In all the talk of the cost of living crisis, Notting Hill Carnival likely didn’t factor in much. But after a two-year hiatus, the festival returned a little less loudly than usual over the weekend, with several floats “pulling out because they can’t afford to pay their bills” for sound systems, according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan. On the same day, the eight largest venues at Edinburgh’s Fringe festival recorded a 25 per cent slump in ticket sales compared to 2019, lamenting that “audiences and artists alike are being priced out of town, out of experiences”.
This may not seem like a big deal, if you don’t make a habit of attending either. And “experiences” may seem like a luxury when soaring gas costs mean many are reckoning with switching their lights off this winter – because they are. Yet for those hoping a mixture of belt-tightening and savings will help to weather the fivefold energy price increase projected come spring, we are set to lose more than we think.
As non-negotiables jump in price, the more negotiables will have to fall in kind – and that may well mean goodbye Carnival, or Edinburgh, or a cinema ticket (somehow now £18) or fish and chip shop supper. Unlike our household bills, our cutbacks aren’t just ours – and expecting the purveyors of those little luxuries to still be around by the time this crisis ends is beginning to feel seriously optimistic.
Moaning about art given the current crisis will do little to tug on the heartstrings. But even once-bulletproof institutions like the Fringe now typify what we are to see far more of – our growing severance of what we didn’t consider luxuries, but now do. In their case, that means stunting an event that brought in £1 billion annually to the UK (according to Centre for Economics and Business Research figures in 2019), shrinking opportunities for the yet-to-be-discovered, and a once-unbeatably good time being diminished by all of the above. And, for those who did go, having less to shout about – which likely won’t do much for next year’s ticket sales.