The Fair Intellectual Club – Radio Four Recordings

The first of two recordings of new scripts of The Fair Intellectual Club by Lucy Porter featuring new adventures with our three young ladies took place at The Scottish Storytelling Centre on Sunday 24 January. The original cast of Caroline Deyga, Jessica Hardwick and Samar MacLaren, were joined by Gordon Kennedy, Simon Donaldson and Gus Brown.

Directed by Marilyn Imrie, the young ladies entertained the packed house as they met German composer, Friedrich Handel and satirical artist William Hogarth.

A second recoding session is scheduled for Sunday 31st January at 7.30pm at The Scottish Storytelling Centre. Tickets are currently sold out but there may be returns during the week or on the day so please check with their box office.
Click here to check for tickets

The six episodes for BBC Radio Four will be broadcast later this year. Produced by Absolutely Productions.

The original production of The Fair Intellectual Club was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2104 at the Assembly Room, and was followed by a tour in Spring 2015 produced in association with Stellar Quines.

Meet our first modern day Fair Intellectual – Prof Robert Crawford

To support our current tour of The Fair Intellectual Club by Lucy Porter we have invited a selection of modern day Fair Intellectuals to share their thoughts and insights on their area of expertise. We’ll be sharing their responses with you over the coming weeks. 

Our first modern day Fair Intellectual is Robert Crawford, Professor of Modern Scottish Literature and Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews. Lucy’s interest in The Fair Intellectual Club was inspired by a passage she read in Robert Crawford’s book ‘On Edinburgh and Glasgow‘: “During an era when ‘A Looking-Glass for Edinburgh Ladies’ saw spinning work rather than brain power as belonging to “the true character of a Good Wife”, one of the Fair Intellectual Club’s members published verse in The Edinburgh Miscellany … they studied the Tatler, the Spectator, Dryden, and other writers. They were though, advised that “comedies should be read with caution” and their secret group was discovered when one of its members fell in love with a young man from a local Athenian Society.”

Professor Robert Crawford:

I was delighted — and gobsmacked — to hear that the account of the Fair Intellectual Club in my book On Glasgow and Edinburgh had sparked a new stage play by Lucy Porter. When I was writing On Glasgow and Edinburgh, I was conscious that it’s easy to write about the history and culture cities as if they were occupied almost entirely by men and hardly at all by women or by children. So I was on the lookout for material that let me tell a more nuanced, and more widely representative story. I’d read a good deal about Scottish Enlightenment clubs in Edinburgh, but never, as far as I remember, anything about the Fair Intellectual Club, so when I came across it in the 1720 Edinburgh Miscellany it was too good to miss out. On Glasgow and Edinburgh is addressed both to people who know the cities and to people who don’t, so as well as detailing familiar aspects of each city’s life, it tries to offer what’s new or at least unfamiliar. In basing a whole play around this teenage society’s original records, Lucy Porter has gone far further than I did, and has given this pioneering club a whole new life for the twenty-first-century. When I mentioned the Fair Intellectuals, I never dreamed this would happen. It’s great.

Could you tell us more about the Edinburgh that The Fair Intellectuals would have been living in at this time, and what this club would have meant for them?

The Fair Intellectuals’ Edinburgh was very much the Old Town, centred on the Royal Mile and the closes off it: crowded, stinky, and still reeling from the effects of the Act of Union in 1707 and the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. In the eighteenth century one spirited girl rode down the Royal Mile on a pig’s back, chased by her sister, brandishing a stick: it was a mucky, sometimes riotous street, with some of the tallest buildings in Scotland on either side. There were intellectual energies afoot, too, though: the poet and Edinburgh wig-maker Allan Ramsay, for instance, published his Scots Songs in 1718, the year the Fair Intellectual Club was founded, and its members may even have sung some of Ramsay’s words. When he was in his late twenties, Ramsay had set up an all-male society, the Easy Club, in Edinburgh in 1712; its members read the Spectator magazine, and sought ‘Improvement in Conversation’. That’s the sort of model the Fair Intellectuals were following, but whereas Ramsay’s and most of the later clubs of the Scottish Enlightenment — such as the Cape Club or the Select Society where philosophers including Adam Smith and David Hume met Edinburgh lawyers, poets and thinkers — were men-only adult drinking clubs, the Fair Intellectual Club was determinedly different. In Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland university students were teenagers of the same age as the Fair Intellectuals — but they were all male. The Fair Intellectuals would have known local students, but couldn’t have joined their university classes. It’s tempting to hear the word ‘Fair’ in the title of the Fair Intellectual Club not just as a reference to the ‘fair’ sex, but also as a reproach to the unfairness of intellectual life in Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Can you see any relevance for this kind of club in 2015 Edinburgh?

In twenty-first century Edinburgh there would be room for a club for teenage Fair Computer Programmers — Girl Geeks —  but if the club were simply designed (like the eighteenth-century one) to encourage reading, conversation and social skills of an intellectual nature, then surely it would be of more use today to teenage boys than to teenage girls?

With thanks to Professor Robert Crawford. You can buy Robert’s book ‘On Edinburgh and Glasgow’ and read more about this fascinating time.

Nominate your own Fair Intellectual.

Lucy Porter

What is it like being a female stand up comedian and how do you survive the touring circuit?

From my teens I was obsessed with stand-up comedy, and from the moment I did my first gig I was hooked. There weren’t many women on the comedy circuit when I started out, I am so glad that seems to be changing gradually.

I love live performance and the unpredictability of a stand-up gig.

I hate being away from my children, but I am trying not to go away too much whilst they’re very young. Although to be honest having the odd night in a hotel on my own is quite refreshing.

What was your first ever job?

My dad was a pharmacist, and I used to help out in his shop from when I was tiny. In fact, I was so young it was probably illegal, although child labour laws were more relaxed back then. I’d imagine people must have been put off asking an child for pile cream or condoms. My first proper job was in a sugar packing factory – I had to test the sugar as it came in for purity. I have always had a sweet tooth, so I thought it would be my dream job, but it was very dull.

Has there been a particular person or an opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?

Tommy Sheppard from The Stand Comedy Club has always been incredibly supportive. When I started doing comedy in Manchester in the 1990s it was hard to get paid work, but Tommy even paid for my petrol to come up to Edinburgh. He and his partner let me stay in their flat, and even though I often died on my arse, they believed in me and kept booking me. Tommy also took a chance last year on allowing us to stage The Fair Intellectual Club in his venue at the Assembly Rooms, and I am delighted that he did.

What made you want to write a play?

I was reading Robert Crawford’s book ‘On Glasgow and Edinburgh’, and in it I came across the story of a secret club for young women in 18th Century Edinburgh. I started to do some research into the story, and became intrigued. I had never considered writing a play before, but the confined, dimly-lit world that these girls inhabited seemed perfect for a theatre piece. I knew that I wanted to concentrate on three of the club members’ stories, and so the idea for the play took shape. I can honestly say that writing it was a pleasure, it was the easiest writing job I’ve ever had.

What do you like best about working within theatre/comedy?

I love the fact that I am always meeting new people. I get bored easily and so I enjoy hopping from place to place. I think most of us who work in comedy or theatre feel lucky that we get to express our creativity. Writing a play about women who weren’t allowed to do that has made me feel even luckier.

What advice would you give emerging female writers or comedians today?

I think any success I’ve had might be more due to luck than judgement, so I am wary of giving advice. I suppose learning not to give up or become disheartened in the face of rejection is particularly useful in showbusiness. If any aspiring writers or performers would like my advice they should feel free to email me through my website

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?

Would have picked Marilyn Imrie, but she’s already been a Quine of the Month. So I would say Susan Morrison, she’s a brilliant comedian and fascinating history buff who has been an inspiration to me. I named a character in the play after her as a small tribute.



New Year News

The Fair Intellectual Club image

As the festive season approaches we’re preparing for exciting developments in the New Year. Stellar Quines are supporting Director Marilyn Imrie in an application to Creative Scotland to re-stage and tour the incredibly successful The Fair Intellectual Club by Lucy Porter, in Feb/March 2015.

The Fair Intellectual Club, first presented by the Fair Intellectuals at The Assembly Rooms in August 2014, is a new play based on a true story. In 1717 three Edinburgh girls set up The Fair Intellectual Club in order to improve their minds. The play is a story of teenage love, friendship and betrayal at the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment.

We’re preparing to present this at a range of venues new to Stellar Quines, and have some new marketing ideas we’d like you to get involved with. Please register your interest below to receive the latest news on The Fair Intellectual Club.

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