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Rebel, rebels: How Bowie's message inspired fun show

Three things largely missing from the independence referendum debate, an observer might report, are:

humour, doubt and self-deprecation. Instead there are, in general, daily furious blasts of invective from the Yes and No campaigns and some nasty, intemperate internet sparring.

All Back To Bowie's, conceived by a group of openly Yes-leaning writers and performers, led by David Greig, Karine Polwart, Kieran Hurley and Peter Arnott among others, aims to add a touch of conviviality to the debate about Scotland's independence.

Inspired by David Bowie's unexpected intervention in the 'Indyref' stramash ('Scotland, stay with us,' delivered on stage by Kate Moss at the Brit Awards) Greig says the daily show is more of a good-natured, "ramshackle salon" where independence can be discussed without too much rancour. There is also music, poetry, song, interviews and other entertainments.

It is more, according to Greig, inspired by optimism, excitement and positivity than the binary Yes/No arguments of the current poll campaign, even if the show's heart is in one camp.

And there is, of course, also the slight, perhaps vanishingly small, chance that the Thin White Duke himself might turn up. Greig says: "The idea is we have all gone back to David Bowie's house, with all the most interesting people we can find. And we are talking about Scotland and independence and the referendum and trying to do it in such an interesting way that if David Bowie was to turn up - which we slightly jokingly hope he will, the door is open - he would say, 'Oh this is more interesting than I thought.' That's the idea."

Greig says he wanted the show to "get away from the hustings" and is not designed to convert its audience - many of which will not have a vote anyway (it is August in Edinburgh, after all) - to one side.

He adds: "I find this an extraordinary fertile time and people in all kinds of ways are making thoughts and interventions that are interesting and I just want to hear them, to hear them talk, involve the audience a little bit, hear some music, hear some poetry, and hear some other ideas and not get into point scoring or persuasion, and just go another way and just be interesting."

Although the position of the group behind the show is Yes, the show, he hopes, will not be a mini-rally. "We have all agreed the only way to do this is never to ask the audience whether they are Yes or No. We are thinking of asking them a binary question which is not Yes or No, a binary question about which is the best Bowie album, and joke on that in a way."

The key to the show is its guests, which will include politicians (Jim Sillars and Nicola Sturgeon ), broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, as well as artists, writers, academics and thinkers.

Greig adds: "They may well express views on Yes or No, but that is so not the point. We need to think about that and I want to think about it, but not in a way to add weight to my argument or threaten it, I just want to talk about it, and the moment is here, it won't be next year. I just want to capitalise on this single moment in time."

There will be themes, too. The team behind the shows knew they had 24 shows to programme, but the amount of ground they wanted to cover soon became too great for the time available. Still, anything from Braveheart to the country of Wales will be discussed.

Greig says: "Just off the top of my head, one of things we need to talk about is themed around Scotland and Wales.

"There will be Welsh singers, artists and playwrights in Edinburgh and I want to get as many as I can in the show. I want to hear from them and what they want to say. But, secondly, I want to think, 'What is this, what historically has there been between Scotland and Wales? Do we have a direct relationship or have we always gone through England?'

"The Welsh perspective is one we hardly ever hear in Scotland. Scotland and our relationship to Ireland - to try and put that in one show is insane - that is a week of shows we could have done.

"So I have already found there is so much to discuss, and so many people to talk and willing to discuss it, partly because there are so many people bubbling with ideas, and all these people who want to engage and are willing to. This is the moment, let's do it."

Greig says the atmosphere and attitude of the show is like an amiable cross between radio shows such as Start The Week and Loose Ends, albeit with added music, a 'read blog post' or polemic, spoken word elements, poetry and some audience involvement. He hopes the audience and those involved in the show can also interact, chat, and intermingle after each show.

He adds: "There is a key thing: humour, doubt, self deprecation, these are all highly desirable for us.

"Yes, we are going to talk about politics; yes, we are going to talk about ideas; yes, we are trying to be as intelligent as we can. But tonally we are going for light, inclusive, welcoming … that is the vibe.

"That is why I compare it to radio shows, where you can talk and not be harangued about it. Normally we do not get any of that in one place in Scotland so here we are, for one month we have it. It is a bit ramshackle, it will be different every day and we might even change it as we go."

He adds: "The feel of it is key to me: it is an hour of your time, it is bound to be interesting, you might be involved in some small way, and it is really key for me that people hang around afterwards, I like the idea it all kind of continues and people have a chance to talk to each other, even if they disagreed with what they said."

All Back To Bowie's, Stand In The Square, until August 24.

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