The HandleBards Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe / Reintegrating into Society

HandleBard Selfie
The 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe has begun, and our all-female HandleBards troupe are days away from joining the rest of the global theatre community in the Scottish capital. However, the Fringe can be a tough place. There’s a lot of stress, a lot of excitement, and little time to yourself. For the last few months, our Girls have gotten used to spending a lot of time alone on the bikes. To help them prepare for their reentry to civilisation, we asked them to put together their very own list of DOs and DON’Ts to abide by when they finally reach the Royal Mile:
  • DO make sure to find space for yourself out of the Festival bubble to go for a swim or a walk along the beach. If you’re feeling bicycle withdrawal symptoms, get into the water and pretend you’re cycling on the spot – no one will be able to see anything other than a bobbing head, and therefore they cannot judge you.
  • DO prepare for people to ask if you’ve actually cycled everywhere this summer or if, instead, you’ve had a van. I think I remember asking a HandleBards that a few years ago and it did not go down well. I understand why now. We’ve cycled everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
  • DO be aware that not everyone thinks your genitalia and the way it’s been affected by the bike makes interesting betwixt-show chat. Most people may wince at the phrase ‘after a hill it feels like you could fry an egg on it’. Just something to keep in mind.
  • DON’T assume that everyone farts and burps loudly in public. They may not find it as impressive as you do, even though, in the last few months, it’s become a real art you take pride in.
  • DON’T get overly excited about receiving coffee or being fed. And NEVER underestimate the joy of salt and pepper in food. These will never be taken for granted ever again. Most places you go in Edinburgh will have them – you don’t need to sneakily steal single serve condiments from cafes for fear of future seasoning shortages.
  • DON’T be surprised if people start to notice you’re wearing the same outfit every day. It’s not your fault you’ve spent the last 4 months with 3 outfits, 4 pairs of knickers and a high vis raincoat. (It’s also not your fault that society hasn’t got on board with highly visible fashion yet or with wearing bib shorts, the comfiest invention known to man, as daily wear. They’re just dungarees! With a cushion for your bum! Get on board people!)
  • DON’T automatically get your back up when a skinny man in lycra approaches you. In this situation, he’s probably not coming over to condescend to you. Nor tell you not to pedal when you change your gears. Nor to ask if you know where you’re going. Nor to tell you to ‘keep on going, love.’
  • DON’T feel you need to carry allen keys/tools wherever you go. And just because everything can be fixed with a cable tie doesn’t mean it should be.
  • DON’T refer to your water bottles or bikes by their Christian names. People will get confused, worried, and won’t know what you’re asking for when you ask them to ‘pass them your Lulu’ or ask ‘how long has Barry been locked in the van for?’
  • DO hold on to the pride of beating those mammoth hills. Now you’re in the land of sexy, cool arts folk, hold on to the ways you’ve been feeling strong the last few months whilst being sweaty, make-up-free, and in the company of sweaty, make-up-free women.
  • DON’T steal booze and food from people who are enjoying a meal in the sun. This is only allowed within show times.
  • DO treat yourself to use of the washing facilities. As much as Febreeze is a wonderful invention remember you do not need to repeatedly sniff your clothes and weigh up how far the smell will carry.
HandleBards Bath Time

And for everyone else coming up to Edinburgh, please try to think about the way you travel to the Fringe. You probably don’t have to cycle, but if travelling within the UK please don’t fly! Also, if you are able, make use of the fact Edinburgh is a walkable city which is beautiful to explore on foot (even in the rain) – and it gives you legs of steel. Also – recycle your flyers, and follow the Staging Change campaign!

Roisin, Tika, Ellice, Katy and Emily xoxoxo

It’s safe to say that if you’re in Edinburgh this summer, you’re unlikely to miss our hi-vis, food-pilfering, saddle-sore actors wandering about. To be absolutely sure you do see them, book for their shows here:
  • The TempestAssembly George Square Gardens (2pm daily: 14th – 18th August)


  • Marilyn Scott

    August 15, 2019


    Can sense the fun and depth of camaraderie that must have grown on your journeys. I am sure you will all be lifelong friends after such adventures together. Wonderful to read all your blogs and just love your name. Handlebards is not just a clever concept but a wonderful example to the rest of us on so many levels! I am sure you will know better than most that “it is the journey , not the destination that matters!” Oh how I wish I was in Edinburgh for the Fringe – no chance I’m afraid – Marilyn Scott – Aotearoa NZ

  • Helen W

    August 16, 2019


    Saw the Girls in Northampton this year (Awesome. Go Girls!) & the Guys in Cirencester last year (Hilarious). I’ve tried & failed many times to read Shakespeare but Handlebards has made me be able to finally appreciate his works, & laugh so much. I am hooked now ‘ will go every year. Thank you

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