Race and Trauma // Demi Nandhra

This piece is available as an audio recording below:

why do white people like watching trauma so much?

this is how im going to start. why do white people like watching trauma so much? that question, because thats what plagued me at fringe. plagued me? maybe not plagued but intrigued, kind of confused me. i kind of wanted an answer but also i think i knew the answer.

context first -

this was my first ever fringe. taking a show. i performed everyday at 1pm at summerhall in the tech cube 0 space. i had aaron, my partner and my dog on stage. I spent my time with theatre people and then aaron and the dog. most of the shows i watched were at summerhall because of ease and them being free. I started off watching as much as a could but then went down to maybe on a good day watching 2-3 shows. It went down to one a day and then many days…nothing at all. just netflix or romesh ranganathan’s many fucking shows (google him, he’s funny)… all afternoon at the nice flat that cost nearly £5,000. a flat that didn’t have a sharp knife or a cheese grater.


i was choosing to watch shows from artists i respect/admire and artists who were also friends that i wanted to support. a lot of the work centred trauma - personal trauma, family trauma, generational trauma, collective trauma. alllls the traumas. The works were rich, nuanced and vulnerable and had the potential to be dangerous…for me the audience and maybe the artists. I’m going to make an assumption and say yes dangerous for the artists. As an artist who was also presenting trauma based work, i did my due diligence, i considered what support i needed and made those arrangements. (begged aaron to be there). I was safe and i can imagine others tried to do the same but like me the work still had the potential to be dangerous for them. I/we just had to monitor and stay vigilant.

so all that to say i was around of a lot of dangerous works.

i became more and more concerned for audiences, my audiences and others. I spent a lot of time trying to maintain safety for audiences in my shows and then trying to control my triggers as an audience member in other shows. one thing that would help was to come out of the work a little, now and then look at others in the space not just the ‘stage’.

i noticed things.

I noticed white audiences didn't seem to have an intolerance to trauma. Not all white audiences before you start.

i noticed white audiences actively seeking trauma based work and filling their day with it

like the whole day, back to back of despair, violence and danger.


is that not a wtf?

i think thats a wtf, i would be so exhausted by just one work that i would try and honour that exhaustion and leave. get the fuck out the venue i was in and go breath and watch romesh do his best judge judy impression.

i would get angry in some instances.

this one made me angry -

i was watching Rachael Young’s NIGHTCLUBBING for the second time. I love Young and i love this work. someone i was with wanted to see it and i was very happy to see it again. i knew what to expect so i had a healthy distance, my danger meter was low.


Young, the performer is standing on black block platforms, hula hooping, hands up in the air and into the mic is listing apologies, for her blackness and looking good in neon pink. the hula hooping never seems to end.

her self and voice keep going and going she is exerting so much physical energy/spirit/heart. it’s an exchange, she is giving and giving, we must give back. give her our energy. honour this moment, in this work. honour it.

it has been a long time now and she is still hula hooping and still listing her apologies.

i hear a rustle and my gaze moves through the audience to a white man in the audience a few rows down. he is eating some nuts or crisps and is gulping his beer.

i am confused. what is he looking at?

because it can’t be what I'm looking at, Young performing at this moment.

this man looks like he’s watching a football game that just flicked on.

i’m confused. and then it settles, i know, you know.

i then to want to punch him in his head.


I wanted to lunge my leg into the side of his head and then, when he turns around i would pretend nothing happened and he would be well confused because of the unprovoked violence towards him.

because that is exactly what he was doing in that moment. His attitude, demeanour, his energy was violent, violence upon this performer and their work.

“deMi He wAs juSt eAtiNg nUts AnD drInKiNg beEr, nO BIg dEaL”

fuck off, you know what i mean and if you don’t you are probably that guy or like him. ready to consume trauma like its skittles.

another - a white women talking to me about the violence/pain of a show while she looked at a food menu.

and thats what Fringe is folx, white people looking at a giant fucking menu and picking what to have.

“ooo i fancy something exotic tonight? maybe Indigenous people’s trauma and a side of non-binary person with OCD and depression”

“naaa sally i fancy the mixed grill… refugee stories, HIV positive experience and the peppercorn sauce, i mean political depression.”

i felt sad and pain and anger and all the things at the context i was in and so many PoC/marginalised artists were in.

“bUt yoU deCidEd tO Go, yOu pUt YoUrsELF iN thAt eNviRonMeNT”

suck your mom.

We are bees and fringe is honey. The big fucking honey pot. NO we are loads of winnie the poohs and the fringe is the biggest pot of honey we have seen.

(I’ve changed it to winnie because bee’s are not wanting honey right? they go to pollen and make honey? and this, my friends is from a 29yr old who has a masters degree).

winnie the pooh is the better example because it is fictional. winnie the pooh doesn’t exist so their/our love for honey/fringe isn’t real so i could be all clever and say that the fringe is a false honey pot.

but we know it isn't.

i had a meeting with an agent last week. you see how i write and where my comma’s land, i have no business in writing but that opportunity came from fringe (i had a successful fringe).

fringe feels like an evil that must be done. a sticky, tasty, sickly evil honey.

i had a great time but this piece is not about the fun i had with aaron and the team, and the park and the beach and the scooter i bought from home bargins and toni giving me a massage, and katie this womxn i fucking loved meeting. and all the conversations i had with audiences who told me so many of their truths. that validation, that experience. me honing my craft. ETC.

this is about white audiences consuming trauma.

now i don’t necessarily blame these white people. it’s all plated up for you nicely. you can stay in the nice area of town. pop down to the venue at any point and land yourself in a trauma pie.

i blame capitalism and white people and colonialism.

because fringe is capitalism at its finest. saturation of the market, no regulations, unethical practices, consumerism and all the rest of those big words when it comes to capitalism.

what do i expect from white people in that context?


you see white people you’re getting this menu of amazement. be respectful, don’t over-order, don’t moan that things are too spicy, don’t moan if you don’t think its not authentic enough, don’t bring you manky caucasian food to this exquisite meal. put the fucking man beer down. that is not needed right now (i would like to talk about the lack of dry spaces at fringe but i wont.) just eat slowly, take your time, don’t overindulge, respect the fucking menu.

if you have a problem with my menu analogy and me acquainting PoC work to being on a menu and being consumed, i’m sorry that is exactly what i think fringe is.


i will finish with this

I asked aaron, my partner what he wanted to see, i told him all about the menu ,the honey on offer. i showed him a programme. he looked at it and put it down.

“whats up?”

“its too much”

“what do you mean, there’s so much good work you need to see”

“yeah i get that but its giving me a headache, its too much information. i’m overwhelmed. you pick something for me and i might go”

I picked Pizza Shop Heroes. ive been with aaron for 11years i know the art he likes and Pizza Shop Heroes was him.

it was sold out.

“see aaron you didn’t get chance to see it”

“thats fine, its good that they sold out, i might see it again so time”

“so we have been here nearly a whole month and you're not going to see anything?”

“yeh, probably not. can we put jurassic park on?”


i ate around 12 shows at fringe.

i had pencilled 54 on the app and programmes etc.

aaron ate one and loved it.

how many shows did you eat? and did you fucking tip?

- this was written by neurodiverse artist Demi Nandhra.