Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Crunch or no crunch, we NEED entertainment

This is a truncated version of my Bath Chronicle column of February 12

Last Tuesday morning at the latest of our excellent Bath Chronicle business breakfasts, we enjoyed an entertaining talk by Alex Timms about how he is trying to put a smile on the city’s face with the launch of the first Bath Comedy Festival, which begins (appropriately enough) on April 1.

In many ways it could be argued that at a time of such economic doom and gloom, this sort of festival might seem like a good idea but at precisely the wrong time. There is no money around, you could say, and let’s face it, there’s not much for us to laugh about either.

But, quite contrary to this, it could be that the festival is arriving at exactly the right time.

And that is because when the going gets tough we tend to get going. Going, that is, on the lookout for something that will feed our need for escapism and fun.

Towards the end of Tuesday morning’s session, Nod Knowles, from the Bath Festivals, reported that despite the economic situation which has affected everyone from prince to pauper, ticket sales for the forthcoming literature festival are better than ever.

In addition, I was delighted as a keen fan of both film and the Little Theatre, to see our report that this superb cinema had its most successful week ever in January.

The signs are therefore clear – when money is tight, people are still prepared to dig deep to find ways to cheer themselves up and, for that reason, the idea of a comedy festival in the bleak midwinter of our economic gloom suddenly seems very logical.

Of course, people will only turn up for entertainment if it is of good quality and that is where the literature festival, the Little Theatre, the comedy festival and indeed the Theatre Royal (have you seen their latest fantastic, star-studded programme?) have scored.

When every penny counts, every event must be of a standard to get us to part with that cash and it seems all the local entertainment providers have taken up residence on Quality Street.

But can a comedy festival or indeed a dance, singing, music or fringe one really work in a climate where there are more tears than cheers?

The answer is an emphatic yes because we need quality art, quality culture and great escapism now more than ever.

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