Good grief: death finally got its own festival in the UK last weekend. Since we hate to miss out on under-the-radar activities in London, we sent a spy. Bon viveur Bruce Traynor’s verdict was that Death: Festival for the Living at London’s Southbank Centre was definitely worth writing home about…
London Southbank’s artistic director, Jude Kelly, put it well in the programme for the inaugural Death Festival: ‘It is not about morbidity, sentimentality or sensationalism. It is full of delight and humour. It’s about hearing powerful stories and interesting facts from people who have had to sort out practically and emotionally how to face up to the greatest and most challenging of all certainties. Come and be part of it – we’re all in this together.’
She was dead right. The mood was almost euphoric; there was a buzz. Was this the dawn of a new era of openness? We felt like pioneers. Indeed, this was probably the first event like this in Western history, according to Rosie Inman-Cook at the Natural Death Centre stand, who’d been on BBC breakfast telly saying how funerals can and should be so much better (and cheaper) than what we put up with. Their website immediately got 10,000 hits.
Mexico‘s Day of the Dead celebrations inspired the great logo for the Death Festival, and it was subtitled the Festival for the Living. It seems there’s a groundswell to break free from the sombre Victorian attitudes that we’re still lumbered with. The festival sold out quickly. Another sign of the times is British company Crazy Coffins, who make caskets as uplifting, personalised and elaborate as the famous Ghanaian coffins. Exhibitions of both were delighting the crowds at the weekend.
We know what you’re thinking: how on earth do I pick out the cream of the comedy and avoid the am-dram dullards at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
How do we know this? Because entertainer, comedian and all-round showmanship-wonder Chris Cox has been peering into his murky toughened glass ball, and he told us. Not via high-energy brainwaves and mind-bending telepathy, but via high-energy thumb and mobile telephony.
Chris has performed sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival, in London’s West End and at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, won numerous awards and plaudits from critics and colleagues (Ricky Gervais said he was ‘brilliant’).
Using, as he puts it, ‘a mongrel hybrid mix of witty chit chat, magic, psychology, body language, influencing, devilish good looks… and lying’, he has provided us with the insider’s insider guide to surviving (and enjoying) the Edinburgh Fringe (including such gems as, how to make a giant ball out of flyers, where to fill your face-hole, and the tip-top acts to catch).
The weekend after next sees one of our favourite events taking place in the Lake District – the World’s Biggest Liar contest – TONY NAYLOR brings you the lowdown on a thrilling event that narrowly missed making it into our European events calender, Smith 52. Watch this space for more insider info on idiosyncratic and inspiring events around Europe (and more updates on the Inn thing)…