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Tom Sandham: celebrating alcohol live at the Edinburgh Fringe

Published:  23 August, 2011

The other day I was lying in bed after a late night in Edinburgh and had This Morning on. True story - living the dream.

Don't worry, the story gets more relevant. I'm up here doing a show called the Thinking Drinker's Guide to Alcohol with Ben McFarland and performing on stage for an hour every day is quite exhausting, particularly when your day job is writing about alcohol.

So there I was. In bed. Watching late morning (not daytime) TV. It could've been anything on the telly box, but weirdly it was a bit about binge drinking, and get this: Paddy McGuiness was the presenter.

I didn't know this - mainly because I haven't watched This Morning in about 15 years - but seriously, Paddy McGuinness. You know, the guy who fronts up that Take Me Out show, the one where women judge men based entirely on appearance. Odd looking, orange women with yellow hair in short skirts.

Yeah, Paddy McGuinness, he's a social conscience if ever there was one. Mercifully he was partnered by a Nolan sister - at least I think that's what she was - and she's really great, a veritable rudder on a hilariously unpredictable and insignificant sail boat.

Strange to relate that when it came to their views on 'binge drinking Britain' their spleens were on display. Self-righteous anger was being vented, feathers spat and blood vessels (coursing with obesity) bulged and looked set to burst. Indeed I'd never seen such an aggressive vitriol being directed towards society's young alcohol enthusiasts.

Except, of course, I actually have.

In the build up to the Fringe Festival we here at Dwink faced a torrent of abuse from anti booze berks and journalists determined to trip us up over the consequences of heavy drinking. This is because our show is about alcohol and we've had the audacity to promote some of the more positive aspects of drinking.

We were prepared to bat criticism back. We explained how our show is about discerning drinking, promoting the message to drink less but drink better and the storm subsided for a while.

Now, midway through our run, we have weathered it entirely and found that our audiences are tired of feeling ashamed about enjoying a drink.

And they really are tired. Almost every day we sell out the show and people are delighted to sip their way through Kraken, Maestro Dobel tequila, Tanqueray No.10, Ketel One, Pernod Absinthe and Zubrowka.

They're keen to approach with appreciation, they don't drink enough to stagger out smashed and merely have a taste to make the story of alcohol an interactive one.

They're enthusiastic in their thirst for the information we dispense and in terms of the work I've done with brands, I'd say this has been one of the best platforms to showcase quality alcohol I've ever been involved with.

Feedback on Twitter, Facebook and our site has been incredible, people are thanking us in the street and taking notes and reviews have been top notch. It's an enlightening insight into how responsible adults approach alcohol.

Performing a show is tough of course. The first time we went up on stage we were in need of new underwear before we'd even stepped out from the curtain, and the audience expects a lot when they've paid to see you.

As an experience I'd recommend it though, it's an entirely new industry for us and it's interesting to draw comparisons between the likes of performers and bartenders. There are more than I'd imagined.

And it's a new way to communicate our passion for drinks to the public. From our perspective it seems the people of Edinburgh are acutely aware of the dangers of alcohol, but are equally capable of making a moderate approach to it.

To be fair to the sofa naysayers on This Morning, there is a genuine problem. NHS statistics more than back that up, and there's no room for being complacent. But the constant one-sided barracking isn't constructive and our show is going some way to redressing the balance.

Alcohol is becoming a bit of a fall guy for societies ills and our audiences are indicating that enough is enough.

Kelvin McaKenzie was amongst the guests on This Morning and added to the anti booze rhetoric. He argued that drinking habits are making young girls fat with "backsides like the side of a bus" apparently - Paddy jumped on this anaconda of an issue with retorts about how "it's not about how they look", undoubtedly conscious of turning young ladies into anorexics.

Paddy then argued the drinks are "too nice"' and should be more like drinks when he was a lad, more bitter and unpleasant apparently.

Either way, the entire conversation was painful and left me wondering if this forum for debate was in any way healthy. Probably not, which is why it'd be nice to get the Thinking Drinker's Guide to Alcohol all up in their faces, what this conversation desperately needs is some balance and we hope we're delivering just a bit of that in Edinburgh.

* Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland will perform the Thinking Drinker's Guide at the Hut in the Pleasance Courtyard each day at 1pm until August 29th. Find out more at