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They say you can tell the arrival of high summer in Edinburgh by the sound of Moira Knox's voice. Amidst the clamour of Bolivian virgins, tortured Japanese eroticists and Macbeth acted by naked Eskimos, you will hear the shrill of moral indignation.

"Disgusting!" it says. "Revolting!" it adds. "If nakedness was acceptable we would all be doing it in the street!"

Moira is an institution. She is Edinburgh's Mary Whitehouse, the scourge of filth, sex and sadism on the Festival Fringe.

The ruder and sillier the show, the higher the knee jerk reaction from Councillor Knox, 65.

So famous is this moral guardian that her condemnation of a show is a surefire way to ensure its success.

Last year, Fringe enthusiasts created the Moira, a dirty disgrace award not unlike the Emmy or the Oscar and just as sought- after.

But her more severe critics say she is a batty self-publicist.

And when you first meet Moira Knox, Tory matron extraordinaire, you feel as if you have had a late invite to the Mad Hatter's tea party.

Moira, in the absence of real power as part of the city's Labour- controlled council, made an art form of making her opponents foam at the mouth.

Pearls a-jangle, she whizzes around the council chambers at high speed, accompanied everywhere by her dog.

"This is Pinto, the panting poodle. I have always brought him to the council, haven't I, angel?" she says to the dog in a Kelvinside accent even Stanley Baxter could not match.

She pronounces: "I'm a Glaswegian. As a girl my two loves were amateur dramatics and the Conservatives."

She arrived in Edinburgh 40 years ago when she married her late husband Malcolm, a direct descendant of John Knox's brother.

Moving East was a big culture shock. Moira says: "Malcolm was from Galashiels. He never knew what I was laughing at." And she adds, perhaps surprisingly: "I identify a lot with the Labour Party sense of humour. They're so much funnier than us, you know.

"Some of our people are a bit slow and humour in Edinburgh is awfully different from Glasgow.

"When Labour won in 1984, we got this stupid women's committee. I had been at the hairdresser and when I went into the chamber they said: `Oh, Mrs Knox has forgotten her tiara.'

"They went on and on about wife beating. I said all it needed was for women to wait until the man fell asleep, then pour boiling water on the part that hurts."

Moira is devoted to art, bridge, John Major - "such a lovely man" - her MP, the awfully nice Lord James Douglas- Hamilton, and Pinto the poodle. In more or less that order.

She says she's not waging a moral campaign, she just hates public money being wasted.

She adds: "I don't think I'm a prude."

And Moira tells how some elderly constituents went to see what they thought would be conventional performance of the opera Don Giovanni. It turned out to be DONNA Giovanni, described as a powerful study of eroticism and staged in the nude.

Moira says: "I went berserk when I heard about this show in our beautiful Assembly Rooms.

"I raced in to see the director. He shuddered and said: `I wondered how long it would be till you found out'."

Since then outrageous shows, including lesbian acts and circuses featuring vomiting, have all aroused Moira's wrath. She says: "Some have naked people on stage pretending to have sex. What will be next?

"I'm not ashamed to stand up for morality."

Neither is she ashamed to tell stories against herself. Like the time she sneaked Pinto into a council meeting.

She says: "Someone shouted and Pinto went: `Yap, yap, yap, yap.' Labour leader Mark Lazarowicz said: `That's the most sensible thing she has ever said'."

And Moira's off again, laughing like a hyena. So, is she mad?


Eccentric, yes. Hilarious certainly.

She is also charming, brave, shrewd and self-mocking.

The Edinburgh Fringe needs Moira. In fact, we all need Moira.

If only to appreciate how much duller life would be in the city if she wasn't around.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Reid, Melanie
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 28, 1996
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