2007 - 2021

The Edinburgh Festival: War, Politics, Opera and Scotland


The programme for the Edinburgh International Festival was launched this week, it contains a wealth of interesting concerts, plays,dance and other events. I shall be attending over 50 events over the three weeks of the festival as I have done for over 40 years, and unlike most of the critics I will be paying for my own tickets. I attended the press launch last Tuesday and wanted to ask the director Jonathan Mills questions about the programme however in a remarkable act of censorship I was denied the opportunity.

At the end of Mills’s rather long and rambling talk I immediately put my hand up first to ask a question, Susie Burnett the Festival Press Officer acknowledged my hand but then proceeded to take the microphone to 3 other people one of who as far as I could see hadn’t even put his hand up. They asked rather tame questions about his last Festival and got rather rambling answers, at which point Susie Burnett announced there was no more time for questions as Jonathan had to conduct many one to one interviews. I protested but she said there was no more time I complained to her that this was a clear case of censorship and I would be making an official complaint to the Festival board about her unprofessional behaviour. Some other critics acknowledged that this was a clear attempt to stifle any criticism of Mills but interestingly none of them wrote about it in their report of the press conference. There is of course a symbiotic relationship between the mainstream critics and the Festival many of them are paid by the Festival for writing programme notes, some get taken on all expenses paid trips to see new productions. While I wouldn’t suggest this affects their critical judgement of performances it may inhibit their criticism of the Festival director.

This is the final programme of the Festival director Jonathan Mills who has been in charge for the last 8 years and last year was knighted “for services to the arts” However I will argue that he really deserves it for services to the British State.

Jonathan Mills was a minor Australian composer who had run a small arts festival in Melbourne for a couple of years. My Australian friends who are knowledgeable about the arts were astounded about the appointment. One said “How did you give the best job in the arts world to that guy, he has done little of any note in Australia?” I asked one of the Board members who had appointed him how he had got the job and why it was yet another non Scot. They said “Well he was the best talker”.

It is true Mills can and does talk, interminably. Richard Holloway a previous chair of the Scottish Arts Council said they used to have a bet on how short Brian Macmaster’s  (the previous director) speeches would be,now they bet on how long Mill’s speeches will be!Perhaps the definitive word on Jonathan Mills came from the leading music expert author, broadcaster and journalist Norman Lebrecht.

A couple of years into Mill’s directorship I asked him at the Book Festival what he thought of our new Festival director: “Ah Mr Mills, yes I can tell you that the job he really wanted wasn’t the Edinburgh Festival but Director of the Wigmore Hall (the leading chamber music hall in London) because he asked me for a reference, I told him he wasn’t good enough to be Director of the Wigmore and he certainly isn’t good enough to be director of the Edinburgh Festival as his programming shows.”

I gave this quote to an arts editor of a leading Scottish paper and he said “I can’t use this I have to work with this guy”. Rather confirming my view about how critical critics are.

The Edinburgh International Festival was set up in 1947 soon after the war to lift the gloom of the war by bringing the best of international culture to Scotland.It has become the most important arts festival in the world and along with the huge Fringe Festival, bringing 500,000 people as visitors worth around 200 million pounds to the Scottish economy. However point number three in the Festival’s Mission statement is “to offer an international showcase for Scottish culture” and point five is “actively ensure opportunities for all sections of the Scottish and wider public to experience and enjoy the Festival”.

Directors over the years have attempted to meet these objectives by commissioning new Scottish works for theatre, music and opera and dance and by using Scottish companies.Some directors were more successful than other at displaying Scottish culture not least because amazingly there has never been a Scottish director of the Edinburgh Festival in its 67 year history. Mills replacement is an Irishman Fergus Linehan, who my theatre friends tell me knows Edinburgh well and has worked here.

I wish him well but wonder how it is that no Scot has ever been chosen?

This is at least partly explained by the well known “cultural cringe” ie the belief that anyone outside Scotland must be superior to people within Scotland, which is particularly marked in the area of the arts,where almost all the important jobs in Scottish arts have gone to people from outside Scotland often with little knowledge of Scotland.This was an argument that Alasdair Gray raised last year and I backed him up in articles and speeches. We were accused of being racist by some cultural figures who wouldn’t know what racism is, and for the record I am not saying that people doing important jobs in Scotland should be Scots but only have knowledge of Scottish culture and not “learn on the job”! I pointed out that the founder of 7.84 the late great John McGrath was a Liverpudlian but he knew and loved Scotland. In contrast the new CEO of Creative Scotland with a £100 million budget to spend on Scottish culture is Janet Archer who came from an arts background in England.When she was appointed she was kept away from the press because it was suspected she knew so little about Scotland,although she did claim that she had spent 6 months as a baby in East Kilbride and once drove a student minibus to Stirling! Janet Archer flanked Mills at the press launch on Tuesday and spoke enthusiastically about the importance of the Edinburgh Festival internationally and the great work of Jonathan Mills but she never mentioned the referendum.

Jonathan Mills has shown remarkably little interest in Scottish culture since his appointment preferring to theme his programmes with international messages and bring in foreign companies often with avant guard productions. He likes,to paraphrase his fellow Australian Robert Hughes “the shock of the new” He has rarely commissioned new Scottish work and often neglects major Scottish arts institutions like Scottish Opera. Brian Macmaster the previous director would often use Scottish Opera in the Festival and people still talk of the Wagner Ring production presented in the Festival just before Mills took over. The only time in 8 years that Mills has used Scottish Opera in a main stage production was when he got a special Expo grant from the Scottish Government of £300,000 in 2008.These Expo grants are meant to fund Scottish productions which will tour abroad showcasing Scottish culture. Mills when he got his grant went to Francesco Corti the music director of Scottish Opera (another non-Scot) and asked him to do Smetena’s Two Widows, apparently Corti replied “Why?” Because the Two Widows is not a great opera in fact is more of an operetta and certainly not Smetana the composer’s best work. However it fitted Mr Mills theme that year and since none had done it for a long time it counted as “new”! To be fair to Scottish Opera they did their best and produced a pleasant evening of a not very good work.

However when I rang up Scottish Opera recently and asked where the production had been exported to ( the point of the Expo fund) they admitted it had gone nowhere. Indeed Mill’s opera programming generally has been very weak leading recently to Tim Ashley of the Guardian saying “The Edinburgh Festival can no longer be considered a festival of international reputation as far as opera is concerned” I quoted this last year at Mills’s press launch when I told him that last year’s opera programme was the weakest since 1947, no doubt partly the reason that I wasn’t called to ask a question this year.

It is extraordinary that Mills has refused to use Scottish Opera and will bring opera companies from round the world instead, this year for example he is bringing companies from St Petersburg, Turin and Aldeburgh. I asked him once why he didn’t use Scottish Opera and he said “they are too expensive” However an insider at Scottish Opera told me that ” I am afraid Jonathan doesn’t seem to like us”! Certainly it in seems to be in breach of the Festival’s mission statement of “showcasing the best of Scottish culture”.

Funnily enough Mills mentioned the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund this week when interviewed on Radio 3 about this year’s programme. He didn’t mention the failure of his choices as Expo products. Another famous one was the play Caledonia which Mills commissioned for the 2010 Festival. It was I think part of Mills’s attempts to remind Scots why we need to be British because it featured the ill-fated Darien Expedition which bankrupted the Scottish bourgeoise and led to them selling out Scotland in the Act of Union. Incidentally the Darien Expedition was organised by a Scot William Paterson who went on to found the Bank of England which of course the unionist parties want to deny an independent Scotland access to. What was it Marx said about history repeating itself first as tragedy then as farce! Talking about farce, the production of Caledonia in 2010 was truly dire, getting savagely panned by the critics, it was as big a disaster as the original expedition. When I rang the National Theatre of Scotland to ask what had happened to Caledonia, there was an embarrassed silence and they said: “we don’t like to talk about Caledonia”!

This is worth recalling, as this year’s only Scottish element and also backed by the Expo Fund are “The James Plays” three plays by Rona Munro on James First, Second and Third commissioned interestingly by the National Theatre of Great Britain, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Edinburgh Festival. Of course I haven’t seen the script yet but it does talk of ” a troubled period of Scottish history which formed part of Scotland’s culture and identity”. Let us hope that it is not the disaster that Caledonia was and I will be interested to see what relevance it has to the current debate on independence. Could it be preparing the way for the inevitability of the Union in 1707 and of course the “British” monarchy in the 18th century to replace those troublesome Stuarts?

Jonathan Mills of course famously ruled out any reference to the referendum at last years Festival. This led to a stooshie in the press in which I played a part, and a friend of mine Chris Laws from Dundee organised an online petition asking him to review that decision, it attracted over 1500 signatures within 2 weeks, meanwhile a counter petition in support of Mills organised by well-known unionist lawyer Mike Dailly attracted only 15 signatures. The petition was duly sent to Mills and he made only a cursory response and refused to meet the petitioners. I talked to a couple of Festival Board members who while critical of Mills felt that to intervene at this late stage of Festival programming would be counterproductive.

So it was no surprise that there is little Scottish in the Festival apart from the James Plays. I am told they had been commissioned a long time ago by the National Theatre of Scotland’s outgoing English director Vicky Featherstone who admitted when she left she had felt uneasy coming to direct Scotland’s National Theatre. She was replaced, by yes you have guessed it, by another English director Laurie Sansom who is going to direct the James Plays. Now I have nothing personal against Laurie Sansom who I am told is doing his best to find out about Scotland having come from directing Alan Ayckbourn plays in Scarborough and local theatre in Northampton. I did find it astonishing that the Board of the National Theatre, largely composed of business people, passed over Scotland’s leading theatre producer David McLennan in favour of Laurie Sansom. Perhaps the fact that McLennan was the co-founder of 7.84 Theatre along with John McGrath made them think he would be “too political”. After all the Board of the Scottish Arts Council forced John McGrath to resign as director of 7.84 20 years ago because he was seen as “too political”. Readers might recall that 7.84 produced such epics as The Cheviot,The Stag and the Black Black Oil a little different from Alyn Ayckbourn.

It is quite remarkable that when perhaps the biggest democratic debate in Scotland’s history is raging across Scotland for 300 years that the Festival programme not only ignores it but actively celebrates “The Empire,The Commonwealth and Britishness”. This is not an accident it is a deliberate choice by Mills, as we have already seen he has form in these matters.

As James Macmillan Scotland’s leading composer says “Jonathan likes to twist the tails of the nationalists”. This he has done in many ways, by ignoring Scottish composers, writers and poets. For example in the year of the Burns bicentenary I asked him why there was no Burns in the Festival, he said ” everyone else is doing Burns and anyway this is an international festival”! I pointed out that Burns was an internationalist and that many of the great European composers like Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Haydn had set Burns poems to music. Indeed anyone who saw the fine film “a Great Beauty” recently will have been struck by the main soundtrack, Burns’s “My Hearts in the Highlands” arranged by Arvo Part,it is stunning, it is European but for Mills it is probably too Scottish.

In 2009 he opened the Festival with a Handel Oratorio “Judas Maccabeus” written to celebrate the victory of “Butcher Cumberland” over the Scots at Culloden which contains, as Ken Walton music critic of the Scotsman said some of the most awful libretti ever, and includes the famous aria “See the Conquering Hero Come” written for “Butcher Cumberland”.

Of course this was written around the time of the writing of the “British National Anthem ” God Save The Queen whose original verses included “Rebellious Scots to Crush” something a little too indelicate even for rampant unionists to include these days! Incidentally the tune of God Save the Queen is used by many German-speaking areas which is entirely appropriate since of course the “British” royal family is of course Hanoverian German in origin brought in to replace those troublesome Stuarts we will learn about in the James Plays. Incidentally Mills’s closing concert that year was Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius it was Mills said “quintessentially English” as I said at the time he was rubbing it in.

So this years major festival theme is war, and in particular the First World War which of course the British State is spending £50 millions of taxpayers money celebrating,sorry commemorating.There is no doubt that this is a deliberate move by Cameron and his unionist friends to remind the Scots of our common bonds at a time when we increasingly look as if we might be severing them.There is equally no doubt in my mind and of many others that Sir Jonathan Mills sees the use of the cultural forms of the Edinburgh Festival to boost our Britishness and to ignore Scottish history.Indeed in his interview on Radio 3 this week Mills spoke about ” the importance of Empire the Commonwealth and Britain” in his programming of war as the theme of the Festival.

Now I am not denying that there are many good things in the programme that relate to war and I look forward to hearing and seeing some of them. However like many of Mr Mills’s programming it is over themed and some mediocre works are there just because they are about war. For example there are three items from Benjamin Britten that fine English composer. Incidentally last year was Britten’s centenary and I asked at the press conference why there was no Britten or indeed Verdi and Wagner (who were also having anniversary years) in his programme. I remember his reply well “by August he said everyone will be bored with Verdi, Wagner and Britten”.

War as a political reality, not a festival theme may yet intervene in Mills’s festival plans, at a time when Russia is annexing Crimea and by August who knows what the geopolitical scene will be,this could turn out to be an explosive situation.Valery Gergiev has been made an honorary president of the Edinburgh Festival by Mills.To be sure this has helped Mills bring the Mariinsky to Edinburgh on several occasions but it has its dangers.You see Gergiev is also good friends with Vladimir Putin which is why the Mariinsky is the best funded opera company in Russia,it has just had a new billion dollar opera house built next to the old one in St Petersburg. Mr Mills has form in the area of political pronouncements and not just about “Britishness”.In 2008 just before the Mariinsky were due to arrive in Edinburgh the Russian/Georgian war broke out, Mills in a statement said we should all go to support the Georgian State Ballet performing at the festival as a gesture of solidarity! I pointed out in the Scottish press at the time that Valery Gergiev came from Ossetia one of the flash points in the war and had just flown the whole Mariinsky Orchestra there to perform ( with Putin’s backing!) in a gesture of “solidarity ” with the people of Ossetia and against the Georgians who Mills was wanting us to show solidarity with! Fortunately for Mills, Gergiev was a little too busy to notice Mills’s naive political ramblings.

However Mills may be at it again introducing the programme last week he spoke about the concert on August 17th of The Culture Orchestra whose young musicians are drawn from many of the Eastern Bloc countries that surround Russia including Poland,Ukraine,Georgia etc, the orchestra is conducted by a young Ukrainian Kirill Karabits and the programme includes Shostakovich’s mighty Leningrad Symphony.Mills said “that at a time of tension in the Ukraine this concert could prove to be an important symbol of peace in the face of war” As I write I am watching Russian tanks smashing through the last Ukrainian bases in Crimea I can’t see Mills Festival president Valery Gergiev friend of President Putin and supporter of his action on Ukraine being too happy about Mills remarks if he of course ever bothered to read them.

So the 2014 Festival will be themed around war and this could break out in ideological as well as military terms in the coming months.The Festival will conclude only two weeks away from the referendum but you wouldn’t know this from the programme. Sir Jonathan Mills has been conducting an ideological war on behalf of the British State who ennobled him.

Let us hope that an independent Scotland can finally throw out the cultural cringe and with it the people who use it to impose their cultural values upon us. Of course we want an International Festival but we want a festival that acknowledges and displays the great cultural heritage and the fantastic talent that Scotland has in the arts.

We can and should do both.

Comments (45)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. “… unlike most of the critics I will be paying for my own tickets.”

    Couldn’t arrange press accreditation, then? 😉

  2. Some good points, but not well made – was this article written in a rush?

    It’s interesting that you deliberately ignore mission statement point 2: “Reflecting international culture to audiences from Scotland, the rest of the UK and the world”. That was probably the second-most important factor behind the creation of the Festival in the shadow of the Second World War; to encourage cultural communication and understanding. (The most important was, of course, to extend Edinburgh’s tourist season into the autumn; and, let’s face it, few other cities on mainland Britain were still standing at that time.)

    Mills has undoubtedly emphasised this too much during his tenure, and I get the impression that he has let his personal biases for and against certain institutions shape his programmes too much. I can’t say that I’m particularly sorry to see him go.

    In the meantime, I’m quite sure that the referendum, and questions about Scottish identity and history shall feature prominently elsewhere during the city’s Festival season. (It’s even touched upon during the Science Festival!)

  3. a good and timely article, Hugh.

  4. An excellent article, but the terms of Jonathan Mills’ programme “Welcome to Festival 2014” are also worth pondering. He quotes Albert Camus as saying:

    “It is the destiny of the artist not to serve those who make history, but to serve those who are its victims.”

    It is looking increasingly likely that the people of Scotland will decide to make history in September. Perhaps Mr. Mills sees his final programme as a requiem for Empire, or perhaps he hopes it will be remembered as a brave note of “defiance” at a time when civilisations are being “shaken to their core”?

    ‘Also worth noting that room is found for a lecture on “The First World War and Australia’s Rise to Nationhood”.

  5. DM says:

    While this is a really interesting article, does nobody bother to proofread material before it’s published? Seriously, punctuation and sentence structure are important. It may seem a pedantic point, but it’s really irritating when things are so badly written that some of the finer points of the argument are lost.

    1. As I pointed out above: “Some good points, but not well made – was this article written in a rush?” Given Mr Kerr’s profession, I expected better.

    2. V Wells says:

      Gie the guy a brek! The main thrust of the argument comes over fine. If I were a pedant, I would find your repeated use of “really” quite fatuous.

    3. bellacaledonia says:

      Sorry, this is our fault, too busy.

  6. When I lived in Australia some 30 odd years ago there was a saying if you know nothing keep talking and baffle them with “Bullshit” and I found this to be standard.I often had applied for jobs,and being suitably qualified was refused in favour of a person who had little knowledge of the business.Two or three days later I was asked by telephone if I could come back in and and have a chat.It usually went like this.”That guy knew nothing except how to flip burgers,(it was a French restaurant managed by an ex-electrician who had a license to sell booze) would I consider coming on for a few days on trial,because before him they had tried lots of people and even his wife as “she does a great barbie” I had to say no thanks as I don’t like bluffers nor amateurs trying to tell a professional how he should do the job.I had already secured a position,but I found that in a lot of the cases the job was all about the best bullshitter.

  7. Dan Huil says:

    “Valery Gergiev has been made an honorary president of the Edinburgh Festival by Mills.”

    I didn’t know this. As Hugh Kerr notes, Gergiev is a close friend of Putin and a supporter of Putin’s policies – foreign and domestic. It seems for Mr Mills: Russian nationalism good, British nationalism good, Scottish nationalism bad. Hypocrisy takes centre stage.

  8. evan says:

    People of Scotland forget all the propaganda!!! Vote yes and bring back Gaelic as the national language!!!!

  9. Rob Ross says:

    I think that care should be taken with notions of grandeur, such as “the most important” festival in the world, etc. it makes me shirk, personally. But more dangerously, it’s a parallel road to jingoism, and I fear that the need to simply slot your own nationals into the show for the sake of presence should be done at the appropriate level and not to replace outstanding universal talents that Edinburgh should attract.

    1. I agree about avoiding grandiosity and a “wha’s like us?” mentality, Rob, but I don’t think we are anywhere near that. Nobody is arguing that Scots should be favoured at the expense of international talent. What is being argued is that Scotland’s culture and concerns should be accorded their due place in Edinburgh’s international festival, particularly in this important year of decision. That seems reasonable to me.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Indeed. It’s frankly inconceivable that any other country in the word would hold a leading festival of this scale for 70 years without ONCE having one of their own direct it. Equally, its ridiculous to suggest that you cant programme culturally-located work that also has an international dimension.

  10. Iain says:

    Mills brought a great Russian company to perform a German opera in German two years ago and now they are coming back to perform a French opera in French. Do we have to wait for an Italian company to be asked to perform a Russian opera in Russian? Oh dear…

  11. yerkitbreeks says:

    I think it must be something about Edinburgh – some years ago a relative of mine graduated from the U of Edinburgh and at the ceremony Jim Naughtie received an honorary award. The choir sang ” Gin I were where the gadie rins ” I think as a tribute to Naughtie who hails not that far from Benachie, and the ( English )Chancellor seemed embarrassed commenting afterwards that he supposed it was appropriate since it was after all a Scottish university ! Cringe making for a proud Scot like me who spent a long time in the South of England.

  12. A dodgy attempt to reignite the poisoned debate of yesteryear. Don’t fall for it…

  13. Sneddon says:

    Never seen an ‘offical’ Edinburgh Festival event. It good be a ‘cultural’ festival anywhere in the world. Been a resident of Edinburgh all my life I’ve never had enough dosh for the overpriced elitist stuff on display. I’d pay to see local stuff. Good article but to be honest the Edinburgh Fesitival means something more to outsiders than it does to the folk of Edinburgh. The other festivals(book, jazz, politics) on at the same time are much more interesting and affordable.

  14. Big Jock says:

    I’ve always believed that the festival was hijacked some decades ago by posh people from the home counties.Its really not a Scottish festival at all.If it relocated to Oxford or Cambridge it would be a good thing and save most of them the bus fare. It would also save our capital being over run with Jack Wills and co types who mean nothing to me but raise the heckles on the back of my neck with their over indulged upbringing.There is no point in having a Scottish director. Its an English festival. We have a proper home grown festival in Glasgow that celebrates Celtic spirit and culture called Celtic Connection. Who cares about the festival? When we get independence we can reclaim it and call it something else.

    1. I’d be interested in seeing any evidence you can provide to support this view. Otherwise, I’ll have to dismiss it as the uninformed bigotry of someone with such a simplistic attitude to “Scotland” and “Scottish” – which would appear to be, only if it’s “celtic” and in Glasgow, I find bordering on racist. Certainly a far cry from the civic nationalism defined so many years ago by Alasdair Gray.

  15. Pilrig says:

    Elitist ? Only tae inverted snobs.

  16. Fay Kennedy says:

    So sorry to have dumped such a character on my fellow Scots. Australia is a place where mediocrity is the norm in just about every arena.

  17. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    2014 is a big year for Scotland, writes Janet Archer in The List’s Guide to Scotland’s Festivals. Homecoming, Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games are mentioned and a reference to Scotland spending much of 2014 in the international spotlight without an indication as to the real reason why that might be. The Edinburgh Festival must be unique in its marginalising of the indigenous culture. Do Bayreuth, Munich, Salzburg, Orange, Glimmerglass and Santa Fé exhibit a cringe? Inconceivable. However, there seems to be a coterie of English arts practitioners wandering the world looking for work. In the US there are critics of the ease with which Anglos are often a shoo-in for culture jobs at the expense of homegrown talent. So we are not alone even if our case is rather more socio-politically complex. Our autochthonous cultures have suffered from high-minded neglected. Independence must herald the end of that self-harming auld sang. We can be both international and proud promotors of own national cultures and, with the will, we can do that relatively unaided.

  18. It’s a real problem with the International Festival that it rarely showcases Scottish work. There was a decision to do this in the 80s – the squeals of anguish echoed from the London critics, who don’t come here to watch our rubbish!

    Perhaps it’s fortunate that the EIF is so irrelevant to working class Scots that neither its lack of political relevance, nor its celebration of militarism will impact on the debate?

    PS, I quite liked Caledonia. Would have preferred it to have been written in Scots though. I seem to remember the writer walked out before the first performance?

  19. countess fi hong kong says:

    I completely disagree with the reasons for criticising the EIF – a vast percentage of the EIF audience will actually remember the first world war and it would be terribly impolite not to recognise this.

    1. XanderXander says:

      The War ended in 1918. I find it difficult to believe that a vast percentage of the audience are at least 96 years old.

      1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        cant move at fringe events for zimmers, bathchairs and eartrumpets….wot did he say? wotshe doing now Euphemia? wenz Vesta Tilly comin on?

      2. hektorsmum says:

        Mother in Law died in November would have been 90 this year, now she was a lassie at the start of World War 2 far less World War !. My Dad was born in April 1910, so if he was still living he would have been 104 this year, Mum was born 1917. As the Americans would say do the math.
        Maybe it is me, I was born 2 years after the end of the 2nd World War and am now a pensioner, it would be a better thing to do to improve people’s, the living, lives than to go on and on about the past wars, but then I know why Mr Cameron did.
        As for the Edinburgh Festival, hijacked as an English Social Event of the Season and some where ejitts from those two English Universities can come up and annoy the locals.

      3. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        the nauseating aspect of the WW1 commemoration is the thinly veiled celebratory subtext referencing that Britain had power and influence then and still does; still involved in the Middle East and Afghanistan, still head on with Russia in the new Great Game, still dont trust the Germans, still uneasy about the French, still buddies with the US in keeping the anglosaxon world hegemony thing stoked and the descendants of the people who arrived in 1066 still virtually run the place. Just dont get what the Better Togetherer antiquarians see so alluring about the crumbling old pile.

  20. countess fi hong kong says:

    Vicky Says:
    August 12, 2011 at 1:53 am

    “Edinburgh suffers throughout most of its festivals and arts organisations from a hideously alienating culture where people who are inept, and frankly often insane, stay in their jobs or circulate around the main festivals because things are as they ever were”

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Aspects of the ICA gravy train writ large.

  21. wanvote says:

    Can’t possibly comment, have never been to an EIF in my life, nor has any member of my extended family.

      1. wanvote says:

        Don’t think I could Handel the excitement.

  22. jivetoaster says:

    The idea of Mills, a British culture apparatchik if ever there was one, hailing a performance of a Shostakovich work is beautifully ironic. I’m sure the guy knows nothing about Shostakovich’s career.

  23. jivetoaster says:

    Mills welcoming a performance of a Shostakovich work is richly ironic. The man is a British cultural apparatchik if ever there was one, and undoubtedly knows little of the composer’s history.

  24. Abulhaq says:

    So-called High Culture is for all. It must not be socially or economically elitist. The education system should provide for all the means to understand its language. Not too complicated provided acquired “unionist” prejudices are shed and the will to succeed encouraged. At the moment the EIF looks like an alien add-on from planet Anglocyborgia with the retro-weird tartanry of the Military Tattoo tokenly representing the host. We Scots do need to claim it for our own. Cosmopolitan, international, national we have the talent, the brains, the cultural raw material and the imagination to make this a truly exciting, edgy and provocative event for a nation reborn.

    1. hektorsmum says:

      Well said, we certainly do have.

      1. Indeed! We need to ensure that future Festivals live up to the mission of being genuinely international and showcasing the best of Scottish culture.

    2. I agree, and think it is sad to see the comments here from people who are proud to exclude themselves from ‘high culture’ and boast of never having attended EIF events.

      1. wanvote says:

        Don’t know about other commenters but I wasn’t boasting about never having been to EIF events – I merely stated a fact. More of a whinge at never having the opportunity nor the money to even consider it.

  25. wanvote says:

    So I never really missed out after all.

  26. wanvote says:

    Still for those of us who don’t know our arias from our Elgar there’s always classicfm to keep you right.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.