Secret Life

17 Sep 2008

I am not special.

The photos from Antic Banquet make it look like a cross between a hippie festival and a commune - right down to fisherman's pants, hula hoops, and vegan food. For a while I've had the idea that one of the few rewards of being a generalist - condemned to be unexceptional at anything - is the ability to walk out of the boardroom and into the yoga tent, and to be comfortable, if not entirely at home, in either.

As I get to know my companions - Antic is more of a large party than a small festival - it becomes increasingly clear that I am completely wrong about this. Steph's a private-school boarder. Iris is a neuroscientist. I'll see Martyn in the office next week. We party like there's no tomorrow but we're all going to work in the morning.

Perhaps that's why it's so interesting. This is not a group of crazy people. This is a group of people going crazy.

Whether it's bellydancing and breakdancing on the same weekend, finding my missing piece through surreal street theatre (minus the street), or joining a frisbee game with nothing more than a shouted "heads up!" and a hard throw, it couldn't be further from a hard day in the office. The two-hour train ride bookends it, helps me connect different personalities to different places.

The demographics would also explain why the organisation is so slick. The whole thing comes off without a hitch, right down to serving a full lunch for three hundred people in ten minutes (tossing the salad by heaving it off a shipping container onto a tarpaulin was inspired).

I've caught the tail end of the season; there's one of these every weekend through summer. In a country where friends can live two hours apart - unlike Australia, where it's an easy ten minutes or an impossible ten hours - where the transport system shuts down at midnight, and where the average living room fits a dozen people, it's a perfect adaptation.

After Womad, I thought I was lucky, but maybe it's always this good. Next summer I intend to find out.

For now I've got a cup of tea and a couch to visit.