza Nuart Aberdeen have helped to build the city’s cultural profile over the past few years.
Comedy: Not Just for the Fringe
Launching in 2015, the Aberdeen Comedy Festival has grown year-upon-year and, now in its third year, continues to persuade even more top-name comedians to make the trip up north because, y’know, Aberdonians like jokes too. Over 50 events will take place at 25 venues across the city between 4-13 October this year, including stand-out headliners, fringe favourites, comedy legends, magic, musical comedy, movies and family shows; from stalwarts of international comedy festivals to bright-eyed, fresh-faced up-and-comers on the comedy circuit.
After celebrating 20 years at the Edinburgh Fringe, Reginald D Hunter features as one of this year’s festival headliners, alongside Irish musical comedian David O’Doherty, ex-Never Mind the Buzzcocks team captain Phill Jupitus and the always sharply-dressed Tom Allen. Also on this year’s line-up is Scottish rising star Larry Dean, whose new show Bampot was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award for best show at this year's Fringe. There are also two comedians reprising their critically-acclaimed 2017 Edinburgh Fringe shows: absurdist John Kearns, with Don’t Worry They’re Here, and Rob Kemp, with The Elvis Dead. Both shows were awarded four stars by this very publication at the time, so you know you’re on to a good thing.
If you, like Flo Rida, are wondering where them girls at, fear not. Desiree Burch, the New York-born and London-based comedic force to be reckoned with, will be making an appearance at the festival, as will frequent TV panel show guest Tiff Stevenson with her critically-acclaimed stand-up show Bombshell. Another New Yorker, actress, singer and impressionist Christina Bianco’s show Life of the Party will see her reprise a selection of fan favourites from her comedy arsenal, as well as previewing some new material, and she’ll also be taking audience requests, so come prepared.
The festival also caters to those who like their comedy more spontaneous. Those of you will probably be interested in seeing award-winning improv troupe Men With Coconuts. Based in Edinburgh and regulars at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Men perform regularly in venues across the central belt, and now they’re spreading their wings to give those up north a taste of their 90-minute long show, entirely made up of improvised comedy sketches and songs.
For the film buffs, independent cinema and local favourite Belmont Filmhouse will celebrate comedy in film, screening classic comedies (with options to suit all ages) throughout the duration of the festival. Some of the films already on the bill include the Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz-starring clusterfuck of a rom-com that put everyone off hair gel for life, There’s Something About Mary; modern comedy classic Bridesmaids; the actual Spice World film – yes, starring the actual Spice Girls; and that one about that bear that isn’t Winnie the Pooh, Paddington.
Quite literally painting the town red – among many other colours – street artists from all over the world have descended upon the city for two years running now to participate in multi award-winning street art festival Nuart Aberdeen. Originating in Aberdeen’s twin city of Stavanger, Norway, Nuart first arrived in Aberdeen in 2017, with artists adding a splash of colour to various locations around the Granite City and winning five awards along the way, including the British BID (Business Improvement District) Place Management Award, voted for by the public, and the Association of Town Centre Management Award for Innovation.
In its debut outing last year, the festival saw artists from varying disciplines, specialising in everything from tile design to stencilling to text art, make their mark on the city in a series of murals. German duo Herakut’s mural, spread across the external walls of the Aberdeen Market and most clearly visible from The Green, was one of the year’s standout pieces. The duo’s unique creative process involves them improvising on top of the other’s work as they go, allowing their different styles to be brought together in an unplanned, unrestricted fashion.
But the artworks go beyond traditional ideas of street art too. For his contribution to the festival, Spanish artist Isaac Cordal scattered miniature sculptures around the city, as part of an ongoing series called Cement Eclipses, which he has been working on since 2006. In contrast, Scottish-born, ex-Edinburgh College of Art student Robert Montgomery, sometimes referred to as the ‘poet's Banksy’, produced a powerful piece of politically-charged text art on the concept of modernism.
Following the success of 2017, Aberdeen Inspired secured another three years of Nuart Aberdeen and the festival returned in April 2018 with 12 international artists adding murals to the city’s street art scene. Union Row, situated just off Union Street, Aberdeen’s equivalent of the Las Vegas strip – except with less bright lights, casinos, street hustling and general goings on – has become a particular hub for artists’ murals, with four of this year’s contributions located there.
Two murals paid homage to the city’s infamous birds of prey – yes, those infamous seagulls really. Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic contributed the largest mural in the city so far, on the side of the Union Plaza office block, of a young boy climbing up a wall where some seagulls are sitting. Meanwhile, Glasgow-based duo Ciaran Glöbel and Conzo Throb combined their skills in illustration and typography to reimagine the notorious ‘gulls in the style of an advert for an action figure on Willowbank Road.
In another Scottish-inspired work, Portuguese artist Bordalo II, famous for his trash animal sculptures, designed a 3D creation of a unicorn – Scotland’s national animal – made entirely out of found plastics. Carrie Reichardt brought her self-titled ‘craftivism’ to Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter in four mosaic installations, with three focusing on inspirational women from Aberdeen and Scotland, on Adelphi and St. Nicolas Lane. Once a hub for Aberdeen’s youth, St. Nicolas Rooftop Gardens – more commonly known as St Nicks – was also given a makeover by Amsterdam-based cartoon artist, and self-proclaimed pioneer of ‘art comedy’, Bortusk Leer; his monster cartoon creations pasted across the walls of St Nicks.
Fancy seeing all the murals in one day? Well, conveniently you can. Free street art walking tours take place in the city every Saturday until 30 September, leaving from Contour Café on The Green at 1pm and taking you round the city’s murals. Or, if you want to go it alone at your own pace, you can pick up a map from the Visit Scotland tourist office on Union Street or download it at nuartaberdeen.co.uk and form your own route. Take a tour of some street art, catch some comedy, buy a buttery and probably have that buttery instantly nabbed out of your hand by a seagull; Aberdeen’s back, alright.
Aberdeen Comedy Festival, 4-13 Oct, aberdeencomedyfestival.com