The Magic of Mentoring

Fringe benefits of mentoring

Head of RoSPA Scotland and OHS Policy Advisor Karen McDonnell discusses her recent performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and how it had strong similarities with her mentoring work…

 From my experience mentoring relationships can develop in any aspect of your life.

August is a busy month here in Edinburgh as it plays host to the world’s largest arts festival. And for the first time ever, I was performing at it! Let me explain…

A popular part of the Edinburgh Fringe is the fabulous PBH Free Fringe. This unique event features no venue hire charge and free entrance for everyone. If the audience like the show, they put a voluntary donation in a bucket at the end.

My role was to read exerts from ‘No Through Road’ a reflection on the life of Hannah Hauxwell. A story some of you may recall from a movie called ‘A Winter too many’ shown on Yorkshire Television in the early 1970s, it’s the story of Hannah’s battle against the elements in the remote Yorkshire Dales, as she fought to survive as custodian of the land at Low Birkhatt Farm.

Similarities and differences

In some ways it was similar to how you would pitch to present a paper at conference; you pitch your idea, are allocated a venue and have waves of anxiety as the date for the show approaches. The worry soon evaporates as each venue has a ‘team leader’. Your team leader coaches you into how to use the space, what ‘good’ looks like and how to get your work noticed in amongst everything else that is going on. This was the part I could especially identify with!

What was quite different to the conference experience was having to manage everything – setting up the stage (including the technology), deliver the show and turnaround the space in 60 minutes. When you’re used to being introduced ‘from the Chair’ and delivering a presentation that you prepared earlier, there is a realisation that you need to learn a new skill set and quickly!


This is where the magic made a difference. Immediately prior to our piece was a set by Ashton Carter, magician and storyteller. We discussed how to manage the transition period between shows, agreed the lighting changes, how we could achieve this and have time to engage with our audience.

Through the use of WhatsApp, we created a connection across the performers which was used to support, encourage, commiserate, and help find missing microphones. A great example of #sharingsuccess

What was gained from participating? I moved a long way outside my comfort zone and worked as a team to write new material. We successfully got through the ‘pitching’ process and people came to watch us. The end result felt strangely familiar to my day job!


Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: