Yesterday I was invited to go to the Edinburgh Oktoberfest and was told ‘it’s your cultural heritage, you will enjoy it’. I was thinking of saying something about battered mars bars in reply but decided to accept the gift and see it as an interesting drawing field trip; so I left for the Oktoberfest equipped with my sketchbook. Now don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time in the past visiting my grandmother in deepest alpine Bavaria and have a deep love for the culture there. One day I would like to visit the Munich Oktoberfest but I just had a slight suspicion that this one might just be of a slightly different nature…
When I entered the circus tent in Princes Gardens to find out about my cultural heritage things were still rather calm and sophisticated. I spotted one or two beautiful ‘dirndls’ and a lot of dresses that seemed to be bought in fancy dress shops, probably originally intended as Snow White costumes.
There were nicely dressed waiters and waitresses carrying around huge glasses of beer and there was some slightly awkward German and Austrian party music on. I was given one of the huge beers and after a bit started singing along to this music, quietly, and conscious of what my friends back home in Germany would think of me. As I say, things were still sophisticated then.
The well trained and organised staff seemed to be filling people up super fast and the band seemed to be paid for constantly animating the audience to drink. I’m not quite sure when it was when things started to go wrong but it wasn’t long before people were stood on the long wooden benches waving around arms and their beers.
I had done some drawings by then but couldn’t see enough from were I was sat and so got onto a bench myself, just to continue drawing you understand. It was a funny feeling, I don’t think anyone was aware of me at all. Every now and then a bench would break down or somebody would fall off a table. The whole thing had a bit of a battlefield feeling to it and for a minute I was wondering if this is how some of the war illustrators felt in the past. And to be honest, I’m not a big drinker and having finished the one beer was probably quite loosened up myself. It definitely was a drawing experience of a different kind.
Well, I’ve often thought that it’s good if you can be versatile as an Illustrator. Just a week ago I was at the Wigtown Book Festival where I was learning a lot of new things. This experience was a lot different but in a strange way I enjoyed the drawing very much. As we left the tent in order to make our way back home I turned around and caught a glimpse of the castle, which was beautifully lit and looking tranquil whilst looking down on a scene of beer fueled carnage. What have the Germans done?