Somewhere out there, in the brash, cacophonic madness of the Edinburgh Fringe, is a small garden shed placed next to a London bus. Inside this unassuming space is one of the most interesting and valuable events of the whole festival: ‘Iraq, Out & Loud’. Members of the general public are signing up to help read the entirety of the Chilcott Report, nonstop, for 24 hours a day until it’s finished. That’s 12 volumes, and 2.6 million words, through the night and through the day for over two weeks, whilst the busyness of the Fringe swirls around the small shed.
— IraqOutLoud (@IraqOutLoud) August 20, 2016
The question is, why is this happening? This is not an effort in satire, nor simply a display of literary stamina, nor a witty observation on the insanity of the world we live in. Instead, one of the organisers tells me, the event aims to turn the question around. Why was there British involvement in the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq? Mr Chilcott spent 7 years compiling this gargantuan report on the reasoning, and if the public don’t read it and hold those responsible to account, then who will? This continuous reading is a political statement, a display of solidarity that shows that the world hasn’t forgotten the pointlessness of the 2003 Iraq War. There have been some harrowing, emotional moments: one night, at 3am, the section on counting death tolls was read out loud by a member of the public. The British and American figures were counted exactly, it was reported, whilst Iraqi deaths were rounded up to the nearest half million. These are the sort of atrocities the world needs to know, and remember.
The whole event is being continuously filmed by a webcam, hiding in the corner of the shed. After the reading is finally finished the organisers plan to take the video on tour, playing it in various places and even condensing it into an art instillation. This is a fitting legacy for this fascinating project: one of acknowledgement, sharing and remembrance. The grim lessons that the Chilcott Report can teach us may yet be the most resonant and long lasting thing to come out of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.inflatable camping tent