Edinburgh Fringe Q&A: James Rowland

Storyteller James Rowland catches up with Fest ahead of the arrival of his new solo show Piece of Work

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 4 minutes
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James Rowland
Photo by Rosie Collins
Published 27 Jul 2023

Tell us about your show and what audiences can expect? 

Piece of Work is gonna be a lovely, joyful, warm story about life, the universe and chicken burgers. Yes, it is also about our self destructive nature and also suicide but what is life without a bit of light and shade?

Can you talk about some of the creative team involved?

I have made this show in partnership with Jonny Humphries who is an extraordinarily intelligent and patient man. Also with the input and support of many of my friends, my partner and my brother. It’s the nature of solo shows to be quite isolating and I try and offset that by involving as many kind and forgiving loved ones as I can.
Looking at this production, how would you say it links to previous work personally and thematically?

I think all of my shows try to have a combination of the serious and silly, the infinite and mundane… but I think it’s for an audience to decide what they think it’s all about.

What would you like audiences to take away from seeing you/this production at the Fringe?

That they have spent their time and money (both in short supply these days) in a way that is worthwhile.

Do you tend to take inspiration from events happening in the world around you in terms of your work? Do you think artists have a responsibility to respond to what's happening?

Absolutely, if this story has an overarching theme as far as I’m concerned, it is context and the futility of pretending it doesn’t exist. Art doesn’t have to directly address any subject but it can’t escape its context.

How do you feel about the current arts landscape in your country and your part in it? Does it excite you and inspire you to keep pushing the boat out?

No. At the moment the artistic landscape in the UK is precarious as heck. In my time making shows it has never been worse, and I think the same applies to the UK in general. Marginalised and poor people are finding it harder and harder to survive whether in art or life in general. There seems to be little or no chance of that changing in the near future either. Now more than ever it’s absolutely vital that we’re honest about that. That we don’t rose tint things and we tell the truth about the state of things. I am, however, constantly excited, inspired and filled with joy by the people I see making work and simply surviving against this backdrop. 

Why are arts festivals such as the Fringe so important for international exchange?

Sometimes it is hard to feel the positive parts of any edifice that is as big as the Fringe – it is, as we all often are, largely in thrall to capitalism, imperialism and patriarchy. However any endeavour made by artists to quixotically tilt at the shit flinging windmills of the world is a positive thing. I love the Fringe for those people and endeavours.

What can the wider arts community do to get more people involved in their specific disciplines? 

Keep doing what you can where you can. Being kind. Trying to make space for positive change in everyone’s lives.

Have you got your eye on any other shows that are part of the programme?

Absolutely. Stick a pin in the programme, go and see as much as you can afford. I’m specially excited to see some friends shows – Playing Latinx by Guido Garcia Lueches, The Butch is Back by Reuben Kaye, LORENZO by Ben Target off the top of my head.

What’s next for you and how are you feeling about the future in general?

Touring Piece of Work and my last show Learning to Fly, and making the third part of this trilogy as well as continuing to run the Last Thursday Club – a storytelling night that I put on with my friend Roann Hassani-McClosky. Honestly the future looks tough but the work is wonderful to do.

How can Edinburgh audiences keep up with you beyond the festival?
Ha, I’m quite crap at this bit – I have a mailing list that I update irregularly, you can find the link on Twitter and Instagram.