Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Is Festival of Fools really a laughing matter?

One thing we are never short of at any time of the year in Northern Ireland is a festival. Belfast is coming down with them.

Among the latest is the Festival of Fools which, to be honest, I had not given a lot of thought to until a few workers in the city centre area gave me their views on it. (Not terribly positive, I have to say.)

If you haven't caught any of the action, the Festival of Fools appears to feature mostly street theatre. Among the acts I spotted was a motorised robot designed to look like a homeless man (tasteful?), a couple dressed like first-aiders - the man sporting a neck brace and plasters - and some sort of musical ensemble on a big bike.

True, maybe if I'd paid more attention I might have been more bowled over by the entertainment. And even though I am not a fan of anything that whiffs even remotely of the stilt-walking, balloon-bending, miming community, I accept that lots of people might have found it entrancing.

The thing is, as a number of people have mentioned to me, does the city get a whole lot out of this taxpayer-funded exercise? Is the festival Fool value for money, in other words?

The excellent Cathedral Arts Festival, which takes place around the same time in the same area, certainly pulls in the crowds.

But how do you measure the success of say, the first-aider act? (which I'm told was not exactly rib-tickling stuff).

Maybe this is harsh and some people loved it. To me it seemed terribly twee for Belfast. More Covent Garden than Cornmarket.

And another point. How is it that in a place where we pride ourselves on our appetite for a bit of craic we no longer seem to be able to have any sort of fun without funding?

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