Indigo Rising UK editor Jem Henderson's recent rant about the Harrogate Festival Fringe touched a chord of recognition with me. Back in 2011 I blogged about the clash between grassroots art and corporate self-interest, and I'm sad to see yet another grassroots movement fall victim.
I've been lucky enough to guest feature at the Harrogate Fringe. I've also attended a number of the writing workshops that have been run under the auspices of the Fringe over the last few years. And I have to say that they were pretty much unbeatable value for money. The organisers were doing it for love, not cash. They put their heart and soul into those events. And they managed to coax some half-way decent writing out of their participants!
Most importantly, I think, everyone had a really good time.
So it's sad to see a joyless bunch of money-makers taking over, squeezing out anyone who can't stump up the premium fees and won't mould themselves to the required brand identity.
I'm encouraged from the fact that the original subject of my 2011 blog post - the York Literature Festival - is not only back but is bigger, stronger and attracting higher-profile names than ever. As I've said before, grassroots art is surprisingly resilient. It may get beaten down, but it has a habit of growing back again.
So here's my plea to Jem: don't see this as a defeat. It's a setback, but ONLY a setback. The good work that you guys have done over the last few years is appreciated, even celebrated. You'll find a way to move on from this and come back bigger, brighter and better than before. Perhaps a Harrogate Fringe Fringe is in order?