Every August, the city of Edinburgh hosts an arts festival, in which the city's main theaters, concert halls, and art galleries put on a wide range of "high art."
Alongside the main festival, an alternative feast of small-scale shows takes place in rooms above pubs and small theaters-in fact, any space large enough to hold a small crowd.
The Edinburgh Fringe, as it is known, is a launching pad for Britain's new talent, particularly in comedy. Acts range from the amateurish, through the surreal and the bizarre, to the strikingly original.
Further north, every second September, the city of Aberdeen puts on its own show, Offshore Europe. This year, it takes place during Sept. 7-10, and this issue's special report (see p. 51) will be freely available to conference delegates and exhibition visitors.
The Offshore Europe organizers provide a press office where Europe's offshore industry journalists write up their coverage of the conference.
There I will be for the duration of the show, to report on the "high art" end of Offshore Europe-the conference papers that broach new ideas, the keynote presentations, and the management "roundtable" debates.
Themes for this year's debates include the meaning of sustainable development, winning through people, and reputation and recruitment. I also expect plenty of news on exploration and development technology.
There will also be displays by more than 1,800 exhibitors from 38 countries. In 1997, about 25,000 people visited the show. Given the industry's recent cutbacks, it would be surprising if that many attend this year, but the mood of the show will provide a good gauge of the mood of the industry.
In tough times, the large companies cut back their spending on shows such as Offshore Europe; operators rarely mount exhibits these days.
At Offshore Europe, only Elf Exploration UK plc among the operators will be running a stand. Elf will feature its Elgin-Franklin field development, a project certainly worth shouting about (OGJ, June 21, 1999, p. 18).
Nowadays, large equipment manufacturers often decide not to attend such shows as exhibitors, or they buy smaller display spaces. At Offshore Europe, the extent of recent mergers and acquisitions fever will be apparent from the absence of many familiar names from the past.
When my reporting of the offshore industry's high art is over each day, I plan to slip off to Offshore Europe's own fringe: the hundreds of small stands that represent the green shoots after the industry's mass extinction.
This is where all the entrepreneurs with bright ideas, many cast out by bigger firms during the downturn, show their wares. Like Edinburgh's fringe, the ideas will range from the dubious to the inspired; but for me they will provide an optimism cure after this past year's gloom-and-doom stories.