Open Spaces

love me some tents on a strip of grass between two roads

Brighton Festival and Fringe season is upon us once again, though I've only had a chance to go to a few things so far (check the reviews on Seagull!). One of my favourite things about the Festival/Fringe, beyond all the actual content, is The Warren. Usually a muddy patch of grass somewhere in Valley Gardens, for a month or two in summer it transforms into a enclosure containing a series of performance venues ringing a large number of food and drink stalls. It might not sound like much, but it serves as a locus, a point around which other things and people gather. It changes the feel of the city somehow, makes it feel like it has a beating heart for a short time, a true, vital centre. Last year it was on the beach, due to Covid and roadworks, and this year, though no doubt in a somewhat more restrained form, it's back in Valley Gardens.

When I was younger, the London to Brighton Bike Ride went through the village where I lived. Usually bisected by a main road, for a morning and an afternoon every Father's Day rather than cars the road was full of bicycles and people. It opened up mobility (obviously people cross the road all the time, but it always surprised me how different it was, how much more ownership of the space you felt, when you just had to manoeuvre around some slow-moving bikes). Not only that, it brought everyone out of their homes, ginned up a real sense of community. The Warren is similar—it creates a semi-open public space where lots of people congregate (even late into the night) in the middle of town. It creates a sense of community, albeit far more fragmentary and diffuse. It alchemically transmutes some trees and large puddles into a place where people come and go and things happen. I would like to see more things like this.