Mirror of the nation?

The Edinburgh Festivals and Scottish national identity

David Jarman MA (Hon.) University of Edinburgh 1997 – 2001 dsrjarman@hotmail.com

Acknowledgements It is always easier to write about subjects you like and have some experience of, such is the case with this dissertation as I have played Paris in Romeo and Juliet on the Fringe, House Manager at the Bedlam Theatre, Steward at the Festival Centre and Box Office Supervisor for the Fringe Society, all demanding roles. Help with the research has come from many sources, with special thanks reserved for Paul Gudgin, Fringe Society Administrator, and Judith Doherty at Grid Iron. Staff at both International and Fringe Festivals have supplied information and ideas, and are largely responsible for my continuing interest in the Festival. Owen Dudley Edwards, of Edinburgh University and numerous Festival publications, and Douglas Brown at the Scottish Centre for Cultural Management and Policy, Queen Margaret University College, have been invaluable in suggesting lines of inquiry, source material and their own memories and experiences of the Festival. Staff in the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Scotland sorted through the numerous boxes, files and scrapbooks which make up the Edinburgh Festival Society archives, and now a large proportion of the material used in this study. Thanks also to my flatmate, family and friends for feeding and encouraging me. Finally, thank you to my supervisor Trevor Griffiths whose patience and guidance turned an interest into an enjoyable and rewarding piece of work. Edinburgh, April 2001

Page iii

Contents Acknowledgements Introduction Section i Founding a festival Section ii Electing an identity Section iii Political and cultural devolution? Conclusion Bibliography iii 1 9 21 34 40 43

Page iv

Introduction Lourd on my hert as winter lies The state that Scotland’s in the day Spring to the North has aye come slow But noo dour winter’s like to stay For guid And no’ for guid! - Hugh MacDiarmid, To Circumjack Cencrastus (1930)1 ‘We wish to provide the world with a centre where, year after year, all that is best in music and drama and the visual arts can be seen and heard in ideal surroundings’ - Lord Provost and Chairman of the Edinburgh Festival Council, Sir John Falconer (1947)2 The Edinburgh Festival, as the focus of the city’s cultural calendar, has been a unique annual celebration since the inaugural event in 1947.3 The International Festival’s founders shared a desire to enhance and actively promote European peacetime co-operation, their method was an ambitious programme of the highest quality performances in a broad range of art forms. Many motives and countless methods have led others to participate in what is now an eight festival event. Despite initial uncertainty from some sources, the city of Edinburgh and tens of thousands of its citizens proved welcoming hosts, and continue to do so. The focus of this study however lies between these international and civic identities; what has been the relationship between the Festivals and a Scottish, national, identity? How have such interactions manifested themselves, and who has contributed to and been affected by them? Do, or should, the Festivals have a Scottish identity? Many have commented on, and surely many more have been aware of such questions, suggesting research in this area is valuable – and timely, in view of recent developments in Scotland’s political constitution. It is important to set out some of the contexts in which the Festivals have developed. The following two paragraphs do this with regard to questions of

This extract from To Circumjack Cencrastus formed part of Owen Dudley Edwards’s MacDiarmid – A Celebration at the 1979 Edinburgh International Festival. National Library of Scotland (NLS), Manuscripts Department (MSS), Edinburgh Festival Society ACC 10572:59 2 Wishart 1996, p1 3 The term ‘Festival’ is used in this study to cover all the activities linked to the separate Festivals held in Edinburgh during the summer since 1947. Although the divisions between each are often blurred, the ‘official’ festival is often interpreted to be the Edinburgh International Festival, around which has grown the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo from 1950, and more recently the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Edinburgh Television Festival, and the Edinburgh Mela. Where distinction between events is necessary, specific titles will be used. Through the course of the dissertation the focus will be primarily on the International and Fringe Festivals, it is hoped however, that such analysis as follows will not lose sight of the enjoyment shared by many at festival time. Any such history that fails to capture some of the atmosphere of the event, the diversity, colour and energy of the experience, denies the Festivals their central purpose, and thus the value in studying and seeking to account for their development.

Page 1

Mirror of the Nation?

political and national identity. The development of a politicised Scottish identity has been a complex, and often highly visible feature of the post-war years.4 Scotland’s unique position in the British state and economy has brought mixed fortunes for the supporters of Unionism, Nationalism and devolution. Constitutional issues have thus set the political agenda with an importance second only to Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. Of vital importance to the form such an agenda is given, and the way the debate plays itself out, has been relations north and south of the border, or more specifically between Westminster, the Scottish Office, and Scottish civil society.5 Scotland, it must be remembered, entered the political Union with England in 1707 as an independent country, a status that has endured in distinct educational, legal and religious structures and practises. Alongside other components of civil society, the development of such institutions has given a large degree of autonomy to the Scottish nation, within the British state.6 Of course, such relationships need not be politicised, yet at key periods of change or disagreement the opportunity to do just this has often been taken. Aside from a role in British politics, Scotland has been subject to European and global developments, sometimes via London, often from a more local foundation. The ideological and popular currents which saw the foundation of the United Nations, the strengthening of formal ties within Europe, and the breakdown of the Soviet Union have all fed into Scottish political thought, taking effect as local conditions dictate. The interplay of cultural and political developments such as these informs much of, and is vital to, this study. Many developments inhabit a grey area between these two forms of expression, such as the establishment of Ireland’s Abbey Theatre as the world’s first state subsidised theatre, and the debate which has periodically shrouded the British Museum’s collection of ‘Elgin Marbles’ over the past two centuries.7 With the popular, politicised, support given to devolution in the successful 1997 referendum, Scottish national identity has received renewed attention. It is because of the interaction between the forms such identity can take, and the accepted importance of civil society in Scotland, that studies which look to cultural and political developments as being mutually influential take much of their justification. Finlay is acutely aware of the ‘individual nature of national identity’, whereby there may be little actual common ground between individuals’ experience of life in Scotland, yet they ‘imagine’ others see the nation largely as they do.8 He therefore draws on Benedict Anderson’s notions of an ‘imagined community’ as the source of modern national identity, a phenomenon born of ‘capitalism and print technology’ which allows the citizens of a nation to debate and disseminate common aspects of nationhood.9 This is therefore a somewhat more active civic form of national identity than those such as Anthony D. Smith's which emphasise the ethnic basis to nationhood as ‘first

4 5

Marr 1992; Brown et al 1998; Finlay 1997 Brown et al 1998, pp47-65 6 Brown et al 1998, pp47-58 7 Jarman 2000 8 Finlay 1997, pp6-7 9 Anderson 1983, p49

Page 2

Mirror of the Nation?

and foremost a community of common descent’.10 Both strains of thought will inform this study, however the former will predominate. Interaction between culture, politics and national identity, and the ways in which it is received, perceived and accepted or rejected demands active engagement, and it is evidence of this which is being sought and investigated. Political events in 1997 can be cited as evidence that Scotland’s imagined community was indeed active in reaffirming popular notions of nationhood. Analysis of referendum research by Brown et al demonstrates the extent to which Scotland as a whole actively endorsed the Government’s White Paper on constitutional reform.11 Overt nationalism may not have been a high priority for many, yet voting was a universally shared experience for those who took part, and the majority saw Scotland’s interests lying in a newly defined, democratic expression of government, and identity. The purpose of this study is to draw these strands together, using a chronological framework constructed with reference to both Scottish politics and the Festival, to seek out the ways artists and audiences, contributors and critics, interested parties and casual observers have discussed the Edinburgh Festival and Scotland, Scotland and the Edinburgh Festival. Three distinct periods provide that framework for analysis. The first will cover the mid- to late-1940s, when the International Festival was devised and launched, accompanied by the International Film Festival and an embryonic Fringe. A fervent desire for international neighbourliness was paramount in a Europe emerging from the second catastrophic war of a generation. The first International Festival set out its intentions to contribute to just such an ideal from its opening concert and the Lord Provost’s call for ‘a new way of life centred round the arts’.12 The second section looks to the 1970s, remarkable in Scottish political history for the sustained electoral success of the Scottish National Party (SNP). Though it may have taken much strength from the discovery of oil in the North Sea, and brought responses from the London leaderships of both the Labour and Conservative parties, the SNP challenge faltered with the unsuccessful 1979 devolution referendum, and the inexorable rise of Margaret Thatcher and the dominance of English Toryism.13 Concurrently, the Festival was becoming a larger, more diverse event, developments which can be largely attributed to the Fringe’s accelerated growth under a professional central administration.14 The final section seeks to bring the study up to date as Scotland's national identity has once again received mass politicised support, and devolution has been achieved. Constitutional reform may mean a new and different emphasis has been placed on the identities which are presented at the Festivals, new debates opened and questions asked. This thesis does not set out to predict the outcomes of those debates, however, placing them into a historical context to

Smith 1991, p11. It is important to note the duality of discussing ‘civic’ identity as that relating to an urban, geographically restricted area, and also one implying citizenship, which relies on participation to a greater degree than merely residential status. 11 Brown et al 1999, pp113-137 12 From the Lord Provost John Falconer’s preface to the 1947 International Festival of Music and Drama Souvenir Programme. NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., Dep. 378:1 13 Marr 1992, pp121-163 14 Moffat 1978, p84

Page 3

Mirror of the Nation?

identify continuities and changes over time helps justify the benefits in turning, and returning, to the topics covered. This dissertation complements the existing literature; its focus is on subjects that have been widely commented on and written about, yet with little done to collate and analyse those ideas. Hugh MacDiarmid regretted that ‘the festival authorities have not seen fit to make adequate representation of Scottish music in their programme’ in 1947.15 September 1976 brought SNP concern that without further state support the ‘blossoming’ Scottish culture could wither, the International Festival was a ‘stagnant institution’ anyway, with the Fringe as the focus of ‘Scotland’s new spirit’.16 The debate continues today, Kenny Ireland, Artistic director of the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, believes the International Festival’s Director to be ‘disparaging about what he sees in Scotland…[when] There’s a lot of really good stuff on Brian’s [McMaster] doorstep’.17 Richard Demarco, ‘renowned Edinburgh impresario’, feels ‘We’re in danger of destroying one of the most beautiful things Scotland has ever had, a thing that gave it dignity’.18 Despite the highly personalised and varied experiences of visiting, watching or performing at Edinburgh, there are clearly debates which seem intrinsic to the Festivals themselves. The question of identity will forever be important as situations change, events affect the political and cultural landscape, and new generations of individuals contribute to a process of continual reassessment. As such, it cannot be denied that this research and analysis will be of its time. Much literature appraising the Festivals accompanied the 50th event in 1996, and the Golden Jubilee a year later. The years since have seen devolution achieved and the Scottish Parliament established, a new National Museum of Scotland opened by the Queen on St. Andrew’s Day 1998, and a ‘National Cultural Strategy’ consultation launched by the Scottish Executive.19 Likewise, the experiences of all who have contributed, including – especially – the author, will define many of the priorities highlighted and approaches taken. The intention is not to produce too subjective a report, too personal an account, but to contribute a wide ranging study informed and illustrated by the developments and ideas of over fifty years of Festival history. One of the International Festival’s Aims and Objectives is ‘To reflect international culture in presentation to Scottish audiences and to reflect Scottish culture in presentation to international audiences’, implying that its organisers feel an obligation, or even a duty, to take on a Scottish identity.20 Perhaps ‘The Festival should be the gateway through which our guests go on to discover the riches of Scotland’s heritage’, which is a heavy burden to have carried for over half a century.21 Many would surely agree however that ‘modesty is becoming in a host who, after all,…cannot help revealing himself
15 16

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., Dep. 378:386: Glasgow Herald, 11.02.1947 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:68: The Scotsman, 07.09.1976 17 The Guardian, 21.08.2000 18 The Guardian, 21.08.2000 19 Scottish Executive, Celebrating Scotland: A National Cultural Strategy, 1999 20 www.eif.co.uk/about/aims, 18.12.2000 21 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., Dep. 378:390: Aberdeen Press and Journal, 27.08.1949

Page 4

Mirror of the Nation?

at every turn to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear’; it is not imperative to make a home identity too blatant to those who are surrounded by it as they leave their hotels, use Princes Street’s shops and visit the city’s pubs and restaurants.22 Yet if one takes this attitude, it is Edinburgh the city the visitor is experiencing, exerting a civic identity. That city may well be Scotland’s capital, but it cannot supply the breadth of the Scottish experience in its entirety within walking distance of the Assembly Hall or the Festival Club, except in performance, presentation and exhibition. The challenge, if one seeks Scottish inclusion in the Festivals, is to discover how successfully this opportunity has been grasped. Which elements of Scotland and Scottishness have been included, by whom, and under which agendas and pretexts, aims and objectives? The Festivals also seek an international identity, some including it in their titles. The implications for Scottish national identity could suggest that presenting intra-Scottish regional identities has to be done with reference to much broader contexts, more universal themes perhaps, in order that Scottish experiences have relevance in an international arena. The extent to which such considerations are made by artists preparing work for the Edinburgh Festivals is likely to vary enormously: is not an artist’s first priority his or her art? In some respects, however, the degree to which a performer or audience member overtly, implicitly or accidentally contributes to the debate is irrelevant. Scotland, as with any other theme or subject, has to be interpreted before it can be presented, and thus it is an identity which will almost inevitably be linked to others. Individuals carry multiple identities, their experiences determined by nationality, but also by gender, race, age, region or class, for example. The Arts Council asserts that ‘Festivals bring people together in small or large communities, and help forge an identity for those communities’.23 Where Scotland is that community, and Edinburgh the festival, there is an annual opportunity to discuss the meaning of that identity, and in the full glare of national, British, and international attention. In the pages of newspapers, books and reports, the stages of concert halls, renovated churches and schools, such issues are as old as the Festivals themselves – and that is without asking why the Tattoo outsells all other shows, every single year. Initial research for this study focused on a number of well informed books that have been written on the Festivals. This was important to gain a more extensive knowledge of their histories, both in general terms and as regards the events and productions, individuals and groups, that others have felt warrant particular attention. It was through such reading, alongside research which put the Festivals into their wider political and social contexts, that the viability of choosing a three period chronological structure was established. The basis for most of the subsequent research has been the Edinburgh Festival Society archives held by the National Library of Scotland.24 This has
22 23

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 25.01.1947 National Arts and Media Strategy Monitoring Group, Towards A National Arts and Media Strategy 1992, p119 24 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378; NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11779; NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518; NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 10572

Page 5

Mirror of the Nation?

proved a very rich source of information, the records available providing a great deal of the primary material used. The implications of this are similar to those of the secondary literature – there is an implicit reliance on those who compile and maintain the archives to have created and made accessible a store of information which fairly and accurately represents the Festivals. The most serious limitation for those studying a broad range of Festival experiences is that the archives are heavily weighted towards the International Festival, where most of their contents originated. It is nonetheless a vast resource, and does contain considerable information on other Festivals, and topics connected to their work. In fact, its sheer size restricts the collection’s relative use; its contents cover the full time span of Festival activity, and judicious use of the archives’ indices is required to find relevant source material. This can result in useful, sometimes unexpected finds, alongside some disappointments.25 Either way, it has meant that much of the available resources have been left untouched for lack of time and the desire to cover breadth as well as depth in a given time period or topic. Appeals for archived material were also made to the City of Edinburgh Council, West Register House in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, and Edinburgh Central Library. The most fruitful proved to be the Central Library which has valuable resources in its Edinburgh Room, particularly regarding Festival Society publications. The Council was able to provide some recently published reports on the economic impact of the Festivals, the local authorities have always taken a keen interest in the financial implications of the Festivals.26 In order to develop a picture of the attitudes and approaches of some of the key individuals involved, autobiographies have also been used, as well as an interview with Paul Gudgin, the current Administrator of the Festival Fringe Society. It is to be hoped therefore that with many types of resource available to those studying the Festivals, despite some limitations and restrictions, general appraisals and specific examples can be called upon to enliven this study. In seeking to trace contemporary opinions on the ways Scottish national identities interacted with the Festivals, the National Library archives’ collection of newspaper cuttings have proved an invaluable resource. A range of publications is included, with high levels of representation from the Scottish press, both local and national. Discussion on the themes covered is evident from the earliest days, one writer arguing that ‘the lack of this or that Scottish contribution, might, if allowed to go unanswered, assume importance out of all proportion to their true value…this is essentially an international and not simply a national Festival’.27 Papers from the rest of Britain also feature prominently, although the question of Scottish representation and identity is

Of particular value have been transcripts of performances such as Edwards’s Celebration of MacDiarmid. Less valuable were the ‘Green Paper Books’, which although spanning several decades, contained an exhaustive collection of correspondence between the International Festival and its customers regarding lost tickets and hotel bookings, and were of little practical use for this study. 26 Festivals in Edinburgh, report discussed City of Edinburgh Council, meeting 29.06.2000, item 15; Festivals in Edinburgh – A Financial Review, report discussed City of Edinburgh Council, meeting 21.11.2000, item 20. These reports will inform a ‘Festivals Strategy’ document, due to receive delayed publication by the Council in Spring/Summer 2001. 27 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 25.01.1947

Page 6

Mirror of the Nation?

not found to anything like the same degree. Despite this, The Guardian did cite Scottish oil, the SNP and Billy Connolly as chiefly responsible for a new confidence in Scottish artistic output in 1978.28 The archives also contain International Festival publications relating to specific performances and whole programmes, transcripts of some performances, financial and annual reports, correspondence over contracts and performances, and many photographs. What can be built up is a picture of how the Festivals were received at different stages in their development, and also how particular elements of the programme came to attract heightened attention and interpretation.29 This dissertation is not, indeed could not be, a review of the wealth of literature that has accompanied the Festivals in the periods under examination; a process of selection has been deliberately and consciously employed to highlight the press articles, performance reviews and reports which can most profitably illustrate and contribute to this study. This should not diminish the value of the work, but help to confine it to the subject areas covered. Texts written on the Festivals themselves have proved invaluable. What some have in common is their highly personalised nature, recalling private encounters, favoured shows and their authors’ own experiences of the Festivals.30 A subjective approach such as this is arguably the most appropriate to take, acknowledging the individual nature of the Festival experience, and seeking to share such memories, privileged as they may be, with a wider audience. None does so without wider reference of course, but it is perhaps little surprise that Iain Crawford’s recollections – as Marketing Director in 1977 – should include sponsorship negotiations with North Sea oil companies ‘which had displayed some anxiety to have an identification with Scotland’.31 Likewise Owen Dudley Edwards – critic and contributor – highlights more often than not the cultural offerings available, concurring with Philip French of Critics’ Forum that ‘If Festival fare brought Scotland to the forefront, so much the better’.32 A restriction on Crawford’s work is its focus on the International Festival, something shared by Eileen Miller.33 With comprehensive listings of all the performances and their principal performers, as well as financial returns, from 1947 to 1996, Miller’s is a valuable piece of work as both reference and analysis. The chronological structure she uses is based on the tenures of individual Directors of the International Festival, recognising the importance of that individual in determining programming policy and wider aspects of the Festival’s operations. It is perhaps telling that Alastair Moffat’s 1978 history of the Fringe concentrates less on individuals than on movements and ideas – viz. ‘The Scottish Element’ – and particular groups which have contributed to and developed with the Fringe – such as the
28 29

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Dep. 11518:117: The Guardian, 18.08.1978 As well as more ‘peripheral’ subjects. Visits by Sean Connery and Princess Grace (née Kelly) attracted much publicity, while the Daily Express celebrated ‘The Festival of Beauties’ in 1975. ‘There must be more beautiful women per acre in Edinburgh just now than in any city in Europe’, was there considered opinion. 30 Crawford 1997; Edwards 1991; Bruce 1975. To this list should be added the autobiographies of Rudolph Bing (1972) and John Drummond (2000), although they are equally valuable as primary source material. 31 Crawford 1997, p135 32 Edwards 1991, p109 33 Miller 1996

Page 7

Mirror of the Nation?

Traverse theatre and 7:84 Theatre Company.34 A loose chronological structure co-exists with a thematic approach, and could be said to reflect the development of the Fringe itself. It is also little surprise that the Traverse has its own independent history, as does Glasgow’s Citizens’ theatre; each has contributed to both International and Fringe Festivals, exists outside of the Edinburgh Festival, and has its own relationships with Scottish national identity.35 Divisions between primary and secondary source material may be arbitrary in some places, and not very important in others. A wide variety of channels are open to those studying the Edinburgh Festivals, and while any interpretation of the ‘facts’ as they appear on the stage separates the historian from his subject – if indeed the Festivals are best represented in their starkest form on the stage and screen – such interpretations carry their own value. Consideration of both is necessary in order to build a picture of the Festivals and their reception.

34 35

Moffat 1978, pp22, 89-95, 53-66 McMillan 1988; Coveney 1990

Page 8

Founding a Festival ‘The standard of performance was to be the highest the world could provide. If Scotland could itself contribute on that level, so much the better. But the level was not to be accommodated to meet native claims. That Scotland has, in this first decade, come to contribute so much and so worthily is a matter for national satisfaction’ - Edinburgh Festival: A review of the first ten years of the Edinburgh International Festival (1956)1 ‘The Festival took time to permeate Scottish life. Even in the 1960s, to defend it in the Edinburgh City Labour Party was like publicly kicking an old-age pensioner’ - Harvie, No Gods and Precious Few Heroes (1981)2 The Edinburgh International Festival’s first Director, Rudolph Bing, was surprised at the ‘immensity of the enterprise’, his vision bringing the world’s finest artists to a northern European city where austerity and rationing made it difficult to curtain recently blacked out windows, and immoral to floodlight the Castle while coal supplies were low.3 The model set by Bing’s Festivals has changed remarkably little through the history of the International, albeit accompanied by many other events from its earliest days. The stimulus to create a festival, the means and the will to do it, and the context in which it happened must therefore be studied no matter which time period or theme is being researched. Events of the foundation years help illuminate the Festivals’ relationship with Scotland and Scottish national identity, explaining why some felt that the ‘Festival of Music and Drama is certainly a hot idea, for it is precisely in music and drama that Scottish culture is deficient’.4 The focus of this section is necessarily on the International Festival, those ‘Round the fringe of the official Festival’ lacking the central administration and perhaps common purpose many share today.5 The Documentary Film Festival’s distinct links to Scottish cultural heritage will however receive particular attention, as does the Tattoo.6 These years saw those involved balancing opinions and pressures from a number of directions, forging identities for the Festivals that may have suited them well or done them a disservice, been close to the mark or inaccurate and misrepresentative.


Edinburgh Festival: A review of the first ten years of the Edinburgh International Festival, its aims and its origins, its achievements and its hopes for the future, 1956, p9 2 Harvie 1981, p138 3 Bing 1971, p88. The partial floodlighting ban was imposed by Mr. Shinwell from Whitehall. Press opposition to such a move was ubiquitous in August 1947, many arguing that memories of the battlements set against a starlit sky would cement the Festival in the minds of visitors. 4 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Dep. 378:386: Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, 05.02.1947 5 Robert Kemp’s phrase in the Edinburgh Evening News, 1948, is often cited as the Christening of today’s Fringe. He continued, ‘there seems to be more private enterprise than before…I'm afraid some of us are not going to be often at home during the evenings.’ The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996 6 Hardy 1992, pp15, 16. Had it not found itself too late to join the International programme, the Edinburgh Film Guild might not have responded to the impulse to set up their own event.

Page 9

Mirror of the Nation?

Despite the immense planning necessary for the Festival, no single vision dictated its germination. Placing the establishment of the Edinburgh International Festival into its wider cultural and political contexts helps explain why it was created and how it developed, but also gives its creation a wider significance. Culturally, this task is well served through a consideration of the Arts Council of Great Britain, a body formed with clear aims and a conscious recognition of its role in postwar Britain. Its ideology was partly politicised, coming as it did alongside other reforms of the Attlee government, but a more specific picture of the political environment into which the Edinburgh Festival was born must focus on Scotland’s experience. Where key figures of a cultural elite were important in the International Festival’s establishment, they were critical in the Arts Council’s formation and its ‘role of leadership in the encouragement and dissemination of the arts in this austere post-war Britain…a vision of what the good life should be’.7 Both organisations concentrated on the ‘civilising arts’, and with financial considerations utmost at this time, both saw the increasing importance of public money as subsidy.8 Whereas the International Festival was a recipient of this development with a guaranteed minimum £10,000 for its first two years from the Arts Council, that body was charged with finding a rationale in providing it, a task which fell to its architect and first Chairman John Maynard Keynes. No longer were the most affluent members of society able or willing to support ‘the delights of fine art’ adequately, and ‘State patronage of the arts has crept in’ he claimed.9 Such support for the International Festival implied that there was a place, if not a need, for it in the eyes of those allocating funding. The basis for this judgement appears to be twofold: the arts were deemed intrinsically beneficial, ‘the artist and the public can each sustain and live on the other’; and the particular ideals of the Edinburgh Festival were appreciated by a body which felt the state had an interest in supporting them.10 Rudolph Bing was among those who realised that Keynes and John Christie, the owner of Glyndebourne, simply didn’t get on, although he denies in his autobiography that he was aware of the reasoning behind this.11 Bing therefore placed great importance behind the International Festival’s early links with the British Council and its Scottish board member Henry Harvey Wood. It is perhaps in the connections that the International has forged with both these organisations that the cultural and intellectual position of that

Harrod 1951, p392. The role described is actually that of John Maynard Keynes, yet it is equally applicable to the organisation he led. 8 Harrod 1951, p521. Harrod provides a transcript of a BBC ‘broadcast talk’ given by Keynes on 12.07.1945. 9 Harrod 1951, pp 518, 521; Moggridge 1974, pp28-29. The Arts Council grew out of the ‘Committee for the Encouragement of Music and Arts’ (CEMA). Created in 1940, CEMA sought to provide for cultural expression at home as ENSA did for the services, and the British Council did overseas. In transforming CEMA into the Arts Council, the individuals involved sought to avoid a title which could so easily be shortened to a pronounceable acronym. Important projects supported by the Arts Council and CEMA included the restoration of Covent Garden Opera, and the Bristol Theatre Royal. 10 Harrod 1951, p523 11 Bing 1972, p84

Page 10

Mirror of the Nation?

Festival is best pictured. Nationally state-funded cultural provision that promoted a clearly, but not exclusively, international identity from its earliest days, seeking to support artists and benefit audiences. International cooperation forged the United Nations, encouraged European union and played its part in easing Britain’s grip on its Empire. It found cultural expression to embody its ideology in the Edinburgh International Festival.12 In placing the Festivals in a contemporary political context, the stance taken below concentrates on Scottish experiences, whilst being aware that union within the UK has had various meanings for Scotland. Scottish national identity was not always politicised in this period, but covering those individuals and movements which sought to make it so highlights the potency which it could hold. The SNP had spent the 1940s debating the merits of pursuing its goals via the ‘low road of party politics’, or the ‘high road’ of agreement in the form of a movement.13 One such was the two million signatures collected for John MacCormick’s Home Rule petition in 1949.14 Failure for both – electoral success was marginal while the petition carried no weight in Westminster without MPs to support it – suggests that national identity was not a high enough priority to rouse support for change. The ideology of post-war consensus politics, with particular support north of the border, advocated state distribution of the spoils of war: education, health, housing, and, through the Arts Council, culture. Yet it was the British state which had won the war, had the ability and the mandate to redistribute wealth to Scotland’s advantage, and had already devolved considerable power to the Scottish Office, especially under Tom Johnston’s war-time leadership.15 Scotland’s identity, however distinctive, was spliced to the Union, a renewal of Graeme Morton’s mid-nineteenth century ‘unionist nationalism’ of Scottish achievement through participation in British success.16 Nationalism was a vibrant force in this period, yet material well-being was a priority for the state and the individual. Scotland’s peacetime political context was one affected by economics and expediency, conscious of its Scottish identity with an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of Union. ! The Edinburgh International Festival has its roots in East Sussex, Rudolph Bing acquired his job at its helm through holding such a position with Glyndebourne Opera. Edinburgh was a means to an end:


Lord Boyd Orr, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, later nominated the Edinburgh Festival Society for the same award, Edwards 1990, p18. 13 Marr 1992, pp92-94. MacCormick had favoured the movement ideal, bridging the gap between parties and interest groups to prompt constitutional reform as a popular measure. 14 Marr 1992, pp95-101; Brown et al 1998, p148. The first signatories pledged their allegiance in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, a venue with particular resonance for International Festival audiences. This period also saw the Stone of Destiny stolen from Westminster Abbey, violent protests against Queen Elizabeth proclaiming herself the second monarch so named in Scotland, and the short-lived existence north of the border of post boxes proclaiming this development. 15 Finlay 1997, p134-136 16 Morton 1999

Page 11

Mirror of the Nation?

‘Britain’s poverty in the aftermath of the war had made it impossible to reconstitute a Glyndebourne season. Indeed, what was keeping Glyndebourne going was the Edinburgh Festival, which had been my own original idea for just this purpose’17 Miller dismisses the somewhat romanticised version of events which saw key Glyndebourne figures likening the Edinburgh skyline to Salzburg’s and declaring it an ideal place to hold a festival.18 However virtually all commentators agree on the importance of Henry Harvey Wood, Sir John Falconer and Edinburgh’s cultural elite.19 Such individuals brought Bing’s idea to Edinburgh, taking care of practical considerations, while serving alternative agendas.20 Adequate performance spaces were needed, accommodation for 50,000 to 150,000, pleasant surroundings and local support from authorities and citizens alike. In supplying them, Edinburgh could claim cultural status rarely seen since the Enlightenment, attract valuable economic benefits, and encourage civic pride and promotion. Sir John was vital in overcoming what Miller calls ‘civic obstacles’ – Bing ‘Scottish town politics’ – setting a precedent for subsequent Lords Provost to assume a dominant position in the International Festival hierarchy.21 In its practical realisation the Festival successfully married an international ideal with the need for civic co-operation. While Oxford, Cambridge and others were considered, Bing saw in ‘Scotland’s ancient capital’ the opportunity to present international ‘Art, the language beyond languages’.22 At a January 1947 meeting attended by members of the International Festival hierarchy, press and public, ‘Another questioner said the Gaelic-speaking community were acutely disappointed to see that Gaelic singing was not included in the Festival programme. The Lord Provost said that point would have careful consideration’.23 The 1947 issue of Festival News outlines the response in its preview of a Scottish Song concert: ‘In the absence of a native drama and its poetry, the heritage of ballad and folk-song took on a special importance in Scotland.…Without the strong continuance of this heritage of song, much of the national character would have been diffused and lost.’24
17 18

Bing 1972, p1 Such a version of events can be found in Eric White’s The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1975, p215. Glyndebourne were touring The Beggar’s Opera, a full moon and the blackout combining to great effect. 19 Miller 1996, pp1-4; Crawford 1997, pp1-5. Lord Provost Falconer was aided by individuals such as Lady Roseberry and figures from Edinburgh University. 20 Crawford 1997, p2. The preconditions set out for a suitable festival host were originally drawn up in 1946, published in The Scotsman, 07.08.1947. 21 Miller 1996, p2 ; Bing 1972, p86 22 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 25.01.1947 23 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, 16.01.1947 24 Festival News, 1947. This short brochure was ‘Published for the International Festival of Music and Drama’, and draws the reader’s attention to an exhaustive list of prominent institutions, traditions, buildings and individuals associated with Edinburgh, ‘a living and lively Capital, focusing the distinctive national activities of the Scottish people’.

Page 12

Mirror of the Nation?

The threat of Anglicisation had been successfully and consciously seen off, much as a concerted effort by An Commun Gaidhealach – The Highland Association – had been necessary to ensure its inclusion.25 The importance of the first Festival was manifest, and this example of a section of Scottish civil society claiming an identity with that Festival helped ensure the Festival identified with them. Henry Harvey Wood’s acknowledgement that the International Festival was feeling its way regarding inclusion of Scottish events came in a The Scotsman article on the eve of the inaugural event.26 It was unjustified for Scots to take an attitude which demanded the inclusion of ‘My country, right or wrong’ he stated, but while two Scottish orchestras, a ‘famous Scottish choir’ (the Glasgow Orpheus) and ‘Gaelic and Lowland Scots songs’ were ‘adequate’ for 1947, the future could see increased native input. Whether the ‘festival authorities…[felt] ashamed’ of initial underrepresentation as hoped by Maurice Lindsay of the Dunedin Society is unlikely.27 The International Festival was seen by its creators – especially those who owed a particular loyalty to Scottish culture – as a source of ‘infection and inspiration’, to spur Scots to greater achievements at a time of ‘a general consciousness of Scottish affairs’.28 Perhaps it is in the nature of a festival to blur the ‘clear purpose and direction’ advocated by some when putting such events together, ideal being tempered by reality.29 Bing’s experience, expertise and contacts made the International Festival a possibility, but others around him realised the worth of local inclusion, including Gaelic Song, to a greater degree. A frequently repeated demand required that inclusion of Scottish performances on the International Festival occur only if of sufficient quality. The strength of such an argument is twofold, it provided unsupportive programmers grounds on which to resist pressure for local involvement, while demonstrating a championing of Scottish culture if it did find a place. Indeed, several prominent Scottish voices were heard on the early International stage: Eileen Herlie, from Glasgow, enjoyed a high profile in 1948 as Gielgud’s eponymous Medea and the Queen in a Film Festival Hamlet; Gaelic songs featured again; Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the 1949 opening concert.30,31,32 Achieving the highest standards has been an International Festival priority throughout its time, each Director seeking to avoid compromise within his – for they have all been male
25 26

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: Glasgow Bulletin, 15.05.1947 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 07.08.1947. This article also raised the possibility of a revival of Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaites. 27 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: Glasgow Herald, 11.02.1947 28 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: Time and Tide, 25.01.1947 29 Rolfe 1992, p1. This study of Arts Festivals in the UK by the Policy Studies Institute makes clear as no other source used in this study the relative size of the Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals when set against other comparable events. The two are treated separately, yet each ranks very high in terms of income and expenditure, audience and performer attendance and participation. 30 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:388: Weekly Scotsman, 02.09.1948 31 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:388: The Scotsman, 04.10.1948. In this article Ian Whyte was interested to know what constituted ‘festival standard’. 32 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:387: The Scotsman, 20.02.1948. This despite Beecham’s proclamation that Edinburgh’s £60,000 expense on the 1947 Festival was a ‘damned fools’ policy.

Page 13

Mirror of the Nation?

– budget. Critics may attack what they see as low standards, yet at the other extreme, Hugh MacDiarmid felt Edinburgh lacked the cultured foundations for such quality, it was ‘like giving the content of a University Honours Course all at once to a class of mentally defective children’.33 However, should a Scottish work capture the limelight, confound the critics and attract audiences, it was widely celebrated. A defining example of the International Festival proclaiming a Scottish identity was the 1948 revival of Sir David Lindsay’s sixteenth century pre-Reformation drama, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaites.34 So important did George Bruce feel The Thrie Estaites to have been to Scottish identity that he ranked it alongside the Declaration of Arbroath in terms of impact.35 Robert Kemp, he who had coined the term ‘fringe’, adapted the original nine hour text to a manageable three, Tyrone Guthrie directed, and was instrumental in choosing the venue, the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland on The Mound, adjacent to Edinburgh Castle.36 The revival took on an overt and visible Scottish identity, and had it not been such a success it could have fractured home identification with the Festival and shown to many that Scotland couldn’t provide at the necessary standard. The critical response was however remarkable, praising the piece ‘both as a work of art and as a valuable contribution to the renaissance of the Scottish theatre’.37 The Scotsman heralded The Thrie Estaites ‘a step in the right direction. It is recognition that Scottish drama has a right to be represented’.38 Iain Crawford notes however that the impetus for the production came from a 1947 meeting of elite figures in the Scottish theatrical community, suggesting that The Thrie Estaites was a reaction to the lack of Scottish drama in the first International Festival.39 Despite its success, with repeat productions in 1948, 1951 and 1959, it doesn’t feature in Rudolph Bing’s autobiography, it has been revived a number of times since that book’s publication as well. The most important figure in the International Festival thus appears to have dismissed the most
33 34

Miller 1996, p19 Miller 1996, p14-15; Crawford 1997, p16-19; Bruce 1975, p25-29; Edwards 1996, p37. The Estaites were the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and the Merchants, the Satyre a representation of the experiences of ‘John the Common Weal’ – the common man – against the corruption and suppression of what made up ‘the old Scottish Parliament’ (Miller 1996, p14). 35 Bruce 1975, p26. The somewhat sycophantic style of Bruce’s book was not to everyone’s liking. In Festival Times: 1975, vol.1, it is labelled ‘shy-making, cringe-making, squirmmaking’. 36 Crawford 1997, p17. In 1558, during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and following Lindsay’s death, the Scottish clergy ordered texts of the play be burnt because of the attacks he had laid at their door, and therefore a central pillar of the state. Nearly four hundred years later their successors were permitting its performance in their own front room. The symbolism of the venue continues as it was of course host to the first signatories of MacCormick’s petition for greater devolution of powers from London in 1949, and now that this has been achieved it is the temporary home of the modern Scottish Parliament. 37 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:387: Glasgow Herald, 26.08.1948 38 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:387: The Scotsman, 31.01.1948. The Scotsman, 14.09.1948,was among the newspapers reporting a debate during the Festival that asked whether schoolchildren should be taken to see The Thrie Estaites. Whatever the benefits, the Rev. Walter Clancy, from Edinburgh Corporation, felt that ‘if we carry on this policy we are just adding to the work of the psychologists’. 39 Crawford 1997, p16

Page 14

Mirror of the Nation?

influential native contribution, or rated others much higher at the very least. Yet Scottish theatre was well aware of the play’s importance, and it has inspired further output, such as The Wallace, also staged at the Assembly Hall for the Festival.40 Demands for increased Scottish input came with recognition that the opportunities provided by the International Festival were great. It could bring individuals together from across Scotland at a time when Dublin’s Abbey Theatre had a high profile and the National Theatre was being discussed, designed and built in London. The Thrie Estaites showed the International Festival, Scotland and the world what the host nation could provide. ‘It is our main Scottish contribution, and a magnificent one it is’, one that has now entered Festival heritage as a benchmark of quality and an expression of identity.41 Midway through the third Festival the Edinburgh Evening News featured an article entitled Festival Plays That Hold the Mirror Up to Scotland, ‘They show a Scotland eager to venture, full of warm-blooded life, and gifted with a sturdy independence’.42 The foreword to Hutchison’s The Modern Scottish Theatre notes ‘nearly all historical example indicates a connection between social and national stirabout in other fields and an active drama…drama flourishes best in times of turbulence’.43 It has an acute role in transmitting identities, lacking the need for interpretation necessary with much classical music and the visual arts, and is more accessible to wider audiences than opera and dance. In 1949, The Thrie Estaites was joined by The Gentle Shepherd’s ‘quiet pastoral interlude’ from c1725, while ‘the latest renaissance of Scots culture’ was represented by Anna Merry.44 A quartet of plays with Scottish connections was announced for the 1950 event, three of which were to be performed by Glasgow’s Citizens’ theatre company.45 On this evidence, it would appear that the International Festival was able and willing to respond to calls for greater Scottish input, certainly in the theatrical programme. Europe’s finest composers continued to take the honours in classical music and opera, yet the Scottish press reassured its readers of International policy whereby ‘once again every effort would be made to ensure that the Scottish contribution to the programme would be increased’.46 Lord Provost Murray, in July 1950, promoted Scottish culture in London with his belief that ‘Scotland and Edinburgh have learned to take a more national, and therefore more international, and less provincial attitude towards the arts’, via movements such as the Festival and the ‘Scottish Renaissance’.47 In only a few years,
40 41

Edwards 1996, p37 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:387: Edinburgh Evening News, 25.08.1948 42 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:389: Edinburgh Evening News, 30.08.1949 43 Hutchison 1977, piv. The foreword, by Christopher Small, cites the birth of the Irish Free State and the Republic’s experiences in the 1920s as a prime example of this. 44 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:389: Edinburgh Evening News, 30.08.1949 45 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:390: Glasgow Herald, 16.03.1950. Among the four was a revival of Rev. John Home’s Douglas which had received performances in London in the 1750s. One appreciative Scot responded from the audience with the challenge ‘Whaur’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?’ The Scotsman, 16.03.1950 46 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:390: The Scotsman, 10.09.1949 47 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:412: News Chronicle, 07.07.1950

Page 15

Mirror of the Nation?

those leading the International Festival were claiming a leading role in Scotland’s cultural development and output, and seeking to marry their preeminence with a resurgent ideology that ‘North Britain’ should no longer be viewed as a region of England. A distinct and distinctive Scottish identity was the message, many felt the International Festival and its programme the ideal medium through which to advertise it. Had the International Festival satisfied everyone’s demands, it might today be a respected festival with a unique heritage owing to the idealism and achievements of its post-war creation. That it is all this, yet accompanied by so much more is testimony to those who sought to expand its horizons, and supply themselves what they felt it lacked. Alastair Moffat’s history of the Fringe recognises that it had small beginnings, a lack of media coverage and cohesion, and was not considered by many to be the place for ‘heavy’ comment.48 Back-projection from the late-1970s size and relative professionalism of the Fringe administration might prompt Moffat to invest greater significance in the earliest groups, identifying a coherent evolutionary development from humble beginnings. Also, a selective reading of his book disproportionately highlights the relevant material, finding vibrant seeds for later growth in the eight groups which performed uninvited in 1947. Either way, six of them were Scottish, ‘a show of strength of amateur drama in Scotland…[in an] atmosphere of enterprise and missionary zeal’.49 Moffat’s clearest statement on the subject declares that: ‘One of the major criticisms of the early Festivals was that they did not contain an identifiably Scottish element, and that the official Festival represented a largely foreign import grafted onto an Edinburgh setting…more Scottish drama would build a secure local audience for the Festival’, The Thrie Estaites wasn’t enough.50 Without ‘official’ backing in 1949, An Commun presented a Gaelic programme themselves, likewise the Saltire Society were independently involved that year too.51 The fringe, not yet a proper noun, was already being seen as the way to redress the balance when interests were not catered for, cultures underrepresented and voices not heard. While the risk of a selective use of resources is possible, in this research to a greater degree than Moffat’s, it does have some justification. If the approach of this study turns again to that of the experience of visiting the Festivals, and the chosen visitor seeks to explore elements of Scottish culture and themes in his or her itinerary, they will understandably prioritise such performances. This section has done so without disregard for the rest of the Festival, but with a broadly defined yet predominantly Scottish focus. The picture presented thus far suggests that in order for the Festivals to adopt the same broad brush required far more than the International Festival was able to supply itself.
48 49

Moffat 1978, pp15-30 Moffat 1978, p15 50 Moffat 1978, p22 51 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:390: Glasgow Daily Record, 27.08.1949

Page 16

Mirror of the Nation?

Whether Moffat would also cite class based reasons for the involvement of non-International groups is not clear, although Hutchison believes such divisions did exist in Scottish theatre after the war.52 The International Festival has had an elitist tag for periods in its history, and a contributor to the Glasgow Sunday Mail asked what’s in ‘our own Festival…[for the] low brow’ in 1948.53 The groups which gathered around the first International Festivals may not have been directing their work primarily at a ‘low brow’ audience, yet if the Director’s programme did not cater to all tastes, there was room for it outwith those pages. The special place reserved for the International Documentary Film Festival respects the fact that Scotland had claims of some seniority in this relatively new, rapidly evolving form of film culture. In opening the 1949 Film Festival, Sir Stephen Tallents proclaimed the documentary film to be ‘a unique instrument for meeting an urgent modern need’, that of exploring the post-war world, sharing ideas and experiences between nations.54 An international identity was important from the start, while the Edinburgh Film Guild provided the administrative machinery, Scotland contributed through key individuals and seminal productions. John Grierson was one such, his film Drifters a landmark alongside others with Scottish themes such as North Sea and Night Mail.55 In the festival environment, an international community of film makers and critics compared presentations which highlighted local experiences of widely shared events, the Second World War was most prominent in this way.56 Great interest in the Film Festival was shown in the press, The Scotsman declaring ‘Yesterday was Scotland’s day’ in 1947 when six of the seven films shown were Scottish.57 Not only were they Scottish in content, they were said to embody Grierson’s intention to provide ‘revelation’ through documentary film, windows on life. Since Grierson and his work took on a Scottish identity, as did other prominent figures, there was just cause for the home nation to recognise its contribution. The Film Festival successfully combined different objectives better than any other this period, it had an impressively international range, yet brought Scotland into that on its own merits. Though a forum for film makers, presentations in the vast Playhouse demonstrated popular appeal for the programme. Equally important was the Edinburgh basis to its creation and organisation, civic, national and international identities manifestly embodied in cultural expression.

52 53

Hutchison 1977, p108 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:388: Glasgow Sunday Mail, 29.08.1948 54 Hardy 1992, p21 55 Hardy 1992, p17 56 In 1947 Rossellini’s Paisa was presented, one of the first films to show war as ‘hell’ according to Hardy. That year also saw work by the ‘Danish Resistance Movement’ among the 75 or so featured films. The following year’s offerings included Germany Year Zero set in post-war Berlin, and Paris 1900’s portrait of the French capital before the Great War. Future programmes saw contributions from other nations including Yugoslavia, and The Last Stage, a Polish film about Auschwitz. 57 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:419: The Scotsman, 03.09.1947

Page 17

Mirror of the Nation?

‘Among the biggest hits [of 1947] was Edinburgh’s own contribution, a military tattoo in the courtyard of the castle.’58 The Royal Command performances were present from the first International Festival, only becoming a distinct Festival as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1950. The role they played in defining an identity for Edinburgh’s Festivals can be likened to that of the prominent Royal patronage the International has received throughout its life.59 The monarchy has been a British institution since 1603, associating it with the International Festival meant recognising this dual nationality, one firmly based in Scotland, yet within a larger political union, another example of unionistnationalism. The imagery associated with the military performances was likewise a result of numerous influences, carefully outlining and symbolising a distinct Scottish experience formally within the Union.60 This part of the Festival thus focused on one of the most important considerations regarding Scottish national identity: the nation’s links to a larger, economically and politically more powerful, southern neighbour. The implications of possible Anglicisation of Scots culture have rarely been neglected, the Daily Mail was positive about increased Scottish participation in 1948, ‘this is desirable in that it tends to reduce the artistic inferiority complex so noticeable among the Scots last year’.61 It is however telling that credit for some of the most prominent Scottish contributions to the early Festivals went to the armed forces, organisations which took their place in a British hierarchy. The immense popularity of the spectacle – ‘I’ll never forget this tattoo as long as I live’ commented one visitor – owed a great deal to their value as entertainment.62 The fact that this romanticised version of Scotland’s heritage could be packaged so easily, and depoliticised so successfully to be acceptable to so many, suggests that while one debate may have been active over Scottish contributions to the Festivals, there were those who were willing to present a highly populist identity. There were many eager to see it too, to experience that version, that component, of Scotland’s identity: the Tattoo welcomed its five millionth audience member in 1976. Edinburgh played host to a range of events in the first Festivals, each year bringing a new cast of performers, a different programme of concerts, plays and films. What they shared in common was their Edinburgh location, so Alastair Moffat’s belief that the International Festival had been imported, an imposition on the citizens, needs careful consideration.63 While inclusion of Scottish productions may have required prompting from beyond the Festival
58 59

Bing 1972, p93 Edwards 1990, p17 60 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:454: Christian Science Monitor (Boston), 01.09.1950. Scottish regiments have had a particularly strong link to the tartans ubiquitous in post-war tourist Edinburgh, for a generation following the 1745 Jacobite uprising of Bonnie Prince Charlie they were the only individuals permitted by the British government to wear a cloth which subsequently increased in symbolic attraction. By 1950 they were joined in the Tattoo by a re-enactment of the ‘installation of General the Duke of Gordon as governor there [Edinburgh Castle] in 1828’, a Royal appointment from London which let audiences know where formal power in Scottish society lay. 61 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:420: Daily Mail, 28.08.1948 62 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:454: Christian Science Monitor (Boston), 01.09.1950 63 Although Dunfermline Abbey was an early ‘fringe’ venue outwith the city.

Page 18

Mirror of the Nation?

hierarchy, Bing and Falconer were active and vocal in their requests that Edinburgh provide an atmosphere to match the standard of international culture. The Director noted the ‘surprising numbers of visitors from all over Lowland Scotland’ among the audiences in 1947, suggesting that appeals to them had been for alternative reasons than their attendance in the Usher Hall or King’s Theatre.64 How could local people help? Largely, though of course not exclusively, in the practical aspects of establishing a festival.65 The whole city was being appealed to, far more people than could possibly attend International Festival events, yet financial and commercial motives for responding to the appeal were recognised from the start, by Festival and business communities alike.66 While multiplier effects and the workings of Edinburgh’s economy would have benefited many people indirectly, those who stood to gain directly from the Festival were those providing goods and services to visiting tourists, not necessarily a large sector of the workforce. At the same time, Edinburgh District Council provided £20,000 towards the first International Festival, a third of the total funds raised. Expectations of a return on such an investment were justified. On this evidence, Moffat’s ‘import’ charge appears justified. The administration was led by a Sussex opera company, performers arrived from across Europe, visitors from North America and Australasia as well. In the first years of the Edinburgh Festival, a civic identity resulted as much through economic expediency and simply ‘revealing himself at every turn to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear’ as through the promotional efforts of the authorities.67 ! This section has introduced some of the key elements of the first Edinburgh Festivals, paying particular regard to the part they have played in illuminating contemporary attitudes to Scottish national identity, and the way each has influenced and interacted with the other. Culturally, the International Festival benefited from and played a leading role in an Arts Council led ideology which aimed to bring the arts to the people, while forging international co-operation. The first Festival brought Bruno Walter out of exile to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic for example; he had had to leave Austria under the threat of Nazi persecution, their reunion captured the spirit of the Festival, ‘Here human relations have been renewed’ he believed.68 National identity was not key to such developments, particularly in a festival which strove to break down barriers through the arts. Politicised nationalism was however present in Scotland, the clearest example being MacCormick’s Scottish Convention and home rule petition. Conscious of their own national identity, groups and individuals performed and presented work outside of the International programme, whether more formally in the Documentary Film Festival, or as
64 65

Bing 1972, p93 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 16.01.1947. ‘Women’s Outlook’ reported Falconer’s suggestion that ‘hostesses should charge’ 12s 6d for bread and breakfast accommodation if responding to the call to house visitors. Hoteliers, taxi drivers and waiters were amongst those asked to become ‘missionaries for the Festival’, while thousands of municipal flowers were planted and shop windows decorated. 66 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 25.01.1947 67 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378:386: The Scotsman, 25.01.1947 68 Miller 1996, p31

Page 19

Mirror of the Nation?

part of a germinating fringe. A high profile exhibition entitled Enterprise Scotland 1947 also responded, in a Scottish accent, to charges that Britain was ‘“finished” and, in its lamented demise, has brought the whole of the British Empire crashing in red ruin about its ears’.69 Some may simply have felt a need to be present at, and get involved in, an important new cultural endeavour, while others passionately believed there could, and should, be a native contribution to and identity for the Festival. Importantly, the International Festival authorities were keen to present a civic, Edinburgh identity. One example of this can be seen in the development of the Opening Ceremony, held in and around St. Giles’ on the Royal Mile. Scotland’s Lords Provost were invited to attend the first on August 25th, 1947, resplendent in their ermine, 1948 brought the Lord Mayors of England, the following year ‘the Mayors and Burgomasters from many foreign cities’, principally from Europe although the Mayor of Dunedin was granted the Freedom of the City.70 Edinburgh was thus placing itself alongside Athens, Paris and Amsterdam, continuing its leading role in attempts at European harmony. For this purpose its own nationality was secondary, the Festival city demonstrating what it could achieve on its own terms. If one accepts Eric Hobsbawm’s thesis on ‘invented traditions’, this ceremony, involving and deriving much of its importance from individuals outwith the International’s own areas of competence, served to establish and legitimise the institution, its status and even ‘relations of authority’.71 Each subsequent Ceremony contributes to the tradition, while its apparently permanent nature and illustrious heritage is a source of prestige for the International Festival and Edinburgh. It is also interesting to note that when the guests were predominantly Scottish, it was the civic leaders of the principal towns and cities who embodied the nation. The International Festival was a self-consciously cultured and cosmopolitan enterprise, Edinburgh was its host city and took pride in the status it attracted. Despite serious opposition, much of which was won round in future years, the first Festivals were a great success, an atmosphere of ‘bemused joy’ accompanying the presence of so many stars of stellar calibre.72 Scottish national identity, in some of its guises, had found an outlet too. As the International Festival cemented its place in the city’s calendar, some may have wondered what the following years would bring for native performers, playwrights, composers and artists. The aims and objectives of the International were unlikely to change, yet there were signs that those working outside of its limits were interpreting the festival model as they saw fit. It would be up to contributors and observers to direct and discover what this would mean for Scottish contributions, and Scottish identity.

69 70

The International Festival of Music and Drama. Souvenir Programme, 1947 Edinburgh Festival: A review of the first ten years of the Edinburgh International Festival, its aims and its origins, its achievements and its hopes for the future, 1956, p29-39 71 Hobsbawm 1992, p9 72 Crawford 1997, p13

Page 20

Electing an identity ‘what is this Festival, after 21 years, what has it become? The answer is: it was Culture, it has become Scotland…it has turned fatally and permanently into another Scottish Thing, another structural element in the tiresome fantasy-life the Scots have been doping themselves with for the past three centuries to avoid their real problem…a constituent of the Great Scottish Dream…a dream-nationhood to take the place of the real one’ - Tom Nairn, Festival of the Dead, (1967)1 ‘Philip French wanted his programme [Critics’ Forum] always to remain an Edinburgh as well as a Festival programme…His insistence stemmed…from a lifelong conviction that a country must be allowed to speak in its own terms, not simply in yours’ - Owen Dudley Edwards, City of a Thousand Worlds (1991) A focus on either the Festivals or developments in Scottish identity would justify close examination of the 1970s, both left this second period in radically different shape from how they entered it. Andrew Marr has labelled this ‘the decade of “devolution”…at times Scottish politics would seem less about power than about identity crisis’.2 The Scottish National Party’s (SNP) share of the Scottish electorate rose to 30.4% in the October 1974 General Election, the most visible sign that this reappraisal of identity was also ‘a challenge to the UK state’.3 One part of the nation’s political landscape had flourished, altering the operation and perceptions of the whole. The Edinburgh Festival was undergoing a parallel change, the Fringe played host to 182 groups in 1976, a threefold increase in just six years.4 Increased professionalism at a central Fringe administrative hub allowed easier access to the Fringe stage, and the opportunity to present your experiences, your priorities, your arguments. The International Festival’s fifth Director, Peter Diamand, took up his position in 1966, his thirteenth and final programme came in 1978. Scottish society was changing around him, yet was a neglect to recognise and respond adequately to these changes partly responsible for the Fringe’s growth? Scottish national identity took on a more conspicuous, and for some politicised, character in this period, coinciding with the development of the Edinburgh Fringe, and the wider Festival.5 Aside from direct links between the two, this section will argue that more importantly each was subject to similar economic and social forces and trends, and responded accordingly. Studying each in more depth will help illustrate whether such a correlation is coincidence, or evidence of something more significant.

1 2

Nairn New Statesman, 01.09.1967 (vol.74), pp265-266 Marr 1992, p120 3 Brown et al 1998, pp154, 20 4 Moffat 1978, pp84, 106 5 This chapter deals almost exclusively with the International and Fringe Festivals. The Tattoo was a larger event than before, though run largely on the same lines with the spotlit ‘lone piper’ the established climax. The Film Festival had lost its documentary focus and was less significant for this study.

Page 21

Mirror of the Nation?

! Politics and government are inextricably linked to financial matters, the 1970s were a turbulent decade and seldom before had global and British economic influences been such a prevailing factor on the experiences of so many Scots. Edward Heath’s Conservative government of 1970 to 1974 went some way to breaking the post-war ‘consensus’ in British politics – full employment was no longer a priority, trades unions lost influence – until their U-turn of 1972.6 The Arab-Israeli war and ensuing oil crisis in 1973 slowed the world economy, putting pressure on private enterprise and public services – principally services provision and welfare benefits. The Labour government from February 1974, which had minority status until the October election, found itself forced to take a $3.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund in 1976, which came with conditions.7 The sort of measures which became necessary were a precursor to the ‘winter of discontent’, and the assault on consensus politics levied by Margaret Thatcher from 1979 – the Lady who possibly did more to guarantee successful devolution in 1997 than anyone else. Scotland’s first post-war referendum on devolved government from Westminster had been on March 2nd, 1979, and had produced a majority favouring constitutional reform, but not the required 40% of Scotland’s eligible electorate in order to become law.8 In the same year, the SNP’s share of the Scottish general election vote fell from 30.4% to 17.3%, the enthusiasm for change was draining away.9 Scotland’s distinct experience had served a rising Nationalist party well; the oil crisis had rocked the world, but British Petroleum had struck oil off Scotland’s east coast in 1970, the implications were immense.10 Any opposition to Scottish independence relying on a lack of economic viability could now be brushed aside by the SNP, from September 1972 ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’ became their most successful campaigning slogan. When the Kilbrandon Report advocated some form of devolved government for Scotland and Wales a year later, the constitution was once again on the political agenda.11 Oil revenues, many argued, should have brought material benefits to Scotland, instead jobs were being lost in staple industries. Events such as the ‘Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in’ of 1971 contributed eventually to Heath’s U-turn.12 Imposition of laissez faire measures hit opposition which ‘was both nationalist and socialist’ in Scotland, and was ultimately successful when state finance secured jobs once again.13 Nationalism was a potent force, in Scottish society and London politics, yet it failed to carry the 1979 referendum. Surely Scotland had squandered its chance, been offered its prize and failed to take it, meanwhile being shown that the Union was no longer sacred to England. Finlay believes that what
6 7

Jones et al 1998, p28 Gardiner and Wenborn eds. 1995, pp123, 814 8 Brown et al 1998, pp20-21 9 Brown et al 1998, p154 10 Marr 1992, pp131-132 11 Finlay 1997, p151 12 Marr 1992, p133 13 Brown et al 1998, p20

Page 22

Mirror of the Nation?

emerged from the devolution debate was a divided civil society in Scotland, with accompanying ominous threats of sectarianism and ‘attachment to England’.14 A national identity which had been put to the test and failed. The Nationalism of the 1970s had been a protest against a UK state which wasn’t delivering in Scotland, ‘the Scottish electorate expressing a continuing preference for a welfare state, delivered through distinctive Scottish agencies. Only if that was not available from the Union would these agencies have to include a separate Parliament’.15 SNP breakthroughs at the ballot box had demanded a response to the ‘Nationalist threat’ and an electorate that increasingly diverged from England’s.16 Devolution had been Westminster’s means to that end, keeping Scotland and its oil on-side while attention needed to be focused on economic and political matters which affected Britain in its entirety; if the Labour government’s membership north of the border didn’t share their leadership’s enthusiasm, they would have to be won over with the rest of the electorate.17 As hoped, the separatist threat was calmed, partly through ambiguity over what devolution meant, ‘neo-Nationalism or a more stable form of Unionism?’, but equally because sufficient reform had been completed by Labour to deliver the social democratic objectives of the electorate, without need of a devolved assembly.18 High hopes had been dashed and more administrative devolution was only a way of transferring competencies between Civil Service departments. In politicising its national identity in both the SNP and referendum, Scotland had given it a focus which attracted great support and no mean share of success. The risk of failure was real however, and only two Nationalist MPs faced Margaret Thatcher and her 338 supporters across the House of Commons floor after the 1979 election. The political and economic backdrop to the Festivals had varied consequences, but perhaps the most important were changes in local government.19 In 1975 and 1976, Edinburgh District Council (EDC) and Lothian Regional Council (LRC) used the International Festival as a ‘political football’ in their overlapping areas of jurisdiction.20 With local government reform, each contributed financially following the demise of Edinburgh Corporation and its annual grant. The resulting period saw rival Councils ‘buy’ seats on the Festival Society Council, dispute the Lord Provost’s position as its chairman and argue over the benefits the Festival brought to the city and
14 15

Finlay 1997, p156-157 Brown et al 1998, p21 16 Brown et al 1998, p19-21 17 Marr 1992, pp121-163 18 Marr 1992, p123; Brown et al 1998, p21. Conspicuous amongst these reforms was ‘the Scottish Development Agency, intervention to help failing industries, and the transfer of powers over regional development grants to the Scottish Office’ (Brown et al, p21). 19 Inflation and the falling value of sterling caused some International Festival contracts to be renegotiated, restoring the level of remuneration to overseas companies for example. 20 Miller 1996, p93

Page 23

Mirror of the Nation?

the region.21 From 1977, LRC removed its grant and involvement, EDC stepped up its support, but also the rents it charged on venues and office space, and a territorial debate became party political.22 The Labour group canvassed support for ending the ‘squandering’ of public money, an attempt to ‘capture the moron vote’ according to the Conservatives.23 The Festival’s civic identity appeared insecure, despite reports which calculated economic benefits of between £3.7million and £16,485,799 to the city.24 While ideological and constitutional considerations occupied Scottish, national government, local disputes were centred on the practicalities of keeping the International Festival within a tight budget. After thirty years the Festival was established, with a distinct heritage and identity of its own. Support had not been universal in its earliest days, but disputes had been hurdles to be overcome in pursuit of presenting the best possible programme. By the 1970s, the Festival itself was a target, perhaps testimony to its success, but a distance from the prestige in which it had been held at the highest levels of local government. ! The structure of the previous chapter prioritised the International Festival, with the other attendant presentations and performances developing as responses to Bing’s enterprise. Although often still the case in the 1970s, it took a more indirect form now that the other Festivals had their own distinct identities and practices. It was a period in which many, including the International’s Director Peter Diamand, felt each Festival should have a defined role and identity, ‘What about the Tattoo?…Then there’s the Fringe’.25 Diamand went on to opine ‘I cannot please every single member of the public’, voicing a widespread feeling that the overall Festival should be as universal an experience as possible.26 There were various motivations behind this philosophy, but the primary means to achieving it were growth and diversification, and here the International no longer took a visible lead. It will still be covered first as focusing on each Festival in turn remains a valid approach, and the International may in some ways be interpreted as a constant against which others may later be judged.

21 22

Crawford 1997, pp125-126 Miller 1996, p390. EDC and LRC contributed £90,000 each in 1975, Edinburgh’s contribution rising to £106,500 a year later and £222,620 in 1977 once Lothian had withdrawn their contribution. 23 Miller 1996, pp93-94 24 Crawford 1997, p125; NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:90: The Scotsman, 28.10.1977; Edinburgh Evening News, 26.10.1977; Glasgow Herald, 28.10.1977. These two reports used different accounting methods in ways which could be said to have favoured their sponsors. The more generous was conducted by Hank Putsch who was investigating the viability of a similar event in Philadelphia. He concluded that alongside the direct financial gain, Edinburgh and Scotland attracted £2,150,000 of media attention free, and saw its tourist season lengthen from three to six months. The figure of £3.7million, more objective or realistic to some, an underestimate to others, was prepared for LRC and the Scottish Tourist Board in 1977. Each had been attacked for not giving adequate support to the Festival, a charge much easier to rebuff if the benefits were only around a fifth as great. 25 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:16: Scottish Daily Express, 09.09.1971 26 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:16: Scottish Daily Express, 09.09.1971

Page 24

Mirror of the Nation?

As stated, every International programme in this period up to 1978 was set by Peter Diamand, ‘like an Edinburgh national monument, difficult, windswept, but immensely prestigious’.27 It is easy to pigeonhole elements of the Festivals as exemplars of its personalities, or the key motor behind a particular development. If Diamand is subject to such analysis, an emphasis on ambitious international opera, such as the 1977 Carmen, over native drama is detectable – ‘Scottish material was even more pointedly slung out for its audiences as fare for the hopelessly parochial’ – and a Festival ‘running out of steam’ as he neared retirement.28,29 Concentrating on such judgements ignores the productions which did connect with Scotland. Many of them share the notion that only the International Festival could have staged or presented them, which returns to the philosophy that each Festival should concentrate on its strengths. Nonetheless examples of Diamand’s apparent reluctance to bring in Scottish artists may not have endeared him to many north of the border: ‘The policy of the Festival is that the mere fact that something is Scottish is not a qualification…They [Scottish Ballet] will come to the Festival…after all, it took Scottish Opera 10 years’30 It may have taken a decade for Scottish Opera to achieve ‘festival status’ in 1967, but they received support and praise for a 1975 production of Robin Orr’s Hermiston.31 This was the first Scottish composed opera to appear at the International Festival, and was based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s late nineteenth century novel The Weir of Hermiston.32 The Financial Times labelled it ‘a fairly trite tale of love and betrayal in a Lowland setting’, possibly not contributing much new to its understanding of this part of Scotland, yet still a production worthy of comparison on an international stage.33 It confirmed Diamand’s policy ‘where artistically justifiable, to involve Scottish elements’, which left the Director and his assistant Bill Thomley scope to give opportunities to native talent or not as they saw fit. What this tended to mean was high quality presentations along older themes, and some important contributions of new work. 1973 saw another revival of The Thrie Estaites, alongside The Prince and the ’45, a piece which explored Bonnie Prince Charlie’s successful march south as far as Derby and some ‘what might have beens’, reflecting the contemporary fragility of the Union state in former times.34 Further reference to such topics, this time in the fifteenth century, was given in a Border and Ballad concert, depicting the ‘bitterness, danger and violence’ of these disputed lands in the reign of James IV.35 In the time of
27 28

Edwards 1990, p14 Edwards 1990, p29 29 Festival Times, no.4 1983, p8 30 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:66: Business Scotland, August 1976 31 The production also received a great deal of publicity, and some notoriety, for a fifteen minute hanging scene in which the stricken actor repeatedly fainted while suspended. Hospital treatment may have been required, but he was determined to complete the run. 32 Crawford 1997, p127 33 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:51: Financial Times, 29.08.1975 34 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:30: Yorkshire Post, 31:08:1973 35 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:30: Yorkshire Post, 27.08.1973

Page 25

Mirror of the Nation?

Kilbrandon and the SNP’s general election breakthroughs, hindsight might give too great a significance to suggestions that the International was commenting on its political environment. For example, The Observer felt that The Thrie Estaites had little to say in the 1970s, both politically and culturally, ‘the late masters’ [Tyrone Guthrie] spirit has departed beyond recall’.36 Attracting wider appreciation in 1975 was an exhibition celebrating the 350th anniversary of James VI & I’s death, ‘ an exhibition of major importance which no historian or Scot should miss’.37 As a constituent of the International Festival, such a presentation attracted attention, with the potential to spark debate.38 The theme was taken up by many publications, with The Tablet concluding that ‘There might never have been an Edinburgh festival’ without him. With one more year as an example, 1976 saw Scottish Opera’s acclaimed production of Verdi’s Macbeth, and Tom Fleming’s rendition of MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle. The opera was well received, part of a programme which meant ‘those who, periodically, shout for more Scottish participation can scarcely complain this year’.39 Perhaps Diamand was correct mid-way through his Directorship to claim that the Festival ‘is even more deeply rooted Edinburgh and Scotland than it was’, but the methods he used to promote such identities were to some extent paradoxical.40 Large scale productions such as Macbeth declared their identity and status as part of a pantheon of established Scottish contributors, such as the Scottish National and Chamber Orchestras. Alternatively, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, a ‘belated tribute to Hugh MacDiarmid’, falls into a category of presentations best appreciated by those already familiar with the subject matter.41,42 The bulk of Scottish society was not being represented nor appealed to, charges of International Festival elitism appear, on this evidence justified. With little middle ground between establishment spectacle and minority appeal recital, the International neglected large sections of the society it found itself in, contributing in turn to the ‘false image’ of Edinburgh which concentrated on the Commonwealth Games and ignored the city’s social problems.43 If each Festival was to concentrate on what it was good at, its speciality that couldn’t be achieved elsewhere, what was the multifaceted Fringe to do? Evidence from the 1940s suggests it responded where the International was
36 37

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:31: The Observer, 20.08.1973 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:56: Sunday Telegraph, 24.08.1975 38 As a cultural figure the monarch was undoubtedly important to Scottish society, he had strident views on the role of the monarchy, while taking his court to London in 1603 had important consequences for Scotland and Edinburgh itself. 39 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:66: Daily Express, 21.08.1976 40 Crawford 1997, p106 41 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:68: The Scotsman, 06.09.1976 42 Miller 1996, p90 43 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:16: Scottish Daily Express, 21.08.1971. The Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh in 1970 and 1986. It was asked how the city could find the money for these events, but not a new opera house which had been planned for many years and needed since 1947. Touring companies almost invariably had to scale down their sets to fit the King’s Theatre stage until the Festival Theatre was opened in 1996, ‘Inventive adaptation of bizarre premises may be part of the Fringe’s charm, but should not be required of an international festival’, remarked The Scotsman, 11.09.1973

Page 26

Mirror of the Nation?

deemed lacking, while deciding what was missing was largely up to those who felt the urge to present it themselves, whatever ‘it’ was. The Festival Fringe Society was established in 1958 and acquired limited company status from 1969, taking on a formal identity, and developing the machinery to help ever more groups take part.44 It was becoming increasingly justified to talk of the central Fringe administration as a distinct body, yet, in Alastair Moffat’s words, ‘Never once did I make a value judgement. The democracy is what binds the Fringe together’.45 The International Festival has a Director, the Fringe an Administrator, direction on the Fringe is in the hands of performers, theatre companies and venues. To draw conclusions from as disparate a group as this was increasingly found to be is to risk making sweeping generalisations which mask innumerable individual statements, or vague, conservative summaries which say very little at all. In approaching the issue of the Fringe and Scottish national identity, space will therefore be devoted to particular elements of that Festival which showed a connection with such an identity. Theatres and companies such as the Traverse and 7:84 will not be held up as representative of what those in the Fringe did, because each had different motivations and approaches. They are however examples of what the Fringe could do, the two cases mentioned had particular agendas and interpretations towards a national identity. The unique role of the Fringe, indeed its raison d'être with or without a central organisation, has been to offer a stage and a voice to those who wished to use it, and as the political context of the time suggests, there was much to talk about. The Traverse Theatre realised the vision of its founders as a ‘year round’ Fringe venue from 1962, presenting new work in a ‘mid-60s explosion of avant-garde art and performance’.46 At its best, the venue, its resident theatre company and script writers attracted an international identity that was located both in Scotland and Edinburgh, and definitely not England. Its most successful years in this period seem to have depended on the clear vision of its Director. Chris Parr filled the role from 1975 to 1981, a man ‘absolutely in tune’ with the theatre’s social environment, using ‘local experience to illuminate broader issues’.47 The importance of the Traverse for this study is its focus on the Festival, or more specifically the Fringe. The exposure it received from the artistic world in an intense three week period made it unlike any other venue in Britain, a year’s work and new material was annually distilled to form a programme which offered a composite picture of Scottish life. Harvie believes this period of ‘work by Scots about Scotland, in history, politics and economics, was as distinguished as anything since the eighteenth century’, when it was presented on stage, it was often at the Traverse.48 Of the many plays which deserve mention, some appear to have achieved special status in existing work on the theatre. ‘Scotland’s most notorious criminal’ Jimmy Boyle contributed to John McGrath’s The Hardman and Street
44 45

The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996, pp4, 5 The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996, p6. Alastair Moffat was Fringe Administrator from 1976 to 1981, the number of companies involved grew from 182 to 494 in that time. 46 Edwards 1996, p45; McMillan 1988, p21 47 McMillan 1988, p76 48 Harvie 1981, p157

Page 27

Mirror of the Nation?

Fighting Man, while Hector Macmillan’s The Gay Gorbals was about a gay club in the Gorbals.49 Although the Cambridge Evening News is right to highlight the way such plays exploit the need for co-operation in the creation of a community, McMillan clearly values the way the Traverse and its productions focused on a particular type of community.50 Such plays presented the Traverse’s largely middle class Fringe audience with the ‘working class experience in Scotland and particularly in Glasgow’, it was aggressive, physical, Protestant and male.51 It was not necessary, indeed often counterproductive, to attempt to present all of Scottish life in order to make a coherent, considered point about one element of the national identity. If we return to Benedict Anderson’s identification of ‘imagined communities’ as being central to a nation’s coherence, the importance of presenting and debating the experiences of others in order to define what binds us is also crucial. The works cited were all part of Fringe programmes at the Traverse, where new work was well received, especially so if by or about Scots.52 The role of the theatre in presenting work whose implications and resonance extended far beyond the venue’s walls was immense, capturing the heightened sense of class that had infused Scottish politics through the decade’s economic and political debates, for example.53 The theatre’s conscious desire to present Scots writing for a broad audience has faltered at times, and suffered considerably as devolution failure and Margaret Thatcher drained much of the creative energy from Scots who resisted the desire to follow Billy Connolly and others to London.54 Nevertheless, although some feel it moved closer to the mainstream in this period, the Traverse remained the most important place to present the world it found on its doorstep. ‘1971. 7:84 Scotland perform their first Fringe production at Cranston Street Hall. It is Trees in the Wind by John McGrath.’55 This understated entry in the Fringe’s fiftieth anniversary publication announces the arrival of one of the most dynamic forces on the Fringe. A ‘very obvious and perhaps naïve leftwing commitment’ informed much of the work they presented according to Hutchison, while as with the Traverse, Alastair Moffat believes their techniques and values were born of the Fringe.56,57 The Scottish identity they

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:117: Daily Mirror, 22.08.1978; McMillan 1988, p79; Moffat 1978, p66; NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:70: Cambridge Evening News, 25.08.1976 50 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:70: Cambridge Evening News, 25.08.1976 51 McMillan 1988, p80 52 The Traverse adapted what is now Edinburgh University’s Bedlam Theatre as ‘The Other Traverse’ in some Fringe years, increasing the amount of work it could present and exposure it could gather during the Festival. 53 Marr 1992, p150 54 McMillan 1988, p88 55 The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996, p13. 7:84 was formed in 1971, formally splitting to form a Scottish company and an English company in 1973. John McGrath, who co-wrote Z Cars, was central to the enterprise and felt that the class orientated appeal received wider support north of the border (McGrath 1996). 56 Hutchison 1977, p117. The company’s name reflects this policy of class-based comment. Promotional material for a 2001 tour of Marching On – ‘a hard-hitting, humorous and topical play about a family torn apart by its conflicting Loyalist views’ – reads ‘7% of the population of this country owns 84% of the wealth (source – The Economist 1966)’.

Page 28

Mirror of the Nation?

sought to create and present had two key influences: responding to working class life in Scotland, and often using history and past experience in order to do it.58 The specific significance to this study of 7:84 Scotland is the group’s wider importance to the nation’s cultural identity, reflecting subjects and themes which were unlikely to feature in the subsidised middle class theatre after the war, and presenting them back to those who consumed most of their culture via the television.59 Connecting with an appreciative audience across the country, via ‘ceilidh, variety show, convert party, music hall, band shows’, was endemic to the organisation, yet during the Festival their unique ideology received wider scrutiny and a louder voice.60 As Scottish nationalism gained a firmer footing both politically and socially, and the Fringe grew far beyond sizes once deemed excessive, 7:84 sought to politicise their contribution of a form of Scotland’s identity that didn’t get recognition on the ‘official’ programme. This is an example of Fringe growth through International Festival neglect, presentations that went beyond diversionary entertainment to form ‘new work and fresh culture’.61 7:84 is one example of a theatre company who took the dynamism of the Fringe and used it to explore elements of a working class Scottish national identity during economic and political instability. Selected examples from the Fringe’s expanding presence during this period need to be seen as such, only parts of the event and its cornucopia of topics and themes, of which Scottish national identity was just one category. Highlighting – albeit perhaps artificially – occasions when it was prominent draws attention to an often complex and important engagement with a contentious issue. Performances not mentioned above include The Great Northern Welly Boot Show, Billy Connolly’s 1972 appraisal of the Upper Clyde work-in of the previous year. Michael Billington felt: ‘…the show is sustained first by a driving, angry conviction that Scotland has been turned into an economic disaster area by successive English politicians; and secondly by its application of all the elements of pop theatre…to a serious end…popular theatre…attracting a local audience rather than the usual collection of visiting culture vultures’.62 Such issues which had reached the world through print and electronic media, communicating to Scots what was happening to their fellow countrymen, received a new interpretation on the Fringe stage. In keeping with the idea of Fringe democracy, neither Connolly nor those involved with 7:84 or the
57 58

Moffat 1978, p90 Andrew Marr cites The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil as the ‘most famous piece of theatre in Scotland’ in the 1970s, a play which linked the effects of the nineteenth century Highland Clearances to those of the contemporary exploitation of North Sea oil (Marr 1992, p135). Similar connections were made between ‘the great days of the Red Clyde and the new aspirations of the SNP’ for example, performed by a company which wished to reflect the ordinary ‘industrial areas of Scotland now’ (Moffat 1978, p89). 59 Hutchison 1977, pp108-109 60 Moffat 1978, p90 61 Festival Times, no.1 1975, p4 62 Moffat 1978, pp94-95

Page 29

Mirror of the Nation?

Traverse would deny others their own contribution. The Clyde is Red – continuing this study’s focus on the Fringe and representations of Glasgow – was a ‘poem-play’ presented in 1979. In contributing to the debate over Scotland’s future, this production warned of the dangers of sectarianism: ‘The content at once hypothesises and demonstrates how current political method could, given a sinister turn, make an Ireland of Scotland…how the voice of a people can be ignored and those people suppressed “in the national interest” by a distant government misinformed by its own informers’63 The expansion of the Fringe gathered a momentum in this period which encouraged more groups to take part, more arguments to be presented. If there did come a point at which the Fringe began positively developing its own identity – rather than forming primarily negative definitions which compared it to and distanced it from the other Festivals – it was with recognition that some things only the Fringe could do. Painting in Parallel at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1978 saw Scottish artists bringing together and juxtaposing their work, some from the Glasgow sprawl, but also Celtic imagery from the Highlands, experiences of the sea and the Borders, past and present.64 The end result needn’t have been presented on the Fringe, but the fact it was suggests the artists featured had a great deal of involvement in the conception and realisation of the exhibition, without having to consider the artistic policy and priorities of an external Director. When Scottish national identity was presented on the Fringe, it was not out of ‘necessity’ as some felt was the case with the International, it was because those with something to say on the matter, and the wherewithal to do it, had grasped the opportunity before them and done it themselves.65 ! This chapter sought to examine the parallel development of the Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals and Scottish national identity, considering the idea that in the 1970s similar economic and social forces had affected each and brought important responses. Two hypotheses will be considered in the remainder of this section, the first of which states that in both cultural and political terms, a sense of ‘democratic deficit’ was identified and steps taken to redress the balance. Secondly, the process of addressing the situation and seeking answers brought a greater understanding of the issue and thus a clearer sense of identity. As has been explored, the state’s role in Scottish affairs was increasingly felt to be failing Scots through the course of this period. Administrative devolution may have appeased Scotland since the Scottish Office was established in 1885, but with growing electoral support for a reformed constitution and increased democratic accountability of those who directed Scottish life, a structure which was deemed inadequate needed a remedy. Likewise the
63 64

NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:136: The Scotsman, 30.08.1979 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:117: The Guardian, 18.08.1978 65 Hutchison 1977, p122

Page 30

Mirror of the Nation?

International Festival was susceptible to intense criticism, labelled a mausoleum by Tom Nairn in an article whose resonance was felt for many years, and perceived as somehow detached from life in Scotland. Nairn felt the Festival was an annual exercise in escapism, the Tattoo and Scots poetry diverting attention from Scotland having ‘no voice and no present’.66 The motivation to change this was inspiring, and many people in Scotland were connecting with the Festival, identifying with it, believing it could do more, and getting involved themselves. It would be naïve and ignorant of the complexity of the situations to draw too much from apparently simultaneous nature of these developments, but important practical steps were taken to move both of these situations on. The SNP received considerable backing at the ballot box and devolution with an elected assembly in Edinburgh was enacted by the British government, subject to confirmation with referendum success; in response to Nairn’s accusations the ‘establishment snorted and sneered its contempt’ while the Fringe ‘grew into a protest movement all the sharper’.67 Polling over 30% of the Scottish vote at a general election, the SNP could not be ignored, neither could a Fringe enjoying year on year growth which at its best captured the Zeitgeist. On this evidence the first hypothesis is correct. However, for a multitude of reasons devolution failed its litmus test, from the reformers’ perspective, while the Fringe appeared to be in fine health, Alastair Moffat’s administration witnessing an increase from 182 groups in 1976, to 494 five years later, a six fold rise in a decade.68 Perhaps the most important success the Fringe enjoyed as an exponent of Scottish identity in this period was a growing acceptance by the ‘establishment’. To take two examples, a new Director was appointed at the Traverse in 1975, Chris Parr was selected with intentions to increase the amount of Scottish work produced.69 McMillan’s history of the Traverse cites the importance of the Scottish Arts Council in the choice of candidate, the largest source of the theatre’s income acted as a conduit through which the ‘Scottish theatrical world’ was expressing its opinions as to the Traverse’s role.70 Thus a Fringe venue was entrusted with expectations to reflect Scotland and a Scottish identity by those willing and able to support it financially from public funds. A new Director was required elsewhere in 1979, to lead the International Festival after its 13 seasons under Peter Diamand; the appointment itself had been made before the 1978 event when John Drummond left the BBC to fill the vacancy. He intended to ‘encourage rather than exploit the Fringe’, and in his first programme chose to do so by employing the Traverse, the Citizens’ from Glasgow, and Richard Demarco, long celebrated as a uniquely Scottish and international voice on the Fringe.71 The upstart Festival was key to the differences brought to the International by Drummond; ‘in 1979 it changed…the central one was its sense of Scottishness’.72 A reformed
66 67

Nairn New Statesman, 01.09.1967 (vol.74), pp265-266 Edwards 1996, p35 68 The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996, p5 69 McMillan 1988, p75 70 McMillan 1988, p75 71 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:106: The Scotsman, 13.07.1978. The Sunday Telegraph felt Demarco ‘is still what the Festival all about and what romantic, idealist, vigorous, bloody, visionary Scotland has always been about’ (24.08.1975). 72 Edwards 1990, p20

Page 31

Mirror of the Nation?

political democracy would have to wait, the Fringe meanwhile was a central force consolidating the Festivals’ competency to help define Scottish national identity. The second hypothesis states that greater depth and clarity of understanding of the debates was reached than in the earliest days of the Festivals, as explored above. The resources – time, money and personnel – spent investigating what form a revised Scottish constitution could take, leading to the passing of Scotland Bill and referendum, are evidence that politically the hypothesis might be supported. However, closer analysis of the chain of events leading to the vote illustrates the level of disagreement present in the debate. Kilbrandon’s committee had failed to reach unanimity in 1973 for example – after three years, three reports were published.73 The Scottish Nationalists pursued a separatist agenda, Labour proposed devolution, the SNP were unsure whether to support it. Clarity of understanding was not forthcoming nor consensus reached, but the primary objective of devolution had always been to limit support for independence. It cannot be denied of course that the Festivals presented a panoply of contributions to the Scottish identity debate, yet instead of incoherence, an acceptance of the complex nature of Scotland and Scottishness resulted. The illustrations concerning a working class Glasgow experience used regional, gender, class and at times politically based identities. Romanticised images of the nation, and particularly its heritage, featured in ways which were often none too complimentary, the most important of which, Scotch Myths, formed part of John Drummond’s third programme in 1981.74 Drummond also presented ‘Owen Dudley Edwards’s celebration of Hugh MacDiarmid…It’s a fair indication of previous poverty of thought and attitude that MacDiarmid’s poetry can only be read in the official Festival once he is no longer there to hear it’.75 Through such performances, the International Festival joined the Fringe in engaging with Scotland. The key difference between the fog of a partially politicised nationalism and the spectrum of presentations which contributed to the Festivals’ representation of Scottish identities was native involvement. Devolution lacked home support in sufficient depth to be able to realise it in popular legislation, the protest vote could be answered sufficiently in other ways. Through this period however, the Festivals’ growth accommodated many voices. In responding to the second hypothesis, it is clear that the inherent heterogeneity of Scottish national identity fed the Festivals and their

Marr 1992, pp136-137. The three suggestions were for a 100 member Senate, with a Scottish Prime Minister and cabinet, and proportional representation; or, a weaker administrative body; or, a wider reaching reform that would introduced a federal structure to Britain via Scottish, Welsh and regional English devolution. 74 Scotch Myths, an exploration of Scotchness, 1981. The exhibition’s artefacts explored the roles of Ossian, Sir Walter Scott, George IV, Harry Lauder, Brigadoon, Dr. Finlay’s Casebook and others in the blurring of myth and reality in Scottish identity. ‘Our principle aim is to question a culture that continues to portray itself in distorted national stereotypes’ wrote the curators Murray and Barbara Grigor. Drummond’s introduction to the programme declares it an ‘exhibition with a moral’. 75 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518:129: Weekly Scotsman, 18.08.1979. Tom Fleming had read A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle under Diamand in 1976, the inconsistency lying with the Weekly Scotsman. The Celebration appears to have been a more important contribution to Scottish culture and the Festival however.

Page 32

Mirror of the Nation?

understanding of Scotland, while confusing the search for political national identity; the hypothesis was true for the former, not so the latter. Clarity can only be found if such complexity is accepted and used as a force for union rather than division. The political, social and cultural dynamism of the 1970s brought Scotland to the brink of devolved government. The form and content of the Festivals’ development was also affected, largely because of the success of the Fringe. In testing the two hypotheses towards the end, this chapter has also shown that the Festivals ultimately had greater success than the politicians in reaching the targets of the latter. Such contrasts show Scotland to have been more willing, or more able, to display its distinctiveness culturally than politically. SNP votes were a form of protest for many, the unsuccessful devolution campaign one of containment. Nairn’s criticisms from 1967 have credibility, but when set against some of the later engagements with contemporary Scotland seen in the 1970s, show that they were acted upon. Within a UK context, the Festivals demonstrated a Scotland eager to express sections of its identity, a nation in dialogue with itself. The host nation has a wider audience to consider as well though with the international exposure of the Festival, its ability to maintain a distinct identity here too is a continuing challenge.

Page 33

Political and cultural devolution? ‘We believe that arts and culture have a central role in shaping a sense of community and civic pride in the new Scotland…A cultural strategy will recognise that: Scotland has a distinct and valuable cultural identity…Scotland’s culture is the culture of all of Scotland’s people, not the preserve of particular institutions, classes, creeds, racial or linguistic groups’ - Scottish Executive, A National Cultural Strategy (1999) ‘What is your impression of Scottish culture?’ ‘I only do one impression and that’s a very poor Frank Sinatra’ - Paul Gudgin, The Scotsman (1999)1 Anniversaries prompt retrospection, and such was the case around the 50th Festival in 1996. Looking back, the accompanying literature was largely supportive, with high hopes that growth, development and experimentation would continue. For many within a wider Scottish society, the future was an opportunity for change, the political agenda in the mid-1990s and the twenty first century has been dominated by a seemingly inexorable passage to devolution and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. The SNP’s focus is now on the benefits that the European Union could bring to an independent Scotland, an idea which gained greater credence as the existing UK state structure appeared to be failing the nation, as happened a generation earlier.2 Rhetorical symbolism hides the details, but the Conservative government was held responsible for high unemployment and public sector under-investment, while Denmark and Ireland are two states seen as thriving under the EU umbrella. Of fundamental importance to the differing fortunes of the 1979 and 1997 referenda is the extent to which native support was galvanised into action; a reformed constitution was in fact supported by more people who opposed independence that supported it.3 Active citizenship, important to the idea of an ‘imagined community’, was widespread, ‘Many organisations and groups in Scottish society have become accustomed to playing their part in developing the proposals for change’.4 While the Festival experience may not have undergone change as radical as the political scene, nor seen developments akin to the 1970s growth of the Fringe, it has still had the opportunity to act as a barometer of the situation, reflecting opinion and contributing to the debate. The International Festival and the Fringe, again the focus of discussion, are still joined by the Film Festival and the Tattoo, while the Book, Jazz and Blues, Television and Mela Festivals are also now part of Edinburgh’s summer festival. The period under analysis is largely the


The Scotsman, 09.08.1999. The paper featured a short questionnaire entitled Anything to declare during the Festival in this year, giving an insight into various individuals’ experiences, such as the Administrator of the Fringe. 2 Brown et al 1998, p221 3 Brown et al 1999, p147. The Scottish Referendum Survey 1997 found 44% of respondents favouring devolution (with or without tax raising powers), and 39% favouring independence (with or without membership of the EU). 4 Brown et al 1999, p20

Page 34

Mirror of the Nation?

current situation, and it can be more problematic to draw conclusions from so recent historical events, but the 100th anniversary is perhaps too far off. ! The current International Festival administration’s engagement with Scottish identity has encompassed a variety of art forms, and has made important contributions to Scotland’s cultural life.5 One such was an eighteen piece retrospective of the work of ‘talented attention-seeking, Catholic-socialistScottish nationalist composer’ James MacMillan in 1993.6 Only 34 at the time, his new work has often appeared in subsequent Festivals, and formed part of the opening ceremony of the new Parliament, in the Assembly Hall. John McGrath was commissioned to write A Satire of the Four Estates as part of the fiftieth celebrations, the original by now had become ‘inextricably interwoven with the fabric of the Edinburgh Festival’ according to the International’s own history, which clearly placed a weight of expectancy on the new production.7 ‘Surely our case for national identity is stronger than this’ came one of the reviews, but the role of the Festival as an accepted forum for such debates was clearly acknowledged.8 McMaster has also included productions which highlight Catalonia’s culture, in 1993 and 1999, inviting comparisons between the Spanish region’s position and Scotland’s, its experiences with and within a larger state. The threat of parochialism has emerged at times, Channel 4’s Mr. Janusczak perceived ‘misplaced nationalism’ in the 1992 programme, a ‘tragic transformation into a minor, local event’.9 This was juxtaposed by Scots who felt Alastair Gray’s saga Lanark had been mutilated, ‘its lack of critical approval, was the natural result of anger against alienation coinciding with a coterie thinking sacrosanct its private view of the state of the art’, was Edwards’s interpretation of this.10 Too nationalist for some, not enough for others, the International Festival has recognised its role in contributing to the debate, although it mustn’t be forgotten that it is primarily a cultural event, bringing a taste of global art to Edinburgh. The most enduring developments of the past decade have increased its ability to do that – the opening of the Festival Theatre and the Hub, Edinburgh’s ‘festival centre’ – but they have a greater civic identity than national, they are part of Edinburgh’s cultural infrastructure as the Citizens’ is to Glasgow’s.11 However, commenting on the International the Directors of the Aldeburgh and Dartington festivals advocate strengthening just such a

Brian McMaster’s first programme was the first to be presented by a Director living in Edinburgh. Commitments to Glyndebourne had kept Bing in London, precedent and the apparent advantages of having access to world culture had kept his successors in the metropolis. It was also argued that a London office saved money otherwise necessary for travel in Britain and abroad. 6 Miller 1996, p143. The quotation Miller used came originally from the Sunday Times, 15.08.1993. 7 Wishart 1996, p46 8 Crawford 1997, pp248-249 9 Miller 1996, p140 10 Edwards 1996, p38 11 The Festival Theatre is a renovation of the Empire Theatre which had previously hosted bingo. The Hub occupies the Highland Tollbooth church, bringing the International’s offices under the same roof as catering, box office and shop facilities, and the main hall in which the Festival Chorus practises.

Page 35

Mirror of the Nation?

sense of community ownership and locality.12 Perhaps this is a natural stance to take for festivals which lack Edinburgh’s status in a wider global festival environment, but then to be truly international perhaps requires a civic identity that extends beyond buildings, and a national identity based on the widest possible range of experiences from the host nation. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is now a very large event, ‘Gargantuan size’ to Owen Dudley Edwards, ‘over 1,000 companies from 36 different nations performing 1,523 different shows in 189 different performance paces over 23 days’ in 1996 to the Fringe Society.13 In researching this section of the study on the Fringe, an informal interview was held with the Society’s Administrator, Paul Gudgin.14 He leads the Festival’s central office which has consolidated the development it experienced in the 1970s, making it ever more feasible for groups to perform at the Edinburgh Festival under its banner. For this and other reasons, he sees the Fringe as an opportunity – to perform, to get an audience and media coverage, and to voice an opinion. It is the direction of artists and venue managers which drives the Fringe’s output, and with the sheer size of the event it is not surprising that a sense of overall identity may be found lacking.15 It follows therefore that although no discernible Scottish thread runs through the Fringe programme, in Gudgin’s opinion components of it adopt and very successfully promote this identity as part of the Festival. The Traverse theatre continues to play such a role, while companies such as Communicado and most recently Grid Iron have sought to give a voice to contemporary Scotland. All such organisations have sought and utilised a high profile on the Fringe, yet it is still an under-used forum for debate. Unsurprisingly, financial considerations can undermine its effectiveness in this area, it is simply too expensive for some groups to perform and take the risk of economic failure. While this could be true of any group from any nation, Gudgin believes native contributions have suffered because the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) has too often missed the inherent potential of the Festival Fringe. The importance of the SAC cannot be underestimated – it has supported the International Festival since its inception, supplying £869,779 in 2000 – while demographics leave Scottish touring companies far fewer home cities to visit than their English counterparts, leading to a greater culture of dependency.16 Tellingly, Grid Iron is one company who have obtained support, and their success on the Fringe has been substantial. Despite, or more accurately because of, the Fringe’s determination to uphold the ideals of its ‘founders’ it has evolved into the world’s largest festival in its own right.17 It capitalises on its Edinburgh identity, using venues throughout the city, while

12 13

The Guardian, 21.08.2000 Edwards 1996, p35; The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996, p6 14 The interview was carried out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, High Street, Edinburgh, 26.03.2001. It was not recorded due to its informal nature. 15 Edwards 1996, p35 16 Edinburgh Festival Society. Annual Review 2000, p18 17 The Fringe Society drew up a constitution in 1958, eleven years after the original 8 companies appeared. Commenting on the development, the Society’s history states: ‘Artistic vetting it to have no place in the society’s aims, a decision which remains central to the development of the Fringe’, The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, 1996, p4. Financial and artistic risks and rewards lie with the performers.

Page 36

Mirror of the Nation?

Edinburgh and its citizens cannot ignore its presence.18 The profile of the event in Scotland adds weight to Gudgin’s argument that the Fringe is among the most important opportunities Scottish companies have access to, in exploring their national identity as for any subject. 400,000 Fringe tickets were sold to those from the Lothians region alone in 2000, for those who take the risk, Scottish identity has an audience. As case studies were used to examine elements of the Fringe’s relationship with Scottish national identity in the 1970s, so Grid Iron shows the potential impact a group can have today. Numerous awards since 1995 recognise the achievements of a group ‘committed to new writing in Scotland’, aside from SAC funding and a number of commissions.19 In the course of this research, correspondence with the company’s producer, Judith Doherty, has made clear the importance of the Festival: ‘because of the Fringe festival and my early involvement in it, I was afforded the belief that we actually could start a new theatre company and have support from audiences and more seasoned professionals alike…we also felt that there was a greater freedom to be had here…I think this is because the influx of quality European/international work during the festivals has allowed/educated the audience to be more open minded’20 It may be hard to say who constitutes Grid Iron’s audience – although such research may have been carried out – to find out how great a range of Scottish and Edinburgh citizens have been similarly influenced by the Festivals. However, their Company Background outlines the freedom it has allowed, a series of innovative ‘site-specific’ productions connecting their work to particular locations for example.21 Grid Iron has been recognised as contributing to an understanding of contemporary Scotland, a fact appreciated by Doherty as it confirms the success of one their objectives. Their performances in the international context of the Festival complement one of the Scottish Executive’s aims regarding cultural interaction between Scotland and other nations:


This is increasingly true as the Fringe takes over a pedestrianised High Street during August, Holyrood Park on ‘Fringe Sunday’ and Princes Street for the Cavalcade of floats which open the event. Ian Rankin sums up one particular attitude in his novel Mortal Causes: ‘The Edinburgh Festival was the bane of Rebus’s life. He’d spent years confronting it, trying to avoid it, cursing it, being caught up in it…where else would bagpipes, banjos and kazoos meet to join in a busking battle from hell?’ Rankin 1994, pp3, 5. 19 This is enshrined in Grid Iron’s Policy Statement, as is ‘a commitment to providing opportunities for theatre workers early in their careers’, recognising that to be innovative often requires young blood. 20 Correspondence has been via email, this sent 30.03.2001. 21 These have included The Bloody Chamber in Edinburgh’s haunted underground vaults and the London Dungeon; Monumental, in ‘the foyers, back alleys and carparks’ of the Citizens’ in Glasgow; and most recently Decky Does a Bronco in an Edinburgh school playground during the 2000 Fringe. Grid Iron: Company Background, March 2001

Page 37

Mirror of the Nation?

‘to maintain and strengthen our Scottish base, not in the interests of parochialism, but to nourish the particular as a means of giving universal expression to what is uniquely Scottish’22 Echoes can be heard of London Calling’s assessment of the Festival in 1948, advocating ‘the preservation of individual [Scottish] culture’ in the international gathering, indeed feeling it should be the Festival’s ‘raison d’être and inspiration’ as Mozart was to Salzburg, Shakespeare to Stratford.23 Grid Iron’s experience has supported such a model, ‘the Fringe has been extraordinarily important in…awarding us an international stage on which to be recognised as a quality Scottish company’.24 And yet the structure of Britain’s cultural infrastructure has complicated the next stage in their development; the company forms part of the 2001 ‘British Council Showcase’ during the Festival which acts as a shop window and an opportunity for cultural export from these shores. In Doherty’ words, ‘if we are to have international success, we have to be viewed abroad as a ‘British’ company (before being viewed as a ‘Scottish’ company)…I wonder what that means in terms of a difference between political and cultural devolution?’25 There are elements of the Festival who have pursued this composite identity, it has served the Tattoo very well for example. The British Council was of course instrumental in establishing the first Festival, it has representation in scores of countries around the world and the potential benefits of becoming involved are limitless. Yet surely it runs counter to the spirit of devolution that a Scottish company must give up, or at least blur, some of its national identity in order to reach out. Paul Gudgin believes devolution is yet to take effect, if in fact it does. The Festivals appear illustrative of the passage of devolution: having been exhibiting a Scottish identity as Nationalism gained formal support in the 1970s, continuing to do so a generation later as the constitution was eventually reformed, and yet remaining subject to structures which predate devolution, and the Festivals themselves. Culturally and politically, being Scottish partly means being British, but it is only a part, and always has done. Politically, the Union has proved strongest when its benefits have suited Scots and Scotland, there seems little reason to suppose that should being British not suit Grid Iron, preferable alternatives will be found. ! In this third chronological section, opportunities have been highlighted. The EU has presented Scotland a political opportunity to leave the UK with greater security than might otherwise have been the case. The Festivals have given elements of Scottish national identity opportunities to present themselves to international audiences. James MacMillan, six years after his International Festival retrospective, used it as a platform on which to explore the divisions in Scottish society as he saw and experienced them:

22 23

A National Cultural Strategy, 1999 NLS, MSS, Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., Dep. 378:411: London Calling, 01.04.1948 24 Email: 30.03.2001 25 Email: 30.03.2001

Page 38

Mirror of the Nation?

‘[One of the] major cancers in society is the lingering and sleepwalking bigotry that many in Scotland feel about Catholics, which has huge implications for a pluralistic democracy’26 Successful devolution may well have removed the force keeping such divisions hidden, no longer is a united front necessary with the goal already achieved. Many groups contributed to the plans for devolution, it is to be hoped that that which unites them is stronger than that which divides. The Festivals hold open their doors to those who wish to present their identity, as long as finance and confidence, ‘materialist constraints’ and resisting the temptation to ‘Cringe’, allow.27

26 27

The Scotsman, 09.08.1999 Edwards 1996, pp46-47

Page 39

Conclusion ‘The objects for which the company is established are:(A) To promote and encourage the arts, especially opera, plays, drama, ballet and music, and the study of the arts, and for these purposes to organise, promote, manage and conduct festivals of music, drama and other entertainments in Edinburgh’ - Memorandum and Articles of Association of Edinburgh Festival Society Limited, signed 22.11.1946 ‘Edinburgh is a city rich in tensions. Your challenge is to make as many as possible of them tightropes on which you and your festiveperforming bear can turn cartwheels’ - Roger Savage, After Diamand (1977)1 The introduction to this dissertation cited a host of resources available to those studying the Edinburgh Festivals, the intervening chapters have used many of them to explore the roles Scottish national identity has played in their histories. The choice of time periods covered was informed by the development of the Festivals themselves and expressions of national identity in Scottish society, most overtly through its politicisation. It is to be hoped however that many components of Scotland and Scottishness have been explored, as happened in the Festivals with each production, performance and performer who contributed to the relationship between culture and identity. By the time the Festivals entered the third period under analysis, from the 1990s onwards, the overall Festival was an established and very widely recognised event, its disappearance would be hard to contemplate. In concluding however, it will be argued that it was from a germination which wasn’t so obvious, lacked the assurance of success and growth which hindsight can imbue, and was quickly and unpredictably subject to change and influence from many quarters that the importance of the Festival to Scottish identity and vice versa was founded. Themes and trends have appeared and reappeared in the course of that evolution, their continued relevance is key to the modern Festival. The importance of getting Bruno Walter to perform at the first Edinburgh International Festival was clear to its Director, until that point Rudolph Bing’s plans had met with puzzlement amongst artists, the idea was sound, but why Edinburgh?2 The two most prominent pre-war festivals of this sort, Salzburg and Bayreuth, would take a few years to recover from the conflict, presenting an opportunity to others to fill the void, but their links to the work of Mozart and Wagner respectively validated and justified the festivals. Edinburgh lacked such obvious foundations but it was precisely this which qualified it for Bing’s plan, his priorities lay with Glyndebourne Opera and an ideal of international co-operation. That Edinburgh, with enthusiastic local authorities and citizens, could provide a clean slate on which to work allowed the

Edwards 1991, pp55-56. Savage’s piece, originally in Festival Times, 1977 (no.4), sets out to define the Edinburgh International Festival to prospective Directors. It concludes, ‘please make the EIF more festive, more international, more Edinburgh’. 2 Bing 1972, p87

Page 40

Mirror of the Nation?

ambitious programmers greater freedom and flexibility. No single composer or art form would take undue precedence, artists would be invited from as wide a geography as possible. From the earliest period, this enthusiasm was also taken up by those who had different interpretations of the festival model, who claimed some ownership of it, and sought to contribute, serving their own agendas. This has been seen with the establishment of the Documentary Film Festival on behalf of that art form, but also by An Comunn Gàidhealach’s promotion of Gaelic singing and the nation-wide co-operation which resulted in Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaites. Playing their part in the process of establishing the Festival were those who wished it to have a stronger native base. The same stimulus was interpreted differently by each group, each individual, with limitless possibilities. Bing’s clean slate was there for others too, and those who didn’t find a place in the established Festivals performed anyway. Had there been an easily definable foundation on which to build the Festival, its development may have been constrained, artistic limits placed on what it was felt possible to achieve. Such a clear identity was not explicitly present in Edinburgh, but there were many who felt the Festival should instead root itself in a native, Scottish, culture. This has continued to be the case, each year performers give voice to their own identities, claiming their right to present their ideas on the Festival stage, transferring their identities in the process. Puzzlement no longer surrounds anyone’s wish to perform at Edinburgh, it is a unique opportunity, this dissertation has shown the role of Scotland in making it so. Each Festival has remained distinct, this study has concentrated on the International and Fringe Festivals because of their current high profile and their importance in the periods covered. The Film Festival and Military Tattoo have also been discussed, reflecting the diversity of the Festival experience, yet they have only been included where they add significantly to the debate. The Festival has also changed considerably over time, as seen in the preceding chapters, but some themes recur, questions are repeatedly asked and answers found. The position of Scotland within the United Kingdom has rarely been off the political agenda, but it also played a key role in locating the Festival in Edinburgh through Henry Harvey Wood at the British Council. That same body is now the most important means to an overseas market for companies such as Grid Iron, which could cause them to compromise their own national identity, veiling it within its British context. Smout’s ‘concentric loyalties’ idea places the individual, or perhaps the theatre company, within various communities, each exerting its own attractions.3 While it may be more important to Grid Iron to show themselves as Scottish, the Tattoo revels in the part Scots have played in Britain’s history. Likewise the regional identity of the Traverse’s Glasgow based work of the 1970s highlights the heterogeneity of the nation itself. As each level of identity has shown itself most appropriate, with sufficient blurring between them where necessary, it has been adopted, exploited and presented. The communities represented may be ‘imagined’, but the Festivals have provided common images on which Scots, and others, may build their own ideas of what constitutes the home nation. In doing so, other identities are apparent, they illustrate the

Smout 1994

Page 41

Mirror of the Nation?

complexities of Scottish life via class, gender, age and other loyalties. Indeed it is through an ability to do this that productions which explore Scottish national identity have significance beyond the parochial and have relevance in a truly international context. The model on which the Edinburgh Festivals have developed saw an international ideal made real thanks to visionary civic promotion, with a national identity quickly establishing itself through native involvement. The maintenance of a London base for the International’s Director until the 1990s meant a detachment from the Festival’s environment, and a reduced ability to reflect it in such a way as the Traverse in the 1970s for example. Presenting Scottish national identity at the Edinburgh Festival has benefited from two principles, firstly it was predominantly best done by Scots and those in touch with Scottish society, secondly each Festival is most successful when it plays to its strengths. Thus the International Festival can and does present the National orchestral, ballet and opera companies, it can bring together the finest talents in the country for large scale productions. The Film Festival, certainly in its early documentary based days, brought stark images from Scotland’s landscape and society to wide attention. The Fringe has given Scots an opportunity to present their identity on their own terms with significance to the individual and the community. The Tattoo is tartan and shortbread personified. The effects of Scottish national identity have been felt in its politics and its culture, both of which have often proved adept at responding to its varying attractions. There is a role for the Festivals in presenting such identities, acting as barometers as much mirrors, if they continue to give voice to the diversity of Scottish life, to represent the nation.

Page 42

Bibliography Primary sources Archived material National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Festival Society, Dep. 378 National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 10572 National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11518 National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Festival Society, ACC 11779 Interview and correspondence Paul Gudgin, Administrator, Edinburgh Festival Fringe: interview held 26.03.2001 Judith Doherty, Producer, Grid Iron Theatre Company: correspondence March and April 2001 Miscellaneous Company Background: Grid Iron Theatre Company, 2001 Consultation Paper: Celebrating Scotland: A National Cultural Strategy, Scottish Executive, 1999 Edinburgh Central Library: Edinburgh Festival. A review of the first ten years of the Edinburgh International Festival, its aims and its origins, its achievements and its hopes for the future, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Festival Society Ltd., 1956 Edinburgh Central Library: Festival News, Edinburgh: 1947 Exhibition programme: Grigor, M., Grigor, B. Scotch Myths. An exploration of Scotchness, Edinburgh: Edinburgh International Festival, 1981 Leith Library, Queen Margaret University College: Memorandum and Articles of Association of Edinburgh Festival Society Limited Newspapers Aberdeen Press and Journal, Business Scotland, Cambridge Evening News, Christian Science Monitor, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, Edinburgh Review, Festival Times, Financial Times, Glasgow Bulletin, Glasgow Daily Record, Glasgow Herald, Glasgow Sunday Mail, News Chronicle, New Statesman, Scottish Daily Express, Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, The Scotsman, Time and Tide, Weekly Scotsman, Yorkshire Post Reports Anderson, B. and National Arts and Media Strategy Monitoring Group Towards a National Arts and Media Strategy, London: HMSO, May 1992 Dunbar, A. Report on Marketing the Arts in Scotland, Scottish Arts Council, 1980 Edinburgh International Festival Annual Review, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Festival Society, 1998-2000 Edinburgh International Festival Major Review, Edinburgh: Scottish Arts Council, 1995

Page 43

Mirror of the Nation?

Jarman, D.S.R. The curatorial and political arguments surrounding the restitution of the Elgin Marbles, Edinburgh University undergraduate project, 2000 The City of Edinburgh Council: Aitchison, T.N. Festivals in Edinburgh. Chief Executive’s Report, Edinburgh: The City of Edinburgh Council, 29.06.2000 The City of Edinburgh Council: Coutts, H. Festivals in Edinburgh – A Financial Review. Director of Recreation’s Report, Edinburgh: The Executive of the Council, 21.11.2000 Owen, M.L., Duffield, B.S. Survey of Summer Visitors to Edinburgh, 1971, Scottish Tourist Board, 1972

Page 44

Mirror of the Nation?

Secondary sources Cultural and political Anderson, B. Imagined Communities. Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism, London: Verso, 1983 Bell, B. ‘Revisiting the National Theatre debate: Once More, With Feeling…’, in Edinburgh Review, 2000 (no.105) Brown, A., McCrone, D., Paterson, L. Politics and Society in Scotland, 2nd ed., Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1998 Brown, A., McCrone, D., Paterson, L., Surridge, P. The Scottish Electorate. The 1997 General Election and Beyond, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1999 Finlay, R.J. A Partnership for Good?, Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd., 1997 Gardiner, J., Wenborn, N. (eds.) The History Today Companion to British History, London: Collins and Brown Ltd., 1995 Harrod The Life of John Maynard Keynes, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1951 Harvie, C. No Gods and Precious Few Heroes, London: Edward Arnold, 1981 Hobsbawm, E. ‘Inventing Traditions’, in Hobsbawm, E., Ranger, T. (eds.) The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge University Press, Canto edition 1992 Hutchison, D. The Modern Scottish Theatre, Glasgow: Molendinar Press, 1977 Jones, B. et al Politics UK, 3rd ed., Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall Europe, 1998 McGrath, J. A Good Night Out. Popular Theatre: Audience, class and form, 2nd ed. London: Nick Hearn Books, 1996 Marr, A. The Battle for Scotland, London: Penguin Books, 1992 Morton, G. Unionist-Nationalism: Governing urban Scotland 1830-1860, East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1999 Rankin, I. Mortal Causes, London: Orion, 1994 Rolfe, H. Arts Festivals in the UK, London: Policy Studies Institute, 1992 Scott, P.H. (ed.) Scotland: A concise cultural history, Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1993 Smith, A.D. National Identity, London: Penguin, 1991 Smout, T.C. 'Perspectives on the Scottish identity', in Scottish Affairs, Winter 1994 (no.6) White, E. ‘Keynes: Architect of the Arts Council’, in Moggridge, D.E. Keynes: aspects of the man and his work. The first Keynes seminar – 1972, London: Keynes College, Macmillan Press Ltd., 1974 White, E. The Arts Council of Great Britain, London: Davis-Poynter Ltd., 1975 Texts specifically related to the Edinburgh Festivals Bain, A. The Fringe. 50 Years of the Greatest Show on Earth, Edinburgh, The Scotsman Publications Ltd., 1996 Bing, Sir R. 5000 Nights at the Opera, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1972 Bruce, G. Festival in the North, London: Edinburgh International Festival Society Ltd., Robert Hale and Company, 1975 Coveney, M. The Citz. 21 years of the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, London: Nick Hearn, 1990

Page 45

Mirror of the Nation?

Crawford, I. Banquo on Thursdays. The inside story of fifty Edinburgh Festivals, Edinburgh: Goblinshead, 1997 Dale, M. Sore Throats and Overdrafts, Edinburgh: Precedent Publications, 1988 Drummond, J. Tainted by Experience, a life in the arts, London: Faber and Faber, 2000 Edwards, O.D. City of a Thousand Worlds, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing Company, 1991 Edwards, O.D. ‘Cradle on the Tree-top: the Edinburgh Festival and Scottish Theatre’, in Stevenson, R. and Wallace, G. (eds.) Scottish Theatre Since the Seventies, Edinburgh University Press, 1996 Hardy, F. Slightly Mad and Full of Dangers. The Story of the Edinburgh Film Festival, Edinburgh: Ramsay Head Press, 1992 Jack, R., Edwards, O.D. The Edinburgh Festival, A Pictorial Celebration, Edinburgh: Canongate Publications Ltd., 1990 Logan, B. (ed.) ‘“It should have energy and a bit of magic. But this is dull”’, in The Guardian, 21.08.2000 McArthur, C. ‘The Rises and Falls of the Edinburgh International Film Festival’, in Dick, E. (ed.) From Limelight to Satellite. A Scottish film book, London: Scottish Film Council and British Film Institute, 1990 McMillan, J. The Traverse Theatre Story, London: Methuen Drama, 1988 Miller, E. The Edinburgh International Festival 1947-1996, Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996 Moffat, A. The Edinburgh Fringe, Edinburgh: Johnston and Bacon, 1978 Nairn, T. ‘Festival of the Dead’, in New Statesman, 1967 (vol.74) The Visiting Arts Guide to the 1997 Edinburgh Festivals, London: Visiting Arts, 1997 Wishart, R. Celebration! 50 Years in Photographs, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Festival Society, 1996

Page 46