For the seaside towns of Britain, the advent of the low-cost package holidays was like the onset of a bitter divorce. Betrayed by their countrymen, the likes of Margate and Felixstowe shrunk into a dowdy old age, letting their hanging baskets shrivel and their seafronts go to rack and ruin. Only Brighton went out, got a nice new haircut, and generally bucked its ideas up. The Brighton Festival (May 5-27) has become a celebration of how far this seaside resort has come.
These days, intellectual titans such as Tom Paulin, Susan Greenfield and Polly Toynbee are happy to saunter down its turquoise esplanade, and not just to grab a few ice-creams and a ride on the saucers (in any case, I can't imagine Tom Paulin - who's festival talk is billed as a "liberating encounter with some of the most celebrated poems in the English language" - patiently twirling around a mechanical teapot, unless he was busy distilling the experience into limpid poetry.)
All three will be appearing in a blaze of brainy glory at the Brighton Festival from this weekend, alongside theatre, dance, comedy, and all the other usual festival stuff, like couples crying in cafe toilets for no reason, and, I grimly suspect, juggling. Other highlights to watch out for include comics Shazia Mirza and Will Hodgson.