A respite from the carnage of creativity

I am greatly enjoying the Edinburgh Festival this year. The secret of my unalloyed pleasure - a contentment unblemished by disappointment, tedium or fatigue - is not to go at all. More than that, it has been to avoid, as far as is possible, any coverage of the event. I haven't been entirely successful in the latter ambition. If you work in the hot zone of a newspaper office, it is difficult to avoid cross-infection now and then. But, in truth, the odd glimpse I've caught out of the corner of my eye has only increased the delicious sense of truancy. Catching sight of an interview with a man whose performance appears to consist solely of thawing large blocks of ice ("Like watching ice melt" - the Aberdeen Courier) I feel the little frisson of joy you get when you see commuting office workers while on holiday in a foreign city. They have to work and you don't, and the existence of their drudgery can only sharpen your sense of liberty and frolic.

I also inadvertently flicked through television channels the other day to find I was watching one of Emma Freud's nightly reports on the festival for BBC2. First up was a troupe of what I took to be radical lesbians, one of whom was depicted swinging on a trapeze and then, after some vigorous rummaging, plucking a single cherry from her crotch (the trapeze, incidentally, appears to have become indispensable to experimental drama). Next was a one-woman show by a recovered anorexic, during which the performer liquidises grotesque mixtures of food and then pours them down the lavatory while making loud retching noises. She was followed by an Aboriginal woman whose show testifies to years of oppression and governmental atrocity and, naturally, includes a moment when she lifts her eyes and stares with liquid pain over the aroused consciences of her audience. A wonderful sense of well- being stole over me as I switched the television off and remembered that I could steal away to my own bed, hundreds of miles from this carnage of creativity.

This isn't, though I may have difficulty persuading you of the fact, a general diatribe against the festival. I have seen wonderful things there, both on the Fringe and at the official events. But it became increasingly clear over the past few years that a fallow period was necessary. When I first attended, I was a fertile field - no seed fell on stony ground. The performers planted their fanciful hybrids and the impressionable earth yielded an abundant harvest. But something was leached from the soil with every year - the elements of credulousness and generosity and patience which are essential to proper enjoyment of the festival.

The crop of pleasure began to diminish, gradually at first, and then with alarming speed until it became clear that almost nothing would grow. I knew things had really come to a head when I was rung by the PR for the official festival, anxious to bring me up to date with their plans for press conferences and solicit some early articles. "We're not doing it this year," I said (I was, as arts editor, responsible for our coverage at the time). "Sorry... what?" she replied, convinced she'd misheard. "No, we've thought about it and we're not going to cover it this year. We always do it and then wonder why so this year we're not going to bother." There was a short pause as the enormity sank in and then a stammer from the other end of the phone. "But... but... you... not anything?" "No," I said in tones of calm resolution. "It's very expensive for us, you know, and I'm not sure that our readers are that fussed. Besides, anything that's any good always comes to London anyway." There was another long pause. I had gone mad and she wasn't sure what the protocol was for dealing with editors who had become deranged. "All the other papers are covering it," she said finally, in pleading tones. "Up to them," I replied stoically.

I gave in, of course. The fantasy was too outlandish to be sustained for very long - but I knew from my longing that it might be true, that, personally at least, the time had come to end this intensive farming of the imagination. For two years at least, I was going to stay away and let weeds grow instead. It's only been a year now and I think the ground is recovering already, but I'm not going to rush things - the remedy is too pleasurable.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...