Tuesday, 2 May 2017

2. The Balance Festival

There is something called the "Balance Festival" occurring in London on 12-14 May. It brings together "well-travelled foodies, world-class fitness trainers, awe-inspiring yogis, and real people who share a common vision - to achieve a better self".

Achieve a better self, I thought, as I passed an advert for the Balance Festival on the tube, what a laudable goal! The festival must be full of suggestions as to how we can help the poor, give more to charity and create a life in which, every day, we do something fundamentally useful for society.

Eager to improve myself, I looked it up as soon as I got home.

It seems I got it all wrong.

You see, what I hadn't realised was that the path to a "better self" is discovering "3 refreshing (and sustainable) coconut water recipes" and attending talks on how to "get toned the right way" (because god forbid you get toned the wrong way). Festival-goers can also "explore how best to live in the moment, be mindful and enjoy a more fulfilling life balance".

I don’t have a problem with this festival existing (OK, I do have a bit of a problem, but I’m all for live and let live). I suppose one could argue it's not doing any harm. It promotes a healthy diet and, full disclosure, there's some sort of triathlon with a bit of small print encouraging donation to an African charity.

Back in England, I remain unconvinced that this festival, its incredibly beautiful and thin exhibitors and the expensive products they promote, are a positive thing for people with normal bods stuck in a cycle of hating themselves (i.e. everyone). I also doubt that it is the answer to our country's obesity problem, not least because anyone more than a pound overweight wouldn't dare set foot in the place. But, I concede that the Balance Festival is probably not the devil incarnate.

What I do have a problem with, and reserve the right to complain about, is the way the festival is marketed. I have a problem with middle-class, wealthy people, deluding themselves into thinking they are becoming better people by attending this festival and drinking green juice. I have a problem with this festival being seen as anything other than self-indulgence - with added kale.

I can't abide the notion that someone is "better" than someone else because of the way they eat, exercise, and/or meditate. People attend this festival because they want to look hot first, be healthy second (if being healthy comes into it at all). It's an extension of our teenage obsession with looking like the girls and boys in the magazines. It is advertising.

I am convinced that the "clean eating"/"wellness" phenomenon is intended to create division, the opposite of the "clean" people being the "dirty". (Unless of course, the whole thing is actually a conspiracy by date growers to take over the world, in which case, good on them).

I resent the fact we have replaced the word "skinny" with "lean" and it's suddenly OK to tell people how they should look. I can't take the sentence "if plant based cooking sounds over-complicated" seriously and I dislike the lack of scientists at an event so over-stuffed with scientific claims about food I'm surprised the Daily Mail isn't an exhibitor. If they prove that turmeric cures cancer, i'll drink it. Until then...

I am also slightly perplexed by the concept of "real people" which pops up on a number of occasions on the website. Perhaps this is to distinguish between the "well-travelled foodies" et al on the one hand and the heaving masses of disconnected normals on the other.

If you would like to attend the Balance Festival you will find it at the Old Truman Brewery. Needless to say - not the best place to go if you're hoping to bump into me.

P.s. If you do go, please report back on the "boys of yoga".

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