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EDINBURGH For years, awardwinning comedian Susan Calman admired The Stand – Scotland’s first daily comedy club in Edinburgh’s New Town district – from afar, as she walked past to visit clients as a corporate lawyer. The 15-yearold basement club, set beneath a beautiful Georgian townhouse, is steeped in history. “It’s old and feels like it’s got the souls of a thousand comedians in it,” she says nostalgically. “There’s even a backstage door where comedians write messages before they perform.” Susan’s life was transformed after playing her first fiveminute, open-mic slot at The Stand over five years ago. Six months later, she had given up her job to do stand-up full time. Things have never been the same since: “It’s strange walking past places where I used to sit and have lunch in a pinstripe suit, as

now I’ll be in my jeans on the way to do a gig.” The Red Raw open-mic night that gave Susan her first break is still going and for just £2, visitors can get lucky spotting the rawest comedy talents before they hit the big time. Frankie Boyle,


Johnny Vegas and Alan Carr all did their five-minute newcomer slots on The Stand’s tiny stage. Of course, back then the 200-capacity basement club was an archetypal comedy venue – dark, dingy and filled with smoke. Today it’s much

the same – the air’s a bit fresher sans-smog, but the acoustics are still brilliant, says Susan, now the club’s weekend compère. “In big rooms, noise can get lost but the ceilings are low here, so everyone’s tightly packed, a bit sweaty and it makes the most

amazing noise when laughter travels round the room.” Now the venue is the first place Susan heads for a drink and a chat with friendly faces before doing a show. “It’s like Cheers, but in a dank Edinburgh basement. With comedy being such a competitive

business, it’s nice to have somewhere to go that’s not based on that sort of pressure.” Catch Constantly Seeking Susan from 7–30 August at the Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival. 5 York Place,; Deborah Hatch


Susan Calman


AMSTERDAM Architect Francine Houben helped transform this building from a gas storage facility to a multipurpose events space


Amsterdam architect

“Westergasfabriek is an inspiring place that naturally draws in artistic people, and when you’re there, you can feel it,” says renowned Dutch architect Francine Houben. The former gasworks has been transformed into Amsterdam’s trendy culture park over the past decade. Today, its 19th-century industrial buildings and surrounding park form a popular multi-functional space for bars, restaurants and cool events such as last month’s Amsterdam Fringe Festival. “For me, what’s most inspiring is that the buildings are from a period that was all about craftsmanship,” Francine continues. “The design looks functional but well-detailed and everybody loves it.” The force behind Francine’s historic inspiration is architect Isaac

Gosschalk, who designed most of the buildings in 1883. His work reflects the Dutch renaissance period so well that the red brick and steel structures were officially recognised as monuments in 1989. The title is well deserved agrees Francine. “There is little of this neo-renaissance architecture in the world, so it’s right that we should take care of it.” Yet the transformation of an abandoned industrial wasteland into tree-lined avant-garde arts hub still astounds her. “When I first came here around 15 years ago it was a dirty, polluted and unhealthy area locked away behind closed gates, but now it is an open space surrounded by nature and feels like one of the healthiest spots in Amsterdam.”

“NOW IT FEELS LIKE ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST SPOTS IN AMSTERDAM” Despite modern renovations, Francine says the culture park retains its original character. “It’s a symbol of Amsterdam’s history that has also become a worldwide example of how old industrial

buildings can be turned into cultural landmarks.” The “heroic period of industrialisation” as Francine describes it, has inspired one of her latest projects, The Library of Birmingham.

Designed by her firm Mecanoo, and due for completion in 2013, the library will reflect the rich and proud history of Birmingham – a former industrial city that has a tradition of craftsmanship. “People often

look at industrial buildings and think that everything was made in a quick and easy way,” Francine concludes. “But the whole transformation of Westergasfabriek made me aware that buildings can be around for 100 to 200 years and although their use may change, craftsmanship is forever.” Deborah Hatch


Francine Houben


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Composer & musician

Jean Michel Jarre For a man who’s been ‘mixing it up’ his whole life, it’s not surprising that Jean Michel Jarre gravitates towards Paris’ trendiest contemporary art house PARIS The Palais de Tokyo (, an art nouveau building dating back to 1937, is a hub for the French capital’s experimental artists. It’s also the place where Jean Michel Jarre, a pioneer of electronic music, has been finding creative inspiration since

first visiting as a child at the age of eight. “Every time I go to the Palais I feel connected to the building and its atmosphere,” Jarre says. “It’s always changing, with a constant flow of artists exposing me to new techniques and visions.” For a man who’s spent his life

experimenting with sound, the Palais is an appropriate spiritual home. Since its restoration in 2002, it has bridged the gap between 20thcentury museum and stripped-down 21st-century art space. “This unique mix of old building and modern factory inspires me visually,”

Jarre continues, “because I’m trying to create music that tells a story not just with words, but also moods, images and atmosphere.” Some of his latest multimedia project is being shot at the Palais, and now the synth wizard is eyeing up the Palais for an outdoor extravaganza

around Christmas. “I’ve performed in so many different places, on amazing sites across the world, but the architecture and light at the Palais are special. It’s an ideal space for me to perform and develop a concept that’s more intimate and surprising for my album launch

around the end of this year.” Jarre’s first world tour continues in October, stopping at Glasgow (3rd), Birmingham (8th), Manchester (9th), London (10th) before moving on to France, Switzerland, Poland and the Netherlands in November;

Deborah Hatch


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interview features - easyJet Traveller magazine  

A series of interviews uncovering easyJet destinations from the perspective of eminent natives.