This weekend the Brighton Festival rolled into town. On Saturday, I took my little one down to the Children’s Parade to cheer the parents and kids as they valiantly whistled and drummed past the shops in the freezing drizzle in spectacular costumes, including Tinkerbelles in wellies and carnival queens in parker jackets.
Afterwards, we wandered past the Sky Arts tent and happened to catch the brilliant poet Ben Mellor doing his set. Then we went on into the fringe HQ where people were milling about, being loaded up with flyers, the Mums glued to the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus who were belting out show tunes, whilst the Dads ogled the girls in skimpy mesh costumes who were advertising their contortion show.
By four o’clock the kids were exhausted and cold, but I was reluctant to go home. Look, all this music and theatre on our doorstep! Experimental dance! Classical music! The Ladyboys of Bankok, for Goodness sake. We should DO something, I implored, but they rolled their eyes and dragged me home, tripping over myself as I read all the bumph and tried to make a plan.
Once they were on the sofa, in the warm, they were difficult to budge. They seemed perfectly content to eat crisps and discuss The Voice, whilst I spent the whole evening fretting that we weren’t all in Hove Park to see the Baricade, the European troupe of acrobats and tight-rope walkers.
I think the root of my festival angst is that, inside, I’m still the student who did a turn at the Edinburgh Fringe a million years ago and think I can be spontaneous and cool about festival going. Sadly, I have discovered that as a grown-up with three children, it’s not so easy. I turn up after a show has finished, when the comedians have gone home, or to the queue in the ticket office to find the last tickets went last week. And then I get chatting to someone at the school gates, or in the supermarket and they say (like they did about Barricade) ‘You missed it? Such a shame. It was amazing. What were you doing instead?’ Then, I cringe with a fresh wave of festival angst.
For twenty years I lived in London, which is like being in an arts festival all the time. You get a free Friday night and flick through Time Out and have no clue as to what to do as the choice is so overwhelming. You get into a ‘I could if I wanted to’ kind of mentality and go to the pub instead.
When I moved to Brighton, one of the things I loved most was the fact it was a cosmopolitan kind of a place, with just enough comedy, theatre and live music on for the choice to be manageable and, as a result, do far more artsy stuff than I ever did. But now I’m overloaded. The guilt of not doing it all is too much and with The Great Escape music festival arriving on Thursday, when scores of cool bands will be playing within half a mile of my living room, my festival angst is ramped up to the max. It leads me to wonder: Is too much choice a bad thing?