Edinburgh performers offer free shows online to entertain self-isolating viewers

Performers have taken to broadcasting shows.
Frankie Mack performing as Robbie WilliamsFrankie Mack performing as Robbie Williams
Frankie Mack performing as Robbie Williams

An increasing number of Edinburgh residents have been confined to their homes in the wake of government advice to avoid all but essential travel and the recent closure of pubs and restaurants.

In these troubled times many are searching for entertainment in the face of boredom, stress, or the need to distract themselves from the people they are trapped in a confined space with for days on end.

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Thankfully the joys of modern technology have come to our aid, and many singers, entertainers and comedians have taken to Facebook Live to provide entertainment and bring together people watching at home.

Magician and children's entertainer Magic GarethMagician and children's entertainer Magic Gareth
Magician and children's entertainer Magic Gareth
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Martina Cannon-Ball and Kim McDonagh have hosted an online open mic night via Facebook Live for over a year, but they have seen members of their Facebook page more than double in the past week to over 2,000 as more people join in from their self-isolation at home.

‘Open mic - Live from your Livingroom’ was initially set up to give people who did not want to take part in a physical open mic night the chance to perform, and used to run performances once a week.One of the admins will post a list of 30-minute slot times into the group, which are claimed by members.

Each performer then goes live at the allotted time.

Kim McDonagh and Martina Canon BallKim McDonagh and Martina Canon Ball
Kim McDonagh and Martina Canon Ball

Performances have now been increased to once every day, which the admins will keep going for ‘as long as we can’.

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“When we set up the group we just wanted to give something back, for people who can’t get out of their house because of disabilities, or anxiety or whatever reason,” said Ms Cannon-Ball, a full-time solo musician. “It’s a great platform for people to showcase their music.”

The performances with an increased audience have so far been going well.

“It’s a really supportive community, people get involved and comment on videos and it’s a really nice vibe,” said Ms Cannon-Ball.

She hopes that the group may help some musicians who are out of work because of the coronavirus, as they can post a Paypal link as a virtual tip jar.

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“We’ve got people in the group from all over the world, the US, Argentina, Italy, all coming together to support each other through this,” she said.

An Edinburgh singer and performer who has been on lockdown in Tenerife for over a week is another entertainer who has taken to Facebook Live.

Frankie Mack used to perform at care homes in Edinburgh but he moved to Tenerife in June, where he was voted ‘best newcomer’ by the Tenerife Entertainment Awards 2019.

As Spain went into lockdown last week he has been self-isolating in his apartment since last Saturday night.

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“I’m so bored!” said the singer, who has lost all of his bookings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He has since produced a series of live events on his Facebook page, ‘FrankieMack – The Swing and Rat Pack Showman’, both to earn money through a paypal link and to entertain other people stuck at home.

“It’s great to see the support, and to see people coming together. I love making people smile and feel included,” he said.

People have started leaving comments and requests on the videos, and then when they’re over I can send them to care homes in Edinburgh, or even to my gran.”

Mr Mack has also filmed a video sharing his experiences with mental health problems, and said the comments and feedback has been ‘really supportive’. “Several people got in touch with me after that, saying they could relate,” he said.

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Gareth White, another Edinburgh resident, has also been using the Facebook Live feature to entertain.

As a magician and children’s entertainer by the name of Magic Gareth, he has found himself without work.

“I’ve had a lot of cancellations, and I thought maybe virtual birthday parties would be the way to go,” he said.

“Initially I planned to try Facebook Live over Easter, but I decided to do a dry run in advance.”

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Mr White found that 165 people tuned in to his first broadcast, and he saw pictures of children enjoying the show.

“I’m here to help and to make things easier for parents,” he said. “I want people to be able to engage, to send in pictures or for me to give them shoutouts if they want.”

Gigs in Scotland hosted ‘Nae Pub Quiz’, a virtual pub quiz via Facebook Live on Friday evening.

The event also included raffles in aid of Kids Out and the National Emergencies Trust, supporting vulnerable children and those most affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

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The Stand Comedy Club, which has venues in Glasgow and Aberdeen as well as in Edinburgh, also ran a live event on Saturday, featuring comedians including Mark Nelson, Vladimir McTavish and Ryan Cullen.