High above the rooftops of the Old Town, the Meeting Room at Venue 40 offers a surprising opportunity for some welcome downtime. The monks of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery are spending a few hours each morning sharing their culture, but if you are not already seeing their show, The Power of Compassion, these workshops may well pass you by as they are not listed in the main Fringe guide.
Although the workshop is scheduled to start at 9:30, the monks are already chanting as visitors begin to arrive. We sit in contemplative silence for a few minutes, letting the chants wash over us and restore us from our collective Fringe fatigue.
As the chants finish, the monks begin to set up their art materials whilst we are greeted by an English assistant. She takes us round each activity, explaining what the monks are doing, materials they use, and something of the significance of each item in Buddhism.
We are spoilt for choice – we can watch two monks creating a colourful and intricate sand mandala, have a go with the tools to create a sand mandala ourselves, make a silk-bound dukar wheel, sculpt with “butter” (disappointingly but understandably, the authentic butter has for these workshops been replaced with plasticine), print prayer flags, or have a go at learning a bit of Tibetan language. It is left to us to pick and choose which activities we fancy and go between them as we prefer.
The monks are gently encouraging, friendly and as chatty as the language barrier allows. They seem to be patient and amused in almost equal measure at our comparative hamfisted attempts to control a thin stream of sand released by vibrating a metal funnel (known as a chak-pur) or evenly wrap our coloured threads to form a pleasing pattern on our dukar wheels. And for our parts, we are very pleased with our accomplishments.
The allotted ninety minutes pass all too quickly and soon it is time to re-emerge back on to the crowded streets, however it has been a highly memorable and very satisfying morning and a great way to start a frenetic Fringe day.
16-21 Aug 0930 (1100) Tibetan Monastic Art workshop @ Quaker Meeting House
23-28 Aug 0930 (1030) Performance workshop @ Quaker Meeting House