The Edinburgh Festivals

The Edinburgh Festivals: Culture and Society in Post-war Britain

Angela Bartie
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgrj8
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  • Book Info
    The Edinburgh Festivals
    Book Description:

    Post-war culture and society and the Edinburgh FestivalsThe Edinburgh Festival is the world’s largest arts festival. It has also been the site of numerous ‘culture wars’ since it began in 1947. Key debates that took place across the western world about the place of culture in society, the practice and significance of the arts, censorship, the role of organised religion, and meanings of morality were all reflected in contest over culture in the Festival City.The Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama sought to use culture to bolster European civilisation, for which it was considered for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. The Church saw culture as a ‘weapon of enlightenment’, the labour movement as a ‘weapon in the struggle’, and the new generation of artistic entrepreneurs who came to the fore in the 1960s as a means of challenge and provocation, resulting in high profile controversies like the nudity trial of 1963 and the furore over a play about bestiality in 1967.These ideas - conservative and liberal, elite and diverse, traditional and avant-garde – all clashed every August in Edinburgh, making the Festival City an effective lens for exploring major changes in culture and society in post-war Britain. This book explores the ‘culture wars’ of 1945-1970 and is the first major study of the origins and development of this leading annual arts extravaganza.Key Features:First critical history of the first twenty five years of the world’s biggest arts festivalUses festivals (and key theatre ventures) in Edinburgh as a lens for understanding wider social and cultural change in post-war BritainActs as a practical exercise in the application of cultural criticism by combining social and cultural history with insights from cultural studies and contemporary festivals and events literatureDraws upon a range of archival sources, including original oral history interviews with key players in the arts scene of Edinburgh and beyondProvides a valuable addition to the history of the arts in British society in the period c. 1945-1971, and to our understanding of cultural and social change in post-war Britain

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7031-4
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    On Sunday 24 August 1947, the first Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama opened with a service of praise in St Giles’ Cathedral, the Mother Kirk of Scottish Presbyterianism. Present at this ‘civic service of inauguration’ were members of the local authority, Edinburgh Corporation, dressed in their ermine-trimmed robes, ministers of the Church of Scotland, members of the Episcopal and Free churches, civic leaders from around Scotland, representatives of law, medicine and the arts, and all ‘distinguished visitors known to be in the City at that time’.¹ This ceremony officially opened the new festival with hymns, prayers and a...

  7. 2 The Cultural Resort of Europe: The Creation of the Festival, c. 1944–1947
    (pp. 23-41)

    At a reception prior to the opening of the inaugural Festival, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and chairman of the Edinburgh Festival Society, Sir John Falconer, remarked:

    The human mind needs an occasional stretch into an overflowing fountain of grace and beneficence to confirm its weak faith, and to anchor it to something higher than itself. This city may become the cultural resort of Europe, where men and women will find a haven, not merely to hear and see, but to be quiet and respond to a life of spiritual and intellectual refreshment and inspiration.¹

    Coming after the long years...

  8. 3 Cultural Challenge: The Creation of a ‘Fringe’, 1947–1955
    (pp. 42-77)

    Aspiring to be ‘the Athens of the North’ once more, Edinburgh had, in the International Festival, presented an event in 1947 that emphasised ‘high culture’ and successfully attracted many of the best artists Europe had to offer to the city, at a time when austerity measures were still in force and European nations were emerging from the upheaval of the Second World War. In the run-up to the inaugural Festival, Rudolf Bing found himself going beyond the usual duties of an artistic director by organising the de-requisitioning of a number of Edinburgh hotels and negotiating the de-rationing of curtain material....

  9. 4 Convergence of Cultures: New Developments in the Arts, 1956–1962
    (pp. 78-115)

    In 1960, Beyond the Fringe was part of the official programme of the Edinburgh International Festival. It was a late-night satirical revue performed by four young graduates of Oxford and Cambridge universities, Jonathan Miller, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. Sir Robert Ponsonby, artistic director of the Festival from 1956 to 1960, had written to each individually, and brought them together for the show. To some the decision to present a show called Beyond the Fringe on the Festival programme was official recognition of the popularity and success of the late-night revues that had appeared on the Fringe since...

  10. 5 Culture and (Im)morality: The Year of the Happening, 1963
    (pp. 116-150)

    In the welcoming statement of the 1963 Edinburgh International Festival Official Programme, Duncan Weatherstone, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and chairman of the EFS, declared that ‘the mantle of the Festival is something which we carry proudly’.¹ By this time it was becoming more widely acknowledged that the arts had a valuable role to play in society, and indeed that year the Conservative government began an expansion to the Arts Council. This followed the publication in 1959 of views on the arts by the Conservative Party (The Challenge of Leisure) and Labour (Leisure for Living) as well as the findings...

  11. 6 Cultural Explosion: The Arts and Moral Conflict in Edinburgh in the High Sixties, 1964–1967
    (pp. 151-190)

    In April 1966, London was dubbed capital of the world by America’s Time magazine. In the front page feature, ‘London: The Swinging City’, Time spoke of ‘how the capital had reinvented itself from being the centre of a once-mighty empire into a city that now set the social and cultural markers for the rest of the world’.¹ To a certain extent, Scotland’s capital had also reinvented itself. Since the inaugural event of August 1947, the Festival had transformed Edinburgh, a city not previously renowned for its encouragement of the arts, into a world stage for culture, one of the ‘greatest...

  12. 7 Cultural Crisis? Protest and Reaction, 1968–1970
    (pp. 191-222)

    The world appeared to erupt in 1968. Major upheavals and a wave of rebellion unfolded across the globe: increasing levels of opposition to the Vietnam War (in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, which had been launched in January), the Prague Spring (March), les événements in Paris (May), violent struggles during the Democratic Convention in Chicago (August), major student revolts (including in Belgrade, Tokyo and Mexico City), and student protests and sit-ins in a number of British universities (including Leeds, the LSE and Sussex). Also in 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and Enoch Powell made his...

  13. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 223-230)

    In 1971, the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe celebrated their twenty-fifth seasons. In his foreword to the International Festival Programme the Lord Provost, Sir James W. McKay, quoted a statement made by his predecessor Sir John Falconer in 1947: ‘The human mind needs an occasional stretch into an overflowing fountain of grace and beneficence to confirm its weak faith and to anchor it to something higher than itself.’ McKay continued:

    It was on this charter of idealism that the Festival was launched. Over a period of twenty-five years detail changes have been inevitable. Successive Lord Provosts, as Chairman...

  14. Appendix 1 List of Lord Provosts/Chairs of the Edinburgh Festival Society and Artistic Directors of the Edinburgh International Festival, 1947–1970
    (pp. 231-231)
  15. Appendix 2 Short Biographies of Oral History Interviewees
    (pp. 232-234)
  16. Sources and Select Bibliography
    (pp. 235-254)
  17. Index
    (pp. 255-260)