Alone Again, and Loving It

Why it's okay to go to gigs and events on your own - by Sarah Hughes, aged 36 (nearly!)

'I'm alone again, a one-man show again, no-one to share the highs and lows with.'

Taken from Hurricane, Richard Dormer's award-winning one-man show which recently had a hugely successful run at the Grand Opera House, the above quote was certainly true of Alex Higgins towards the end of his life.

It also resonates with a recent article in The Guardian which suggested that in the 21st century it is somehow unusual or socially unacceptable for people to go to cultural events on their own.

The main reason the journalist gave for her reservations was looking like a loser. Well, loser or not, since I was 18 I have gone to hundreds of gigs, films, shows, plays, exhibitions and museums on my own, all over the world and have had some of the best experiences of my life.

It started in 1993 when some school friends and I were due to go and see Neil Young, Van Morrison and Pearl Jam play at Slane Castle. We had talked about going for months, but as the gig date came closer, one by one my friends chickened out.

Rather than stay home and stare at the wall, I thought: why should I miss out on such an incredible gig, just because my friends couldn't get it together? I went, had a great time and became a Neil Young fan for life.

Similarly, there is nothing I love more than going to the cinema on my own, sprawling out and losing myself for two hours in a fantastic story, expertly told. No matter what kind of day I might have had, a comfortable seat in a big dark room with a huge screen and no-one and nothing to distract me is sheer bliss - it's the cheapest therapy in the world!

It's not that I'm antisocial, far from it. I have had the same best friend for 25 years, and while our shared cultural memories definitely have their place, it's often the individual experiences that we've had and can't wait to tell each other about that makes it so much fun to hang out together.

This philosophy probably stems from family experience. My mum is an art teacher and my dad a civil engineer, and when we were on holiday or a day trip together my mum would take us to a gallery, while my dad went off and did his own thing. We compared our adventures later in the day and had twice as many things to talk about.

If I didn't have the confidence to go to events and places on my own, I would have ended up watching a lot more telly and missing out on some great memories, including:

1) Seeing Radiohead play live under the night sky in an outdoor auditorium in Athens.
2) Meeting Thom Yorke and offering him a Tayto crisp at the Hot Press Rock Awards.
3) Discovering The Arctic Boosh - one of The Mighty Boosh's earliest shows and still the funniest thing I have ever seen on a stage - at the Edinburgh Fringe, which I still travel to on my own every year.
4) Following in the footsteps of Messrs Farrell and Gleason in exploring the beautiful city of Bruges* - (*it's in Belgium!)
5) Seeing one of the greatest line-ups of my life - Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Antony, Teddy Thompson, The Handsome Family, Jarvis Cocker - performing at Came So Far For Beauty, Hal Willner's tribute to Leonard Cohen, in The Point Theatre.

There are certainly some situations that, if I were to confront them on my own would make me nervous. But when it comes to cultural events, I just don't see any reason to miss out. If you have the interest, time and means to go to an event, then do it. You're not a loser, you're lucky!