Edinburgh fringe 2018. (Some)Body by PosleSlov. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
Sex sells, which explains why performers have been getting their tools off at the fringe for years. But my flesh odyssey was also mind-bending – and profoundly moving
Fifteen naked people in a single day is a record for me. For a Monday, at least. I am in Edinburgh to attend the fringe, where I have been given a short to … well, avoid briefs. Ban bras, skirt skirts – free willy. Go to Edinburgh, and see the naked shows, was the plan. Bring a towel to sit on, a venue said.
Nudity is not new at the fringe, established in 1947 when eight theatre companies decided to turn up uninvited and stage their own shows alongside the Edinburgh international festival. This sounds a bit like turning up outside someone’s house with a boombox, but it obviously proved successful. Last year, the Fringe consisted of more than 3,000 shows in 300 venues.
If sexual intercourse began, as the poet Philip Larkin claimed, in 1963, nudity came at the Fringe the same year. In what became known as the Lady MacChatterley trial, 18-year-old Anna Kesselaar found herself in court on charges of lewdness for taking part in what was referred to in the press as a “happening”: being wheeled naked on a trolley across a gallery at the launch of publisher John Calder and Traverse Theatre founder Jim Haynes’ Drama Conference in the McEwan Hall.
In a 2012 interview, the then 68-year-old Kesselaar rather brilliantly told the Scotsman: “I did it for art. And £4.” At the time, Kesselaar was branded “sick in mind, hand and heart” by the city’s Lord Provost, and had to flee to London such was the scandal.