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Ben Hewis on why he's both gutted and relieved to be missing the festivals this year


© Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

You're skint, it's too far, Scotland's cold. There's a whole bunch of reasons one might not go to the world's biggest multi-art festival, getting underway in Edinburgh this week. For me it's a new addition to my family, my ten month-old son, that's keeping me from a jolly to the land of Haggis and Andy Murray. Sleepless nights have taken on a whole new meaning since I last stumbled those cobbled streets, vodka and Irn Bru in hand.

I'm gutted, I truly am. As Edinburgh fringegoers go, I'm a novice, but it'll be the first time I'm not heading north of the border in five years, and the FOMO is real.

I'll be sad to miss the buzz of waking up and planning my routes between theatres, the anticipation of stumbling upon a true gem of a piece, the camaraderie between friends and strangers alike, assembled with one overarching aim, to be entertained.

But on the other hand, I'm secretly kind of glad to have dodged the bullet, to take a break, leave the bustle of the Royal Mile, Pleasance Courtyard and George Square, just for one year.

Stopping for a breather leaves you with an overwhelming sense of guilt

Because, while it is one of the greatest events on the planet, it's also an absolute drain too, on one's energy, bank balance and overall health. The sheer amount of productions available to consume leaves the average Fringe fan running around Auld Reekie like a hamster in an overstocked cage, gobbling up as much as he can until his cheeks are full to the bursting point. Stopping for a breather leaves you with an overwhelming sense of guilt – 'how dare you sit down, there's a Bulgarian mime group with an immersive show in a public toilet starting in 20 minutes, and it's only 25 minutes away'.

Plus, while the rest of the UK's theatre scene definitely slows to a walking pace, it certainly doesn't stop. Not heading up to the Fringe this year means I'll be able to catch the openings of Bring It On at Southwark Playhouse, Little Shop at Regent's Park and Emilia at the Globe. So every cloud has a stagey lining.

So I'm raising a glass to those that have defied the temptation to pay over the odds for trains and sofa beds. Yes, we're going to miss out on a lot – I'm particularly sad to not get the chance to see Sparks and One Life Stand – but we can always look forward to seeing some of the work closer to home – thank you HighTide – and we won't have to break ourselves to experience it.

And to all those up in Edinburgh this month, have a blast, you lucky b*ggers.

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