Culture Club

McCredie 2013-08-12 video 252 (5)

Left to right: Dave Hook’s knees; Peter Arnott, Jenny Lindsay, Elaine C Smith, Jim Sutherland, David Greig

“…Sir Jonathan Mills told Scotland on Sunday that he had decided to sidestep politics and would not be commissioning any work about the independence debate for the 2014 [Edinburgh International Festival], which takes place in the final weeks of campaigning before Scots go to the polls on 18 September. Instead, the outgoing director will use the 100th anniversary of the [commencement of the] First World War and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games as inspirations for his farewell programme …” (Scottish independence productions ban at EIF 2014, Brian Ferguson, The Scotsman, 11th Aug 2013)

“The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
George Orwell

On Monday the Scottish Independence Convention hosted the first major Scottish independence debate at the Edinburgh festivals. At it Dave Hook, of alternative hip-hop group Stanley Odd, described the independence debate “as a constantly evolving re-definition of ourselves”. But there will be no place for this sort of debate and exchange at next year’s festival. Sir Jonathan Mills, departing director of the Edinburgh international festival (EIF), announced he would be excluding any independence-themed productions from the 2014 festival and instead would be concentrating on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war and “the Commonwealth”. In an astonishing interview with Scotland on Sunday he said: “We would not wish our festival to be anything other than it has always been, which is a politically neutral space for artists. It is important that it remains that.”

At a momentous time in Scottish history his efforts to artificially separate art and politics is likely to fail. All it has done is highlight again the question of cultural leadership, make the EIF look out of touch and accentuate the image that establishment Scotland either can’t or won’t engage in serious debate about our changing country. As writer Kate Higgins put it: “Mills displays a touching innocence, an alarmingly two-dimensional view of the arts and a complete absence of historical knowledge. Where does he think the Commonwealth came from exactly? And how does he think the great war started?”

Read the full article over at the Guardian.

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  1. While I have sympathy with Jonathan Mills in that the quality of the Independence debate at a politics level has been just mud sling at the other side I recognise that some of the best plays coming out of Ireland were in the period 1900 – 1925 see………..0._qndjucfcfE#bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&ei=Y1QKUoCBCIGGON7OgJAN&fp=8816f356d7783a40&q=juno+and+the+paycock&sa=X&stick=H4sIAAAAAAAAAGOovnz8BQMDgwYHsxCnfq6-gblFfLKpEphpmpFtEa_FE5CTWBmcmZJanlhZ7MAQf_FZ9fq3sefVruYpNllkFLzMWecIAKtZnmZFAAAA&ved=0CDAQ-BY

  2. A bit of a cheek telling folk not to be political especially when our country is at stake.

  3. Famous15 says:

    But he is being political! Nationalist actually! That being Brittish Nationalist. Start of the Great War is only capable of being a Britfest and not the anti imperialist warning it should be.

  4. annie says:

    I read Bella’s article over at The Guardian and Kate’s at Burdzeyeview and subsequently learned a whole lot more re the hierarchy of the EIF and The Fringe. I found the comment by Arhoolie at the Guardian, which was both polite and informative, quite revealing in it’s description of how the Festival is organized. I was genuinely under the impression that international companies pitched their productions to a board which was composed of various artists from different sections of the Arts and a joint decision was reached as to what/who was contemporary/novel enough to perform. I didn’t think for a minute that the Director alone was permitted to decide the ‘theme’ and ‘travel the world’ in search of his chosen few (nice work if you can get it!)

    I’ve been to ‘Fringe’ performances a few times over the years but always felt EIF productions were a bit too high brow for me to appreciate, and which I now believe was the subtle intention all along (plus, I never really separated them into two Festivals until now!) With the referendum just around the corner I did imagine that there would be at least a few companies (international and national) performing, even symbolically, themes re ‘independence’. I don’t think that is ‘political’. Given that a referendum is happening in Scotland, NEXT YEAR, there should be a myriad of ‘cultural’ expressions to be interpreted and performed which are a lot less ‘political’ than WW1.

    It’s ironic that Sir J Mills has succeeded in exposing the hierarchical divide in British culture much more successfully than any ‘independence’ themed production ever could.

    I’m now off to noise up some fellow, fringe, pleb Englishmen – watching The Gem at the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe. C’moan SCOTLAND 🙂

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